Park History

Adams Park

Adams Park

This .08-acre triangular median is located in the historic Avondale section at 3419 Riverside Ave., at the intersection of Edgewood Ave. and Oak St.

In 1921, The Avondale Company deeded the unnamed space to the City. In 1973, Adams Park was named to honor Mimi Stockton Adams (1927-71) and her husband Lee Adams (1922-71), who both died in an automobile accident.

Mimi Adams served as the first chairman of the Jacksonville’s Air Pollution Board formed in 1968, and with many other civic organizations. Lee Adams was an internationally-acclaimed artist and naturalist, who became known as the South’s successor to John James Audubon for his paintings of flowers, birds, and fruits. In 1972, the City established the annual Mimi and Lee Adams Environmental Awards to recognize those who have worked to enhance and preserve the environment.

Belevedere Park 1 & 2

Belevedere Parks 1 & 2

Located at 1300/1400 blocks of Belvedere, these two small parks (.32 acres) are close to Lee High School. No information has been located about the history of the two parks at this time, other than both green areas were intended as neighborhood parks for local residents. Little space exists for parking.

Belvedere Park #2 has a brass plaque with a dedication to Charlie Cosby (2005), a local child who passed away. Associated with this dedication are three benches, a small playground and swing set. Activities in this park include an annual Halloween party and parade.

tree line pathway in park

Boone Park (North & South)

This 30-acre park is located at 3700 Park Street in the Avondale area. The north and south park areas are divided by Herschel Street, with the southern portion bordering St. Johns Ave.

It is named after William Elijah Boone (1853-1938), a lumber and railroad man who owned and rented locomotives to the major Florida lines (also the great nephew of famed Daniel Boone). Boone donated this tract to the City in 1924, stipulating it always be maintained as a public park. Later, he lived at 3205 St. Johns Ave.

In 1926, the City acquired additional surrounding property from four other owners.

Cherry Street Park

Cherry Street Park

This little over half-acre neighborhood park is nestled at the end of Cherry St. in Avondale. Very little is known about the park other than it has existed since 1905.

In 1992-93, the City installed a new fence and also made a cut in the curb and worked on the sidewalk to provide handicap access to the small Park area. Conveniences include a large street light in the middle of the Park, a bench and a dog station. Amidst overhanging trees and lighting, the sidewalk leads down to the single bench from which a wide expanse of the St. Johns River may be enjoyed, especially by the occasional fishermen it hosts.

Edgewood Park 1, 2, 3

Edgewood Parks (1, 2 & 3)

A total of almost 4 acres along Edgewood Avenue south, these areas are islands of green space surrounded by homes on one side and Edgewood Avenue on the other. Edgewood Avenue is heavily trafficked and the Park areas allow for a setback for homes facing the Parks.

No information has been located about the history of the Parks at this time, other than the green areas were intended as a neighborhood Park for local residents.

Lighting is provided by street lights, these areas are places where local residents play, run, and walk dogs. There is limited parallel parking around the three Parks, but the green areas are fully grassed with some mature trees.

Elizabeth Park

Elizabeth Park

Located at 1886 Elizabeth Place, it is a small Park nestled against the St. Johns River; it is located at the end of the street with elegant homes in the Avondale section of Jacksonville.

The Park is part of the one block Elizabeth Place subdivision, developed by Stockton Broome in 1914. The development and the Park are named for his daughter. His home, built in 1914 at 1845 Elizabeth Place, was designed by famed Jacksonville architect H.J. Klutho, and featured Riverside Avondale’s first private swimming pool. Stockton Broome’s grandfather was a former governor of Florida. He entered the real estate business in 1907, and in addition to Elizabeth Place, Mr. Broome also developed the one-block of homes on Willow Branch Terrace. A bench is provided on-site.

 

Fishweir Park

Fishweir Park

Fishweir Park is located at 3925 Valencia Road in the Avondale section of southwest Jacksonville, and takes its name from nearby Fishweir Creek. The Park’s 10+-acre property is part of Fehrenbach’s Subdivision that was platted in 1882.

The extension of the streetcar line to the area spurred residential growth leading to the development of the Fishweir Park and Stockton Place subdivisions about 1913 and the construction of nearby Fishweir Elementary School in 1917. The City obtained the land for the Park in 1960 and 1961, and created the Park within the decade.

