Eco Relics, Dyal-Upchurch, Klutho designs

Jacksonville’s First Klutho: The Dyal-Upchurch Building

The morning of May 4, 1901, a young architect named Henry Klutho opened his New York Times to discover that a great fire had burned downtown Jacksonville nearly to the ground. In June, Klutho left his two-year-old New York City architecture practice to board a Clyde Line steamer bound for Jacksonville. He arrived to find the debris and rubble already nearly cleared, and local imaginations captivated by the blank canvas presented to builders and developers. Newly elected mayor Duncan U. Fletcher declared a cease-fire for partisan politics, insisting that “the one all-absorbing idea now is the restoration of Jacksonville.”

The city council quickly authorized the fire marshal to enforce a new building code, but the council had limited authority to direct planning outside of the construction of local government buildings. Without regulations preventing unqualified people from practicing architecture, carpenters, masons, and salespeople presented the city with hundreds of hastily scribbled building plans.

Opening gala - circa 1903
Opening Gala – circa 1903

By October, applications for over 1,000 building permits overwhelmed Jacksonville’s city government. The well-trained and credentialed Klutho believed he could out-compete the local talent. With housing and office space in short supply, Klutho began living and working out of his boardinghouse room at 222 West Adams.

The Dyal-Upchurch company, a sawmill and investment outfit out of Moniac, Georgia, also saw opportunity in the post-apocalyptic downtown wasteland. In July, the company bought a lot at the SE corner of Bay and Main, tapping Klutho for a design. On August 4, the Times Union and Citizen  reported that plans were complete for a 5-story business block costing $75,000, or about $2 million in today’s dollars. An incredible backlog of permit applications prevented construction from starting until January, 1902. A crew of over 100 workers completed the building in May, adding a 6th story to take advantage of the city’s dire need for more office space. It was the first tall building to rise from the Great Fire‘s ashes.

Eco Relics, Dyal-Upchurch, Downtown Jacksonville, klutho
Bay Street, looking west towards Main Street. The six-story Dyal-Upchurch building can be seen on the left.

The Dyal-Upchurch building’s Renaissance Revival style had been popular in major American cities since the 1880s. Its cubic mass is divided horizontally by the large blocks of Indiana limestone, arched entrance, and arched windows on the ground floor, windows heavily framed in limestone on the second floor, and arched windows above an ornamental brick course on the sixth floor. A limestone cornice and parapet once capped the building, but it was lost to fire damage in 1915.

The building also includes the first known Klutho-designed ornament, a 14′ long abstract river-patterned cornice of carved limestone above the Bay Street entrance. This decidedly non-Renaissance Revival feature shows the young Klutho experimenting with the Prairie School’s emphasis on new forms and expressions to replace copied classical designs. In a few short years, Klutho produced the St. James Building, a masterpiece of the Prairie style.

In 1980, the Dyal-Upchurch building was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, making tax credits available for the Haskell Company‘s renovation the following year. The building underwent further renovation in 2000 and again in 2002. The deed was passed between four different owners over the next decade. A recent renovation called for concrete floors to meet the current fire code.

Eco Relics, a local architectural salvage firm, acquired the heart pine floor joists that were removed to make way for the new floors. Old growth heart pine lumber is no longer available from lumber mills, as supplies were all but exhausted by 1900. Salvage is the only way to acquire this miracle wood with the warmth and tone of softwood but the density and durability of hardwood. The wood preservationists at Eco Relics speak of it in hushed and reverent tones.

In addition to making the historically significant timbers available to the public, Eco Relics craftspeople used Dyal-Upchurch’s heart pine floor joists on a number of custom projects for customers, including farm tables, mantels, counter and bar tops, and more. There is not much left of the original score, but Eco Relics is always adding to their stock of salvaged wood with waste from the renovation and deconstruction of old buildings.

Heirloom quality custom-built furniture from Eco Relics is a sustainable option for your green home or business. The wood is acquired locally by salvage, reducing carbon emissions and pressure on our forests. Stone, steel, aluminum, and other reclaimed materials are also available to complete a project. Choose your own finish to meet your VOC, food prep, or toxicity standards. Using a local maker and local materials means less transportation, less processing, less packaging, and less wasted energy. The wood preservationists at Eco Relics work hard to ensure that old wood gets the chance to tell a new story, keeping it out of the waste stream that leads from our precious forests to big box stores and on to the landfill.

Eco Relics is open 7 days a week: Mon-Fri 9-5:30, Sat 9-6, Sun 11-5.

For more information and to see the items in their online store go to www.ecorelics.com/shop.

About David Podris

october, 2021

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