Arlington is reinventing itself–it’s on the move. Rooted in Timucuan Indian history and continuing through the Civil War, Arlington development exploded with the opening of the Mathews Bridge in 1953. Miles and miles of riverfront property wrap around the first North-to-East bend of the river from Downtown, heading out to the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to indigenous peoples, the French, Spanish, British and Americans have walked its ground, shaded under towering oak trees through centuries. Its apex began in the mid-20th century as a post-World War II haven for new housing, expansion of communities, and soon, a private university using the namesake of the city, Jacksonville University.
It’s not condensed like other noted historical areas of Jacksonville, such as Riverside Avondale Preservation (RAP), San Marco Preservation (SMP) and Springfield Preservation (SPAR). Rather, it’s full of unique neighborhoods spreading out adjacent to one another, flowing into each other, sharing namesake roads that used to be wagon and horse trails.
There are many history books written about the various communities located in Arlington. Those who have taken ownership through the nonprofit Old Arlington, Inc., have taken inventory of the area’s assets. An architectural survey of historic structures has been completed in order to obtain national, regional and local grants for landscape improvements. “We have miles of riverfront with boat ramps and parks,” says Ann Burt of Old Arlington, Inc.
Old Arlington, Inc., has placed 23 markers around historical facts, denoting things such as the cultural heritage of Norman Studios and JU’s ground as Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley’s 22-acre plantation home – Chesterfield Plantation (1847), where she lived upon her return from Haiti after Zephaniah Kingsley’s death. Life on a mixed-race plantation was a common phenomenon in pre-Civil War Arlington. Much history here is of national and international significance.
“Remember, RAP began in 1974 – we just started in 1993. Our time is coming!” Burt says.
Arlington, “a community of neighborhoods,” is like a pearl necklace, intertwined into the beauty of intersecting communities, all with a goal of working cohesively. The Old Arlington, Inc., leadership is building a sense of community. Burt also believes Jacksonville has the potential to capitalize on eco-heritage tourism in Arlington, too.
“Arlington Mod & More” is an annual, successful home-tour event, which re-introduces Arlington to new generations. Last year they featured seven homes built in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and even included a fallout shelter, mid-modern office building, and, for the first time open to the public, the Richard-Holden House, which is the oldest, continuously inhabited home in Duval County. The Mid-Mod tours have included designs by such noted architects as Robert Broward, Taylor Hardwick and George Fisher, as well as mid-century “modest” homes designed by architects whose names are no longer known to us.
Arlington is on the move in this second decade of the 21st century. Leadership in the nonprofit is growing, and they continue to spread the word about the benefits of living, working and playing in Jacksonville’s Arlington. It is a place for individuals and families to root into forward-thinking neighborhoods, while, at the same time, being surrounded by centuries of history.
Give it a try – take a spin and rediscover Jacksonville’s Arlington. Check out the organization at myarlington.org, and learn more in their e-blast newsletter, My Arlington Monthly, too.