The Park’s amenities include a basketball court, benches, lighting, a water view, parking, picnic tables, and a playground.

Hollywood Park

Hollywood Park

Located at 1200 block of Hollywood Avenue, this .22 acre passive pocket Park is off the narrow northern end of the street.  No information has been located about the history of the Park at this time, other than the green area was intended as a neighborhood Park for local residents.

James & Downing Park

James & Downing Park

The .14 acre James and Downing Park is located at 1061 James Street in the Riverside section of west Jacksonville, bounded by Selma and Downing Streets.

The land for the Park was shown as a triangular parcel on the 1909 plat of New Riverside, which before the Civil War was part of a 1000-acre plantation operated by Elias G. Jaudon, one of the founders of the Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

In 1922, the developer donated the parcel to the City for use as a public Park, which was given the name of the adjacent streets, likely named after Columbus Downing, the president of the New Riverside Company, and Captain James (information not available). Riverside-Avondale Preservation, Inc. (RAP) championed the local designation of the area as the Riverside Avondale Historic District in 1998.  The attractive neighborhood Park consists of an open space encircled by oak trees, with two benches for relaxation.

john gorrie dog park

John Gorrie Dog Park

The John Gorrie Dog Park at 831 College Street, is located at the northwest corner of Riverside Park. It was opened to the public in 2017.  The 1.5+ acres dog Park features dedicated areas for both small and large breeds, shady spots and benches for dog owners to rest, and water and clean up stations.

Through an in-kind donation from the Haskell Company, and with the support of Riverside Avondale Preservation, a small group of community members met regularly to develop a plan for the Park.  The group collaborated with the Florida Department of Transportation and the Jacksonville City Council to transform part of Riverside Park into a space that benefits Riverside Avondale’s pet community.

Councilman Jim Love, who matched District Council Bond Funds with private funds, created a successful public private partnership, along with numerous sponsors that made this Park a reality.

John Murray Forbes park

John Murray Forbes Park

John Murray Forbes’ Park is a three block (.18 acre) at 1881 Powell Place, a secluded riverfront promenade, tucked away behind Riverside's Ascension St. Vincent's Medical Center. Named for John Murray Forbes, the area provides a scenic respite for hospital staff, visitors, and neighborhood walkers.

John Murray Forbes was a Boston investor, who in 1868, purchased 500 acres known as "Dell's Bluff" and platted this land as a suburban neighborhood named Riverside. "My next best operation as it now looks was the purchase just after the war of five hundred acres of land just south of and adjoining Jacksonville, then known as Yellow Bluff, and now called Riverside," said Forbes.

Landscaping is currently being updated following adjacent construction.

Little Van Wert Park

Little Van Wert Park

A small greenspace purchased by the City in 1921, is located at Little Van Wert Street, at the St. Johns River. Not outfitted by the City as other parks, the area is open during daylight hours and closed at sundown. The charming area is surrounded by trees with a scenic view of the St. Johns River, and provides public access to the River.

In June 2015, the City Council heard a petition from owners of adjacent properties who requested that the City close this public access to the St. Johns River. Their complaints were that criminal activities frequently occurred at the site. Other citizens were concerned that closing it would be a troubling precedent, as the public has a right to access the St. Johns River. The decision is outlined in City Ordinance 2015-360, wherein the petition was waived.

Memorial Park 2

Memorial Park

There is much available history on this 5.85 acre Park at 160 Riverside Ave. The most famous of Jacksonville parks, there are many important facts and interesting points, some included here.

In 1918, the Jacksonville Rotary Club proposed a memorial to honor Florida’s 1200 fallen heroes (World War I). The Citizens Memorial Committee oversaw the plan for approximately 6 acres of riverfront land to be dedicated in the Riverside neighborhood. Memorial Park includes the famous sculpture “Life”-- created by Charles Adrian Pillars, an important sculptor in his time (See Wayne Wood’s book “Life”, published Nov/2020, that details the history.)

