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First Coast

UPDATE: Commission Approves Hemming Park Historic Designation Recommendation

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Lindsey Kilbride
/
WJCT News

Updated 9 a.m. 7/28

Jacksonville’s Hemming Park is a step closer to becoming a designated city landmark after the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission voted Wednesday evening to recommend protecting  the historic park, including its Confederate monument.

Jacksonville has more than 150 historic landmarks, including the street clock downtown.

For a site to become a historic landmark, it has to meet certain criteria, like: Is the site a significant reminder of a historical event or is it suitable to preserve?

If the historic designation is supported by the owner of the site or structure at question, it only has to meet two criteria, but if the owner doesn’t want the historic listing, it has to meet four.

The city owns Hemming Park. While the Parks Department opposes the park's becoming a landmark, it meets the criteria, qualifying it for a vote.

According to the historical proposal, the city acquired Hemming Park in 1866 and named it after Jacksonville Confederate veteran Charles C. Hemming, who gifted the Confederate statue still standing in the middle of the park.  

The park also became recognized as the epicenter of Jacksonville’s Civil Right’s movement in the 1960s.

City Planning Supervisor Joel McEachin said, once designated a landmark, conditions surrounding what can and cannot be changed in the park would be decided by the commission. McEachin said the park has drastically changed over the years.

“What you see out there, except for the monument, is pretty much changes that have occurred probably in the 1980s. So it’s not necessarily preserving those features,” he said.

He said projects like a proposed stage would probably not require a Certificate of Appropriateness, although those conditions are still to be decided. COAs are what the commission issues to approve changes.

But McEachin said, if Hemming is landmarked, its 62-foot Confederate statue won’t be going anywhere unless the  Preservation Commission  issues a COA.

“(If) the Commission would take an action denying the relocating of the location of the monument, of course that could be a matter that could be appealed by a party with legal standing,” he said.

 Next, City Council will also have to approve the historic designation for the protections to stick.

Editor's note: This story was updated with the outcome of the vote.