Historic ‘Old Stanton’ High School to be renovated

Local Republican, Democrats promise $2.5M to group wanting to bring landmark in downtown Jacksonville back to life

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An iconic downtown Jacksonville landmark that’s currently boarded up is about to get a makeover.

Local members of the Florida Legislature were on hand on Monday to hand over two checks totaling $2.5 million to a group named Historic Stanton Inc. wanting to bring the “Old Stanton” High School on Ashley Street back to its former glory.

Several school buildings stood on site. Its history goes back 153 years ago when the first elementary school for Black students in Florida was built at that location. The current structure was rebuilt in 1917 under the guidance of its principal, renowned Civil Rights leader and author James Weldon Johnson. In 1953, Stanton High School was moved to its current location on West 13th Street. The “Old Stanton” High School building then served as a vocational school for nearly 20 years. Since then, it’s been empty, and the building has since deteriorated. Its roof collapsed several years ago, making it uninhabitable.

That’s going to change now.

Mamie Davis heads up Historic Stanton Inc. and is proud to be able to help Stanton live again. She said the building is going to become a museum and cultural facility.

“It belongs to the community, and we want to make sure it represents the historic significance of this building,” Davis said.

A sign with history about "Old Stanton" High School. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4JAX - All rights reserved.)

State Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, spoke about the significance of the building to Jacksonville’s history.

“Many people today think, when some of our seniors say that they went to Stanton, they think of Stanton on 13th Street. Actually, our seniors went to this institution, which was built in 1917, and it was the only high school on this side of town that African Americans could attend,” Gibson said.

And state Rep. Wyman Duggan, R-Jacksonville, said it’s important to remember those who passed through the doors of “Old Stanton.”

“It’s an undiscovered asset. It’s an undiscovered gem, and I can’t wait for it to be redeveloped,” Duggan said.

The historic significance of Monday’s event was also highlighted by the fact that both local Republicans and Democrats came together to bring it about.

“It’s important to bring this building back to life for our community, but it’s also important to know that we can work across the aisle with our colleagues to make sure great projects are funded to bring that money back to Jacksonville,” said state Rep. Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville.

Even though Historic Stanton Inc. was promised the money, plans are still in the works for construction. It will take about a year before works begins. First, the caved-in roof has to be repaired and then the windows will be replaced. To see potential plans, visit the group’s website.

Eventually, when the building becomes a museum, the money it raises will be used to maintain it.

This photo shows "Old Stanton" High School. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4JAX - All rights reserved.)

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Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.