If you’ve driven around Jacksonville enough, you’ve probably noticed one of the old Skinners’ Dairy retail huts – though you may not have known that was what you were seeing.
Most remnants of the once-mighty family-owned dairy farm have vanished over the years, with the Skinner family’s tens of thousands of acres of Southside land being sold off and redeveloped into, among other things, the Southpoint office complex and St. Johns Town Center. But its unique milk huts, designed in the late 1950s by the local architecture firm Hardwick & Lee, have largely withstood the test of time thus far.
The Skinners’ Dairy store buildings were a modern, retail-oriented take on the concept of a “milk house” – a small, simple hut for milk storage on dairy farms. Those huts typically had A-frame roofs, a feature that the Hardwick & Lee design flipped on its head – literally – with a V-shaped roof. This V-shaped configuration, also known as a butterfly roof, was a favorite among midcentury modern architects.
Hardwick & Lee, a partnership between W. Mayberry Lee and noted local architect Taylor Hardwick, was also the firm behind the design of the Haydon Burns library and Friendship Fountain, among dozens of other high-profile local projects in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Just under two dozen of the Skinners’ ornate, orange-and-white “milk houses” were built in this style throughout the greater Jacksonville area, as far outward as St. Augustine, from the late ‘50s into the ‘80s, when the family abandoned the Hardwick & Lee design and began focusing less on individual retail sales.
The family began selling off some of its land holdings that same decade, and by the mid-‘90s it had exited the dairy industry altogether and launched full-throttle into its new bread-and-butter business pursuit: real estate.
While almost all of the former Skinner farmland has since been redeveloped, over a dozen of its Hardwick & Lee-era milk huts remain standing today. Most of the surviving huts have been repurposed by other businesses, such as the popular Liberty Bakery that operates in a Skinner hut not far from where the farm’s center of operations once was.