The Old St. Andrew’s Church building at 317 A. Philip Randolph Boulevard may at first glance look a bit out of place within downtown Jacksonville’s modern sports district. But in fact, it was there long before anything else.
The building was constructed in 1887 and opened in 1888 as the new church for St. Andrew’s Parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida. It was built on land at the corner of Duval Street and Florida Avenue (the original name of A. Philip Randolph Boulevard) donated to the parish by John N.C. Stockton, who led the development of the Ortega neighborhood and whose brother, Telfair Stockton, played a major role in the development of San Marco and Avondale.
The St. Andrew’s Church building’s Gothic Revival-style design was helmed by architect Robert S. Schuyler, known for designing similar churches across Florida. Its exterior was adorned with red brick and sandstone trimming; its distinctive bell tower rose to a peak of 120 feet and featured asymmetrical openings. Its interior could seat 150 people.
The St. Andrew’s Church was the only known church to survive the Great Fire of 1901 that ripped through downtown Jax.
The church operated for several decades, but by the 1950s the surrounding Eastside neighborhood was changing rapidly, becoming a junction of big city projects like a new ballpark and coliseum, and urban decay brought on by shifting socioeconomics. The church closed in 1957, opting to move across the Mathews Bridge to Arlington.
The property sat vacant and began to decay, to the point that concerns were raised about the viability of any preservation project involving the aging church structure. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 but continued to decline into the ‘80s and early ‘90s.
In 1994, the city acquired the church property along with a large chunk of surrounding land for $73,650. The city conveyed the church building to the local nonprofit organization Jacksonville Historical Society to be restored and reutilized.
The organization embarked upon a $1 million public-private redevelopment project, led by then-JHS director Matt Carlucci and local architect Ted Pappas. The project took two years, beginning in 1996 and culminating in its re-opening as the Jacksonville Historical Society headquarters building in 1998.
The organization has since moved its offices to another historic property, the Old St. Luke’s Hospital building, but it continues to operate the St. Andrew’s Church building as an event venue. It even hosted a Super Bowl party in 2005.
Since its restoration, the building has added two major new neighbors: Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville and VyStar Memorial Arena. And with the addition of Intuition Ale Works and future mixed-use development at the site of the Doro Fixture Co. building and the Shipyards, the 132-year-old structure may soon find itself amidst a revitalized sports district.