JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An upscale restaurant in the heart of Downtown Jacksonville will open Oct. 26 after a massive overhaul of one of the first buildings built after the Great Fire of 1901.
The Cowford Chophouse is a nod to the city's original name due to its location at the narrowest point in the St. Johns River where cows could cross from one side to the another. It will open in the century-old Bostwick Building at the corner of Bay and Ocean Streets, near the base of the Main Street Bridge. The renovation took more than two years and cost over $6 million.
"I think, Cowford Chophouse, it’s really going to be the centerpiece of downtown when they open up," Bold City Brewery owner Susan Miller said.
Bold City Brewery is on Bay Street, next door to the Chophouse. Miller said this restaurant and bar is just what downtown needs.
"Having a high-end restaurant right downtown will really be great and will attract more people, and I think all of our businesses will probably get more business from that," Miller said.
The restaurant announced Thursday that it would open in a week and that reservations can already be made at CowfordChophouse.com or through OpenTable.
While most people remember the building for the Jaguars murals painted on its boarded-up windows for most of the last two decades, it was built as a bank and operated under two different owners until 1922, a then used as an office building until it closed for good. The building decayed to the point that it was structurally unsound and the owners wanted to tear it down, but that was blocked when the city declared it a historic landmark in 2012.
Forking Amazing Restaurants bought the building for $165,000 in 2014 with a plan to renovate it into a classic steakhouse. Due to the deteriorated state of the building, most of it, other than the facade, is new construction. Completion took nearly a year longer than anticipated.
For now, some of that downtown view includes vacant stores. Barbara Freeland, who has lived in Jacksonville since 1963, hopes the Chophouse helps revitalize downtown.
"We didn't have all of the commercial offices that we have now. We didn’t have the courthouse like we have now. But we had a vibrant downtown (with) restaurants and bars and hotels. It was wonderful."
The Chophouse will offer two levels of dining seating about 300 patrons and a rooftop bar overlooking downtown and the St. Johns River.