Local architect Benjamin Greeley, the Olmsted Brothers and sculptor Charles Adrian Pillars were commissioned to create the beautiful Memorial Park (for $52,000), wherein the Memorial sculpture was unveiled on Christmas Day, 1924, leaving behind the great effort (and some discord) involved with its creation. (Photo: W. Woods, Life).

Native Park 1

Native Parks 1 & 2

The two Native Parks located at 3312 Park St. at Avondale Ave, are .36 acre of set aside green space. This park designation was part of the 1921 platting of the Avondale neighborhood in west Jacksonville.

The Avondale Garden Circle began planting the Parks with native species in 1923, to increase public awareness of plants indigenous to north Florida. These Parks were formally dedicated in 1932 and demonstrated that while exotic species often died during adversity, the Parks’ native plants prospered with little care through drought, freeze, and hurricane.

After some years of decline, the Parks were rejuvenated by the work of Dr. Robert Ragland, who devoted many years after his retirement in the early 1980’s, to planting native species and helping with the maintenance required. In recent years, the Parks have been supported by interested neighborhood residents who have taken an active interest in the Parks, even to the point of obtaining a grant and matching funds for landscaping.

IMG_7581

Northbank Riverwalk Artist Square (Art’s Market)

The Riverside Arts Market (RAM) is located at 729 Riverside Ave. and is a weekly arts-and-crafts market featuring live music, food, art, and fresh produce. It first opened to the public on April 4, 2009 and currently opens every Saturday 10AM-3PM ET rain or shine, year-round. The marketplace includes a 350-person amphitheater known as Northbank Riverwalk Artists’ Square and forms the terminus for the Northbank Riverwalk. It is located underneath the Fuller Warren Bridge alongside the St. Johns River.

In the ‘90s, it became clear that the Florida Department of Transportation was going to need to build a replacement for the existing Fuller Warren Bridge. The bridge had been built in the mid-‘50s and was becoming increasingly worn down due to heavy daily traffic. FDOT began drafting plans for a new bridge to replace the old one. As part of those plans, a portion of riverfront property next to Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens would have become a chained-off retention pond to accommodate the project.

Peace Memorial Park

Peace Memorial Park

Peace Memorial Park is .64 of an acre, located at 1515 Mallory Park, in the Riverside section of Jacksonville, across from the Willow Branch Library.

In 1916, the site was part of the City’s initial 13-acre purchase for the land to create Willow Branch Park. The Garden Club of Jacksonville conceived of the idea for planting the site with peace roses in 1950, as a symbol of “world peace” following World War II. After the City’s planting of 200 rose bushes, the Park was dedicated in April 1951 and widely acclaimed for its beauty and charm.

Sadly, there is no longer support for the former rose gardens, rather, there exists an open expanse of lawn, a few venerable trees, and a single bench. Two stone markers placed on the grounds in 1958 and 1960, by chapters of the American War Mothers, offer reminders of the inspiration that led to the Park’s creation.

riverside duck pond

Riverside Park

The city’s second oldest Jacksonville Park (Hemming Park is the oldest), the 11.4 acres Riverside Park is located at 753 Park St.

The history of this Park began in 1869, due to the clamor to build more parks as Riverside became more populated. The property contained two lakes that were spring-fed and home to numerous waterfowl. However, development of the Park did not begin until years later when the land was donated to the city. The original 14-acre Riverside Park was set aside by Forbes and Cheney, and was cleared and landscaped in 1894. The area included the construction of several artificial lakes, with the entire area fenced in to keep out roaming cattle.

Robert E Lee High School Pool

Robert E. Lee High School Pool

The pool is located at 1200 S. McDuff Avenue (Robert E. Lee high School).

In the early 1980s, the Lee High School constructed an outdoor pool between the gym and the original building. Before that time, the swim teams trained at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd Pool, located about a mile north. The Pool is used by the athletic teams and physical education classes during the school year. In the summer, it becomes a free public pool operated by the City of Jacksonville Parks & Recreation Department.

Duval County Schools and the City of Jacksonville have a joint use agreement for pool use. In addition to the pool, amenities include lighting and restrooms.

Stone Park

Stone Park

A neighborhood pocket Park (.26 acre), is located off of Roosevelt Blvd at 1200 block of Lechlade Street.

