Neighborhoods: San Jose's Skinner's Pasture


Metro Jacksonville takes a look into the development of an portion of San Jose that was known as Skinner's Pasture for most of the 20th Century.

Published March 5, 2014 in Neighborhoods - MetroJacksonville.com


In 1899, Richard Green Skinner relocated to Jacksonville in search of pine trees needed in the production of turpentine for his naval store supply business. He eventually ended up in the possession of over 40,000 acres by the time he died of pneumonia in 1905.  Much of this land was located a few miles southeast of Jacksonville. After his death, the property was left to his seven sons who divided it among themselves after the Florida real estate boom burst in the late 1920s.


A map illustrating Richard Green Skinner's property (highlighted in green) during the early 20th century. Courtesy of the Jacksonville Public Library Special Collections Department.

Sons, Arthur Chester Skinner and Richard Green Skinner received the largest tracts because they agreed to take the least accessible land located farthest from downtown Jacksonville. Arthur Chester Skinner's land was the farthest east. For much of the early 20th century, a portion of this property in the vicinity of St. Augustine Road and Old Kings Road became a dairy owned by A. Chester's son's, A. Chester, Jr. and Charles Brightman called Meadowbrook Farms. Located at 6769 St. Augustine Road, just east of the 1926 development San Jose Eastates, Meadowbrook Farms focused on the refrigerated home delivery of pure Jersey Milk.  In relation to their San Jose dairy, at one point, Meadowbrook Farms operated branch stores at 1088 Arlington Road, 6506 Beach Boulevard, and 5405 Norwood Avenue.


One of the retail stores operated by Meadowbrook Farms. July, 1960. Courtesy of the University of Florida at http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00045789/00001

The San Jose land associated with the Meadowbrook Farms dairy became known as Skinner's Pasture.  By the 1950s, milk had become the third largest agricultural product in Florida with as much as 180,000 dairy cows spread across the state on 1,200 dairy farms. In 1953, Skinner's Meadowbrook Farms recieved acclaim by the Florida Dairy Association for being classified for breed type, rating 33 animals Very Good, 33 Good Plus and 6 Good and the overall herd showing an average score of 84.38% on 72 animals.

While the dairy business was profitable, Jacksonville's growth patterns were rapidly changing.  Fueled by investments in new superhighways, new neighborhoods were popping up like mushrooms further and further away from Jacksonville.  Soon, remote property being utilized for agriculture found Jacksonville's outward expansion knocking at its door.

In August 1962, the Skinners successfully had 205 acres of "Skinner's Pasture" rezoned for commercial, industrial and residential uses by the Duval County Zoning Board. At one point, neighboring residents opposed the project.  However, after learning no industrial or commercial uses were being sought for the sections of land adjacent to their homes, objections were removed.


A 1950s subdivision map illustrating the street grid of San Jose Estates.  The Meadowbrook Farms dairy and associated pasture was located just east and is labled "Dixie Farms". Courtesy of the Jacksonville Public Library Special Collections Department.

In a development strategy still utilized by many landowners today, land was deeded for a 3,000 student high school was earmarked in the center of the rezoned property.  To make the school and every other development parcel accessible, an 80-foot-wide, mile long strip of right-of-way was donated for a road to connect with Lone Grove Road (University Boulevard) on the north and Old Kings Road to the south. The high school opened in 1965 and was named for Samuel W. Wolfson. Following the opening of the school, most of the surrounding property was developed into multi-family residential.  The right-of-way donated through the center of the property became known as Powers Road.  With Powers Road providing vehicular access through most of the former pasture, several industrial and commercial uses were developed between the roadway and Florida East Coast Railway's Bowden Yard.


Samuel W. Wolfson High School under construction. Courtesy of the Jacksonville Public Library Special Collections Department.

Here is a tour of development that sits on this San Jose site that was once known as Skinner's Prairie.



Skinner's Pasture Neighborhood Tour

1. Powers Avenue



Powers Avenue serves as the major roadway through this section of San Jose.  The 1.9-mile road's original right-of-way was donated by the Skinner family so access could be provided to a school site, also donated by the family.  The end result was the construction of a road that also enhanced the value and development potential of remaining parcels within the former pasture land.  In 2000, Powers Avenue was widened between University Boulevard and Old Kings Road for $6.5 million. The project was funded by the local-option gas tax program which is expected to expire in 2016.

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4. Baker Skinner Park



Baker Skinner Park is located near the intersection of Powers Avenue and Old Kings Road.  The 24-acre property was purchased from the Skinner family in January 1994. Appraised at $83,000 per acre, the family sold the city the land for $25,000 per acre. The $1.1 million park is named for A.C. Skinner and Dick Baker, president of the Northeast FL Builders Association and winner of the Association's 1993 leadership award.

