Springfield is a historic neighborhood located to the north of Downtown Jacksonville. The boundaries of Springfield are well defined. Hogan’s Creek lies along its south edge, and railroad lines are found on the north and east. A street called Boulevard, which wraps around Confederate Park and becomes Broad Street, defines the western limit of the district. The park land next Hogan’s Creek is a defining feature of the neighborhood. Confederate Park contains a popular neighborhood dog park. Inside the bounds of nearby Klutho Park, also hugged by Hogan’s Creek, you’ll find the Disc Golf Course (Disc Golf is a fun cross between frisbee and golf). Contemporary with the overall residential area are two commercial strips along Main and Eighth Streets, which join at the heart of the district. The district contains 119 city blocks in an area of approximately 500 acres, or slightly less than one square mile. Hogan’s Creek separates the residences of Springfield from the Downtown business district. North of the creek, few buildings rise above two stories, and parks and tree-lined streets are common.
HISTORY OF SPRINGFIELD
Established in 1869, Springfield experienced its greatest growth from the early 1880s through the 1920s. It was originally named for a spring of good water located in a field on West 4th St. By 1879, there was a horse-drawn streetcar line built up Main (then Pine) from Bay to 8th St. As the area continued to grow, G.A. Backenstoe leased the trolley in 1884 and built a skating rink, dinner hall, and restaurant at 8th and Pine. The appetite for tourist attractions was in high gear in Jacksonville when the Board of Trade organized a Sub-Tropical Exposition at the Water Works Park on the corner of Pine and 1st. Construction began in the fall of 1887 ostensibly to compete with California for tourism. (Jacksonville had been a major resort destination for several years.) President Grover Cleveland and Frederick Douglas visited the Expo before its closure in 1891. On the wild side, in 1893, 1st and Laura became the Florida Zoological Gardens and Exposition until the 1920s, when it moved to Heckscher Drive.
In 1901, most of Downtown Jacksonville was burned down in the Great Fire. The flames and smoke from the Great Fire were so heavy that the smoke was reportedly seen as far away as North Carolina. The fire lasted 8 hours and consumed 146 city blocks, 3268 buildings, and killed seven people. After the fire, many of the city’s most prominent and wealthy citizens were now homeless, and turned to Springfield for help. Springfield became an upperclass suburb because several wealthy residents built their new homes there.This film was produced 100 years ago by the local Norman Studios and distributed by a news reel company based in Jacksonville. It shows a lot of the Hogans Creek Park, and some pretty extensive footage of Springfield.
According to Bender “Doc” Cawthorn, a 19th century Springfield resident and senior projectionist at the Florida Theatre in the 1960s, Springfield had a tradition of “riding the loop” after Sunday church. In the days of the horse and buggy, the finer families of Jacksonville would parade down Talleyrand Ave. and back up Evergreen Ave. to picnic at one the many parks along Hogan’s Creek.
At the time the district was listed in the National Register, it contained 1,784 buildings fifty years old or older that contributed to its historical character. Of that number, 1,686 were classified as residential. Only 48 were commercial. The great majority of buildings, 1,595, were wood frame, and 201 were masonry. There were 1,294 buildings of two stories in height and 10 three-story structures. The remainder were all one-story structures. Contributing buildings retained enough of their original physical character to adequately embody the sense of time, place, and historic association normally required in establishing a historic district. These comprised 95 percent of all of the buildings in the district. The non-contributing buildings were either less than fifty years old and lacked exceptional significance or were more than fifty years old but retained little, if any, of their original physical integrity. These numbered five percent of the total.
The neighborhood did not experience a resurgence of construction during the 1920s, as did other residential sections of the city. The “boom” bypassed the area since much of the land was already occupied, except in the area north of Eighth Street. Construction was, therefore, limited to the occasional vacant lot or those sites where older structures had been lost or required replacement.