If you’ve ever walked past the Wells Fargo Center at the intersection of Main and Bay streets in downtown Jacksonville, you may have noticed an old-looking stone column with a lion’s head on it in the middle of a small courtyard.
Though it may look a little random and out-of-place now, it’s actually a well-preserved piece of Jacksonville history placed in almost the exact spot where it belongs.
The ornamental stone came from the front façade of the McConihe Building. The building was designed by J.H.W. Hawkins – who also designed the Snyder Memorial Church building among a few other local properties – and constructed in 1902 immediately following the Great Fire of 1901.
On the front of the building, among other design flourishes, were two of these carefully-detailed, cast-stone ornaments featuring a lion’s head and an “M”, for McConihe.
The building, located near the intersection of Main and Bay, was later purchased by the Drew Co., a local printing business, which operated there for decades.
By the early 1970s, however, the entire block on which the McConihe Building sat was set to become the site of a massive new office tower for the insurance company Independent Life.
The building, along with a few other structures, was demolished in 1971 – but not before a few pieces could be salvaged.
As part of construction efforts, Independent Life opted to retain the lion columns and install them near their new building, incorporating a piece of the block’s history into their new campus.
Since then, the columns have outlasted multiple tenants at the Independent Life building, now known as Wells Fargo Center.
The columns are in need of a bit of restorative care in their current condition, but at least they managed to avert becoming another discarded memory from the heyday of downtown Jax.