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Arts & Culture

Rediscovering Jax: Hemming Park

In WJCT’s “Rediscovering Jax” series, we’re taking a look at the stories behind familiar places.

Hemming Park has been called “the heart of downtown,” and the nonprofit Friends of Hemming Park have made it their goal to revitalize it. Just as the One Spark festival is opening for voting, the group’s Operations Director Damien Lamar Robinson, is walking through the center of the square next to the fountain.

“It’s actually Jacksonville’s oldest public square it’s 1.5 acres of land, and I believe it was 1865 that it was actually named Hemming Park,” Robinson said. “In the late 80’s they put bricks down and they called it Hemming Plaza.”

He says his group is trying to make the park more beautiful by adding flowers and open-air seating.

Robinson said, “We’re rebranding it because we want it to be a cool, urban green space.”

And it’s getting more green. A little bit at a time. Robinson says the group is excited about a tiny patch of grass they just installed near the cafe seating area. He says as a Jacksonville native, he feels like it’s his mission to do something for the urban core. That’s what led him to the Friends of Hemming Park.

“This is my home, I’ve always wanted something really really cool to happen downtown and it’s happening,” he said.

He says he remembers coming downtown with his grandmother when he was a kid and getting his suits fitted at the young men’s shop. Most of the stores have been gone for more than two decades.

Robinson says he hopes that kids who come to Hemming Park now will have the same kind of memories that he had when he was young. He says it was exciting to see “the beautiful fountains and to see this open air right in the middle of downtown.”

When it’s not decked out for big festivals, Hemming Park regularly hosts a range of programs including yoga, symphony concerts, open-air markets and kids’ activities.