State Grant Will Help Jacksonville Recognize Underrepresented Communities

Oct 1, 2018

Prominent African-American architects and Northwest side cemeteries are just a couple of areas of significance Jacksonville’s planning department may recommend for national historic designations.

That’s because the city is getting a $49,962 state grant to help it spotlight underrepresented communities. The grant would pay a historical preservation consultant to survey a minimum of 50 historic structures. The survey will consist of research, field surveys, and preparation of updated Florida Master Site File forms.

In addition, there will be recommendations for at least five nominations to the National Register of Historical Places.

“We are going to hire a consultant to do all this work for us,” Jacksonville city planner Blair Knighting told a City Council committee Monday. “They’re going to meet with a neighborhood and make sure that is something that they want first.”

Knighting said her team already has an idea of some places and subjects they’d like to see get national historical recognition, one being Durkee Gardens, an neighborhood in the Durkeeville area around Myrtle Avenue and 8th Street.

“We’ve already surveyed the area,” she said. “It’s a really contiguous area. It’s perfect for a historic district. It’s a national, not a local so the encumbrance on the neighbors are not as strict as like Riverside or Springfield.”

Durkeeville Historical Society President Lloyd Washington says Durkee Gardens was a neighborhood built in the late 1930s near Durkeeville — a federally-funded housing project.

When people were able to move out of public housing, Durkee Gardens was there.

“It gave a lot of people the opportunity to own their own homes and it was a very influential neighborhood at one point,” Washington said.

He said many of the original Durkee Garden homes are still occupied today. “They’re looking pretty good,” he said.

A lot of the homes there were built by black contractor James Edward Hutchins.

“Newspaper articles said colored lots for colored people,” Washington said. “[Hutchins] built homes for them.”

Knighting also told the City Council’s Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health & Safety Committee, her team would like to see several African-American architects and builders from the early 1900s get a historic recognition, including Hutchins. A group of cemeteries in the Moncrief area is also on her list.

Washington said he personally thinks a historic designation would be a good thing. He’d also like to see Durkeeville get the same.

After a second City Council committee votes on the grant this week, the full Council will have to approve it before the planning department can use the funds.

Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.