Jacksonville’s historic architecture is one of the city’s most endearing qualities.
The Bold City has been blessed over the years to enjoy the work of some of the Southeast’s finest architects. And while their work wasn’t always as appreciated as it should have been, many of the structures these architects helped design are still standing today.
Many of them are even finding new life as the city’s oldest neighborhoods begin to thrive and grow once again.
Let’s take a look at some of Jax’s best architects and what made them so crucial to the modern identity that the city strives to form.
Henry J. Klutho
Notable works: St. James Building, Bisbee Building
Henry J. Klutho was not given much regard by Jaxsons during his time, but today he’s recognized as perhaps the most important architect in the city’s history.
Klutho was born in Illinois but moved to St. Louis, and later New York City, to study architecture. It was in New York that he read about the Great Fire of 1901 and, sensing an opportunity, moved to Jax to aide in the impending rebuild of downtown.
Once in Jacksonville, Klutho became a main go-to for businesses looking to build new structures in the downtown area. Over the years he designed the Dyal-Upchurch Building, the Carnegie Library, and the beautiful St. James Building among dozens of other structures in downtown, Springfield, and Riverside.
Klutho’s style was initially classical, then shifted toward the Prairie School style pioneered in part by his friend Frank Lloyd Wright.
Marsh & Saxelbye
Notable works: MOCA Building, Epping Forest Mansion
The team of William Marsh and Harold Saxelbye would, in essence, inherit the architectural throne of Klutho.
While Marsh was a Jax native, Saxelbye was born in England and also spent time in New York before moving here. They formed a successful partnership that would design a massive collection of buildings throughout Jax over a span of more than twenty years.
Marsh & Saxelbye would become the in-demand firm for both the urban core and growing suburban neighborhoods like San Jose. Some of their most memorable urban core works include the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, the building now occupied by MOCA, and the Greenleaf & Crosby (a.k.a. Jacob’s Jewelry) Building. In the suburbs, they designed the San Jose Country Club and the Epping Forest mansion, along with a lengthy list of private residences.
Their primary style of choice was Mediterranean Revival.
Roy A. Benjamin
Notable works: Elks Club Building, Florida Theatre (w/ R.E. Hall & Co.)
Though his work gets overshadowed a bit by Klutho’s grand buildings, architect Roy A. Benjamin was also crucial to the downtown rebuilding effort.
Like Klutho, Benjamin moved to Jax very shortly after the Great Fire. But unlike Klutho, who mostly designed grand commercial structures, Benjamin was better known for his theaters and apartment buildings.
Benjamin’s designs for Arcade Theater, Palace Theatre, and the Florida Theatre – which he designed in collaboration with R.E. Hall & Co. – provided the backdrop for a lively downtown scene. He also designed San Marco Theatre and Riverside Theatre, now known as Sun-Ray Cinema.
Several different apartment buildings in Riverside and Springfield, many of which are still standing today, were also Benjamin designs.
He even collaborated with the Olmsted Brothers on the design for Riverside’s Memorial Park.
Benjamin’s architectural style was diverse, ranging from Italian Renaissance to Art Deco to Mediterranean.
Notable works: Haydon Burns Library, Friendship Fountain
Architect Taylor Hardwick worked for several decades as a Jacksonville architect after moving to the city in 1949.
He spent arguably the most productive part of his career in collaboration with fellow architect W. M. Lee, forming the firm Hardwick & Lee, but he also worked independently for many years.
His most iconic work was the Haydon Burns Library, a triumphantly bizarre design that sought to bring a lively touch to the largely-traditional downtown area.
Hardwick & Lee was behind the design of Friendship Fountain, one of the city’s most recognizable parks. They also designed a small retail hut for Skinner Dairy. Over twenty of those huts were built throughout the city, and many still stand today having since been repurposed.
Hardwick’s style is most frequently described as mid-century modern, he was notable for his use of bright, bold colors.