The land was once part of a dairy farm owned by the Stone family. By the mid 1940s, however, the area and surrounding land was developed into Riverside Terrace homes. Reportedly, the Stone family and the city arranged a land swap to create Stone park--in the center of the neighborhood.

In 2017, a group of neighbors formed a Florida non-profit, Friends of Stone Park and worked with the city to create a community garden. Today, there are 15 raised beds tended by 10 gardeners.

Willow Branch Park

Willow Branch Park

Acquired by the City in 1916 with the intention to provide recreation space further out in the neighborhood. This 15.61 acres Park is located along the course of Willowbranch Creek, at 2870 Sydney St.

Former City Councilman John J. Griffin led the drive to create the Park in 1916, and additional acreage was acquired southeast of Park Street between 1921 and 1925. Dr. Harold Hume donated 1700 azalea bushes around 1924 to beautify a portion of the grounds, while the Willowbranch Library opened at the Park in 1930; the creek was straightened and bulk-headed in 1934. Eventually four other small City parks/gardens were created from the Park property, one south and one north of St. Johns Avenue and two along Park Street (in 1950).

 

willowbranch rose garden park

Willow Branch Rose/ Community Garden

Willowbranch Rose Garden Park (.7 acre) is located at 2840 Park Street, in Riverside between Mallory St. and Azalea Terrace, across from Willowbranch Park.

In 1916, the site was part of the City’s initial purchase for the land to create Willowbranch Park. It remained part of the Park until 1955, when members of the Jacksonville Rose Society established the Variety Rose Garden on the site.

The Society and other volunteers (with the City’s help) maintained the roses for many years. However, eventually the garden deteriorated until in 1998 two teenage brothers, Adam and Joseph Bierce, took over restoration of the remaining garden. At the request of Riverside Avondale Preservation, the Park name was changed in 2002, and today it contains two rose beds with timber borders and a bench for relaxing.

Windsor Place Park

Windsor Place

This Avondale .23 acre green space is located at the cul-de-sac at the end of Windsor Place and is near Robert E. Lee High School. The Park is surrounded by large two-story homes. Parallel parking is available but limited and lighting is provided only by street lights. There are wooden benches and a swing for children.

No other information has been located about the history of the Park at this time, other than the grassy area was intended as a neighborhood green space for local residents.

Yacht Basin Park

Yacht Basin Park

Located at 2941 St Johns Avenue in Riverside/Avondale on the west bank of Willow Branch Creek as it enters the St. Johns River, this .65 acre Park has quite the history.

The City purchased the property in 1921. Jacksonville’s oldest social organization, the Florida Yacht Club (established in 1877) resided adjacent to the site from 1907 until 1928. Eventually the City’s Water Services Division (taken over by JEA in 1997) placed a pump station at the site, and JEA renovated the Park in 2001 with landscaping, lighting, and the construction of a gazebo and a brick-paved plaza and walkway.

In 2002, City Councilman Jim Overton allocated money from his bond account for the creation of a bronze statue in memory of former Mayor Ed Austin’s wife. Following the completion of the bronze sculpture, "Mom’s Statue" in 2003, it was decided that it would be placed outside of the Florida Times Union Performing Arts Center. A dedication plaque, which is titled “Mom’s Park,” was installed at the Park in 2004.

The Park’s gazebo interior was completed in 2012, reflecting a local flora and fauna mosaic design (artist, Kate Garcia Rouh.) In 2019, the City completed repairs (brick walkways, light repair, sprinkler repair).

Today, dedicated volunteers work to keep the Park in pristine condition while reporting needs of the Park to the City as needed.  With its immense live oak tree canopies, the Park regularly hosts weddings, photography shoots, yoga gatherings, and overall, a quiet respite for visitors.

about_02

Sources

The preceding park history was collected from the following resources:

RAP Parks, COJ.net, Fla Times Union Jacksonville.com, The Coastal, Wikipedia, Wayne Wood's Publications, Historic Life 2015-16, Four Square City Guide, WJCT, Resident News.net, Neighborhoods/Urban Parks, Jacksonville Library, History of Jacksonville Parks-Jacksonville and the Beaches.

If you have additional information, please contact Riverside Avondale Preservation.