Before the Jessie Ball duPont Fund took over the building at 40 East Adams Street and turned it into a center for nonprofit organizations, it first served for several decades as the city’s main public library.
The building was commissioned in 1960 to replace the aging Carnegie Library. It was to be built on the site of an old city hall building.
Architect Taylor Hardwick created a unique design aimed at brightening up the monotonous urban environment in downtown Jax. His mid-century modern design featured vibrant colors and big glass walls, with large, wavy panels creating a funky, artsy aesthetic previously unseen in the area.
The project took five years from commissioning to completion, costing $3.7 million to build.
The three-story, 126,000 square foot library was dedicated on November 28, 1965. It was named in honor of Haydon Burns, who was the city’s mayor at the time and had also recently become Florida’s governor-elect.
The state-of-the-art facility served as the city’s main library for four decades. But by the ‘90s, upgrades were desperately needed, and the building’s technological infrastructure increasingly became too outdated.
In the early ‘00s, a new main library was commissioned as part of the Better Jacksonville Plan. The city then started taking bids from developers to take over the Haydon Burns Library building, which would officially close its doors in 2005.
After a couple of early attempts at a deal fell through, the city sold the building to a group of investors operating under the name Main Branch LLC in 2007 for $3.25 million. The building was renamed 122 Ocean, and plans emerged for a revitalization that would include a grocery store, bar and restaurant space, and a movie theater among other amenities.
Those ambitious plans fell through, largely as a result of the major economic recession that was taking place.
In 2012, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund took an interest in the building. A year later, it purchased the building from Main Branch LLC for $2.2 million – a $1 million discount from its pre-recession price tag.
JBDF then initiated a $25 million renovation project, led by KBJ Architects, with the goal of establishing a center for nonprofit organizations in Jacksonville.
The Jessie Ball duPont Center opened its doors in 2015, with JBDF moving into the building’s third floor. Since then, a few dozen nonprofit organizations have joined them in the building.
Today, the center is thriving, with tenants including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida, Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, First Coast YMCA, and many other local nonprofits.
As with the Carnegie Library building, the Haydon Burns Library building has found a new life after its time as Jacksonville’s main library ended.