When you love historic homes and hearing their stories brought to life, it’s especially sad to see one that’s been left to die.

For years, the neighborhood has been forced to watch as 2768 Riverside Avenue has been allowed to deteriorate — intentionally and willfully.

This is Demolition by Neglect; and it is preventable. It requires active occupancy and routine maintenance. But years of municipal code compliance activity and judicial action have left this contributing historic structure with little future.

How did we get here? What can we do now?

The history of 2768 Riverside Avenue, from Wayne Wood

Henry Clark became wealthy in the lumber business. Born in Scotland in 1829, he came to the U.S. in 1849 and was living in Jacksonville after the Civil War.

In 1906 he built a large mansion (part of The Row) on the corner of Riverside Avenue and Margaret Street, where Starbucks is today. The house was clad in marble and had an imposing two-story portico with six Corinthian columns. He lived there with his third wife, Mary Elizabeth Clark, who was 38 years younger than Henry.

A large white house with columns

Description automatically generated

His son William H. lived in the big house until 1909, when he got married to Lillian Keating in New York. (The marriage was significant enough to be reported in The New York Times.) The newlyweds moved to 2024 Laura Street and William was the credit manager at Kohn-Furchgott’s Department Store.

After the elder Henry died in 1911, His widow, Mary E. Clark, was uncomfortable living in the huge mansion by herself. She built a 1 ½-story frame house on the southeast corner of Riverside Avenue and James Street in 1912. This is where 2768 Riverside Avenue is today.

That house burned down in 1915, and Mary Clark commissioned architect Mellen Greeley in 1916 to design a new two-story home on the site, which was completed in 1917. Not longer afterward, she sold the big marble mansion and moved into the house on the corner of Riverside and James.

A floor plan of a house

Description automatically generated

She lived at 2768 Riverside Avenue until her death in 1953 at age 86. In her final years, her daughter Louise C. Clark lived with her. After her mother died, Louise moved across the street to 2769 Riverside Avenue. Louise was an early member of RAP and died in 1985 at age 99.

The house at 2768 Riverside Avenue was purchased from Louise C. Clark in 1956 by Arnold L. Conyers Jr. and his wife, Selma. After Mr. Conyers died in 1967, Selma continued to live there until her death in 2008 at age 98. The house is still owned by their son, James R. Conyers. It has been vacant for many years.

Request for demolition, by City of Jacksonville

On June 26, the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission approved the demolition of 2768 Riverside Ave. This request — from the City of Jacksonville Municipal Code Compliance Division– was a final attempt at what is being termed safety and nuisance abatement. 

But “abatement” shouldn’t be the only goal. We always need to consider preservation in whatever form that can take.

Riverside Avondale Preservation continues to pursue the foreclosure process as an essential remedy in this situation. Foreclosure will allow a future buyer — with a full understanding of the contributing historic nature and history of this home — to salvage what remains of the property. 

Demolition should be the last resort.