Long before it became Jacksonville’s hub for trade shows and events, what is known today as the Prime Osborn III Convention Center was the largest rail terminal in the South.
That’s according to the Jacksonville Historical Society, which is helping present a centennial tribute to the old Jacksonville Terminal on Monday, Nov. 18.
The featured speaker will be Clarence Gooden, a rail industry veteran and former CSX president. The event begins with a 6 p.m. reception followed by Gooden’s 7 p.m. presentation. A donation of $10 is suggested to attend.
Henry Flagler organized The Jacksonville Terminal Company to build the station in 1893 to accommodate the five major railroads serving Jacksonville.
The former rail station in Jacksonville's LaVilla neighborhood transported millions of passengers until the last passenger train departed in 1974, according to the Historical Society.
It was then transformed and expanded into a convention center that opened in 1986, following a 1982 partnership of civic and business leaders who joined forces with former CSX Chairman Prime F. Osborn III, for whom the convention center is named.
Today the center features 78,000 square feet of exhibition space. Passenger rail service is now handled by the Amtrak station at 3570 Clifford Ln. on Jacksonville’s Northside.
The area surrounding the Jacksonville Terminal is once again being transformed into a transportation hub.
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is building a new regional transportation center across the street from the Prime Osborn. It’s scheduled to open on March 31 and will include the reopening of the Prime Osborn Skyway Station as well as replacing of the Rosa Parks Transit Station as JTA’s primary bus hub.
The new Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center will follow the 2018 opening of the new Greyhound bus terminal at 1111 W. Forsyth St.
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The JTA also hasn't ruled out the possibility of returning Amtrak or other passenger rail service to the center, an item that's currently listed as "to be determined."