At the intersection of Laura and Forsyth streets in downtown Jacksonville, three distinctive historic buildings have sat, vacant and crumbling, for decades now.
These grand buildings, collectively dubbed the Laura Street Trio, were once critical pillars to downtown Jax’s burgeoning financial district. Today, however, they’ve been largely left to rot away, leaving some without historic context to wonder, “What’s so great about those old buildings?”
As we await the beginning of SouthEast Group’s planned overhaul of the three buildings, let’s take a look back at each of their histories.
The Bisbee Building was constructed next door to the Marble Bank building at 47 W. Forsyth Street. The 10-story building was designed by noted architect Henry J. Klutho with heavy Chicago style influence. Construction began in 1908, but midway through the project, building owner William Bisbee asked Klutho to design a duplicate section to double the future building’s capacity.
When completed in 1909, the Bisbee Building was one of the first “skyscrapers” in Jacksonville, as well as the first high-rise office building in the South to be built with a reinforced concrete frame.
When the Marble Bank building no longer provided enough space for Florida National Bank, the bank gradually expanded its operations into the Bisbee Building. The office building housed various tenants over the years, but by the 1940s, Florida National Bank was the building’s main tenant.
In 1961, a new headquarters building for FNB opened at 214 N. Hogan Street. The bank vacated the Bisbee Building, but was soon replaced by Jacksonville National Bank’s expanding operations. Charter Mortgage Co. also held office space within the building.
Like the Marble Bank building, the Bisbee Building came under the ownership of NationsBank as a result of mergers. It was sold, along with the other two properties, to German investor Angela Schneider in 1999.
The city of Jax purchased the property in 2002, and it’s now owned by SouthEast Group, which plans to restore it for use as office space as well as a ground-floor restaurant.