One of the earliest successful examples of adaptive reuse in Jacksonville can be found just outside of the urban core in the Brentwood neighborhood.
What now serves as the Brentwood branch of Jacksonville Public Library was originally Brentwood Theatre, a single-screen movie theater. The building, located at 3725 N. Pearl Street, was designed in the Streamline Moderne style by Roy A. Benjamin.
Benjamin is best remembered locally for designing the Florida Theatre in downtown Jax and was also behind the design of several other local theaters that have since been demolished.
Brentwood Theatre opened its doors in 1941. It could hold 540 people for a single showing, and it primarily showed films produced by Paramount Pictures.
The theater would ultimately close its doors in the late 1950s, as enclosed single-screen theaters were gradually eclipsed in popularity by drive-ins.
As luck would have it, around the same time the theater closed, the city was looking into replacing the aging Springfield Library. Ironically, the Springfield Library was also an adaptive reuse project, utilizing an old three-story house at 10th and Silver streets.
The Brentwood Theatre building was chosen as an adequate replacement, and work began to convert the theater into a new library branch location.
Northside Library, as it was named at the time, opened in the spring of 1961 – just a few years after the closure of Brentwood Theatre.
The building has since undergone renovations in 1996, the mid-2000s, and 2017, and it was renamed Brentwood Library to better reflect its location. It still retains the original marquee from its days as a theater, and a poster frame remains next to what was once the main entrance.
In an era when many historic buildings were demolished or left to rot, the old Brentwood Theatre building’s re-utilization stands out as a major success story.