Arthur Chester Skinner -- Skinner 's family sold the city the land for $25,000 per acre -- far below the appraised value of $83,000 per acre. Both Baker and Skinner were honored because of the time and money they, and their families, donated to the development of Jacksonville parks. Today the park features two t-ball fields and four baseball fields, picnic areas, a nature and jogging trail, playscapes, security lights and parking.



5. Wolfson High School



In 1962, members of Arthur Chester Skinner's family deeded property in the heart of Skinner's Pasture to the Duval County School Board.  In 1965, Samuel W. Wolfson High School opened its doors.  Originally, the school's name was set to become Landon Senior High.  However, Duval County School Board member Ned Searcy proposed naming the school after Samuel W. Wolfson, who had recently died in 1963. Wolfson was a noted industrialist and philanthropist who owned the Jacksonville Braves baseball team. Wolfson had also served on the board of directors of Jacksonville University, Barnett National Bank, the Gator Bowl Association, and Jacksonville Charities, Inc.

Before Searcy asked the board to consider naming the new school for Wolfson, he read a letter from the Wolfson Foundation. The letter stated the foundation was prepared to donate $50,000 toward construction of the new school to be located on a tract known as "Skinner's Pasture," south of University Boulevard and between the Florida East Coast Railway track and Old. St. Augustine Road. Searcy said it would be fitting to name the school after Wolfson, not only because of the donation, but because "he was such a good citizen of our community."



6. Apartment Complexes



After the opening of Samuel W. Wolfson High School in 1965, several apartment complexes were built surrounding the school, between Powers Avenue and Old Kings Road. This land use buffered existing San Jose Estates residents from new industrial uses that began to locate between Powers Avenue and the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.  The first apartment complex opened in 1966.  The last was completed in 1978.

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14. Dupont Station



The Dupont Station shopping center opened in 1988. At one point in time, the center's anchors were Food Lion and Fresh Market. Prior to the 1988 reconfiguration of the site, the property had served as a location for Pantry Pride. Today, the largest tenant in the 157,512 square foot center is UF Health Psychiatry.


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17. University Mall

In 1970, University Mall opened at the intersection of University Boulevard and St. Augustine Road.  Anchors at the 105,550 square foot shopping center included Publix, Roses and Eckerd Drugs.  By 1978, Murphy Mart had replaced Roses.  Now owned by RAM Realty, the shopping center was recently redeveloped to accommodate a new anchor tenant, LA Fitness.

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An aerial of University Mall during the mid-1970s. Courtesy of the Jacksonville Public Library's Special Collections Department.

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21. University Boulevard



When this section of San Jose was known as Skinner's Pasture, Lone Grove Road served as the major east/west thoroughfare. After the opening of Jacksonville University in Arlington, the road was renamed University Boulevard.



22. Florida East Coast Railway Bowden Yard





23. The French Pantry



There are several industries located on Powers Avenue. One, in particular, is home to a popular "hole-in-the-wall" restaurant, The French Pantry. The French Pantry was established in 1996 when noted Jacksonville chefs Time and Barbara Felver purchased and converted the St. Johns Bakery. While lines are known to stretch out of the door during lunch hour, The French Pantry is actually a commercial bakery that produces European-style breads and desserts for hotels and restaurants.



24. Body Central



Founded in 1972, Body Central is in the process of relocating their headquarters and distribution center from 6225 Powers Avenue to One Imeson in North Jacksonville. The Jacksonville-based fashion retailer will move from a 179,000 square foot building into a 400,000 square foot facility. Body Central will retain 145 permanent jobs and create 52 new jobs with an average salary, exclusive of benefits, of $66,400, by December 2017.



25. S&P USA



S&P is the world's leading producer of air movement products. S&P manufactures and supplies fans, dampers, louvers and recovery ventilators (ERVs). Their USA operations are based out of a 150,000 square foot manufacturing facility at 6393 Powers Avenue.



26. Southeastern Paper Group



This Heritage Paper Company, Inc. was recently acquired by Spartanburg, SC-based Southeastern Paper Group. Heritage Paper Company, Inc. is a distribution company with 41 years of experience providing world-class quality service to the restaurant, lodging, healthcare, school and government markets throughout the southeastern United States.



27. Bill Thrower Company



Established in 1960, the Bill Thrower Company is a building supply dealer serving Jacksonville over 50 years.



28. A Slice of the Old Southside



Most of the land that made up Skinner's Pasture was developed over 30 years ago.  However, a drive through the neighborhood's side streets reveals scenery from the days of Meadowbrook Farms' dairy operation.


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Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@metrojacksonville.com


This article can be found at: http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2013-oct-neighborhoods-san-joses-skinners-pasture


Metro Jacksonville

Copyright MetroJacksonville.com

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