Why Is The Bostwick Building Historically Significant?

Nov 25, 2013

The fate of the former bank building at the corner of Ocean and Bay Streets, known as the Bostwick Building, will come before the Jacksonville City Council this week.

The council's Land Use and Zoning Committee voted last week to deny a demolition permit for the downtown building and to accept a recommendation that it be designated as a landmark.

The full council is expected to vote Tuesday this on whether the structure, known for jaguar print murals painted over boarded up windows, will remain.

"Jacksonville doesn't want to lose anymore of it's historic inventory," said Jacksonville Historical Society Executive Director Emily Lisska on Monday. "This would be an enormous blow to historic preservation in Jacksonville if this were lost."

The building that stands today was not the first bank to be built on the lot; a First National Bank branch was first built there in 1880, but burned in the Great Fire of 1901.

The bank was rebuilt in 1902 and was among the first projects to be granted a construction permit following the fire.

"Literally, it was the first national bank in the state, so that's a very big deal historically," said Lisska.

The project was undertaken by architect J.H.W. Hawkins, a New Yorker who moved to Jacksonville after the Great Fire of 1901 and designed homes for several notable residents including U.S. Senator J.P. Taliaferro and Samuel B. Hubbard.

The Bostwick family has been associated with the building from the start. Among First National's first executives was William M. Bostwick, who would later go on to serve as mayor of Jacksonville.

The bank failed in 1903 and the building was purchased by Guaranty Trust and Savings Bank, a new bank whose first vice president was William M. Bostwick Jr.

The Bostwick Building, known in this photo as the Guaranty Trust and Savings Bank.
Credit The Jacksonville Historical Society

"There has almost not been a time in history when the Bostwicks were not associated with it," Lisska said.

In 1919 the building was renovated to it's current size, a project so skillful, Lisska said, that the residents of the day couldn't tell where the old building ended and the renovation began.

"Jacksonville was really at the beginning of a boom in building, and then the boom would go bust," Lisska said, referring to the Great Depression.

The bank failed in 1922 and the building left Bostwick hands until 1931, when the bank that had taken over from Guaranty Trust and Savings Bank also folded.

Lisska said she is confident that city lawmakers will consider the historical significance of the architecture and the prominent location of the structure with a vote to preserve the building.

"This is such a front door building for Jacksonville that there is a responsibility felt by our civic leaders," she said.

WATCH: Video inside the Bostwick Building shot by WJCT's Kevin Meerschaert in Jan. 2013

"It gives Jacksonville a distinction," she added, asking the question the City Council will be faced will during deliberations this week. "Do you really want to see this as a vacant lot?"

Lisska said she is hopeful the building will be purchased in the near future pending the results of a lawsuit filed by the owners of property adjacent to the building over water damage.

The Bostwicks are advocating for demolition. Val Bostwick has said the only reason the family didn’t move to restore the building themselves is that they couldn’t afford it.

You can follow Patrick Donges on Twitter @patrickhdonges.