A historic preservation group has identified two areas in Duval County on its list of the 11 most threatened historic areas in the state.
The Florida Trust for Historic Preservation announced the 2020 11 to Save list, which represents endangered historic resources across the state.
The list is meant to increase awareness of the need to save Florida’s historic resources and preserve the state’s rich history. Florida Trust said development in the areas threatens the historic resources.
The group says this year’s 11 to Save list covers hundreds of years of history and a variety of cultural resources in Duval, Palm Beach, St. Johns, Leon, Putnam, Miami-Dade, Bay, Orange, Santa Rosa, Alachua and Seminole counties.
According to the group, Jacksonville is the oldest urbanized city in the state. Ennis Davis with the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation told News4Jax one could argue that destroying what makes Jacksonville authentic hurts downtown revitalization.
“Preservation promotion of your historic authentic culture is very important not only for building pride in your community but also as a way to open up the door for inclusive future economic opportunity for your residents within the community,” Davis said.
Downtown Jacksonville is on the 11 to Save list. In 2016, 56 blocks of downtown Jacksonville, covering 158 acres, were listed as a historic district.
Despite the list, many prominent historic and culturally significant sites, including the City Hall Annex, Greyhound Bus Station, First Baptist Church Sunday School Building and the Universal Marion (JEA Building), have been demolished or will be removed, according to the group.
“If you look at downtown today, you have lots of vacant historic buildings and a big struggle with that has been a policy that we have in place -- they really work against the idea of preservation and reuse,” Davis said.
Another area on the list is the Community of Cosmo and the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. Established in the 1870s following emancipation, the Gullah Geechee people are descendants of west and central Africans who were enslaved.
Davis said Jacksonville is home to the largest concentration of Gullah Geechee descendants in the U.S.
“That’s something very special about Jacksonville, and it’s very special and unique about its African-American historic neighborhoods, such as Cosmo, LaVilla, Brooklyn and Mixon Town,” Davis said.
Davis said these areas are being erased right now by redevelopment.
“This group of people found a way to endure slavery and create a culture, an element of things that we still (see) today all over Jacksonville, but we don’t know that particular history,” Davis said.
He added a lot of what’s there is quickly dwindling because of increased suburban development.
“Preserving that history is a way to create economic opportunity for future generations but also preserve our story and what makes a Jacksonville and Duval County unique amongst the rest of the world,” Davis said.
Davis said the Downtown Investment Authority has proposed a plan to revise preservation and revitalization trust fund guidelines and recommends the city council adopt a new program to incentivize the funding gaps of renovating historic landmarks.
In the upcoming months, it will be up to City Council to decide if the proposed program is ultimately adopted.
You can nominate an endangered property for next year’s list: https://www.floridatrust.org/11tosavenomination.