SPRINGFIELD @ CHRISTMAS
The Jacksonville Springfield neighborhood was established in 1969 and experienced its greatest growth from the 1880s to the 1920s. After the huge Jacksonville Fire in 1901, many wealthy people moved into the area because there was vacant land on which to build anew. The fire was so destructive that it consumed 146 blocks of the city's structures, 3268 buildings and killed seven people--mostly by drowning as frightened people ran to the St. Johns River and jumped in to escape the flames and smoke. That smoke was said to be visible as far north as North Carolina.
Following the fire, many young and ambitious architects from the Chicago area came to Jacksonville to practice their art in the shell of the former city. Therefore, many older styles of houses remain - Victorian and Queen Anne as well as Colonial Revival and Stick styles architecture. The young Henry Klutho (a student of Frank Lloyd Wright) was among the Chicagoans who brought more modern senses the city, such as the Prairie style, Bungalow houses, and Mediterranean styles. Examples of all these many different architectural traditions still exist in the neighborhood and make the area very interesting to walk around.
After the 20s, Springfield became a declining neighborhood. It remained mostly rundown until the 1990s when prominent people began to see the value of a restoration program for such an historical treasure trove. Because real estate values had plunged, young families and singles who had energy and skills to make their own renovations eagerly took advantage of low-cost loans offered by local banks and bought many of the beautifully designed old houses at modest prices.
Through the intervening years more and more of the old buildings have been rehabbed by their owners or by commercial contractors and the neighborhood has risen economically and become a desirable place to live. This year is 29th anniversary of the Springfield Tour of Homes and we decided to check out the community for ourselves.
Eight buildings were on display and all were decorated brightly for Christmastime. All but one were residences; the exception was a restaurant which had gone through many iterations and now was being changed once again.
The huge old oak trees that shade the streets, some even with brick surfaces rather than macadam, created a magical Southern ambiance. The map allowed for a walking or driving tour of the vicinity. We elected to walk and that was an exhilarating choice. The colored lights adorning the houses twinkled along our way. A big yellow moon shone down adding more color. Each house we entered was welcoming with owners eager to explain the history of their houses and what they had done to modernize it.
All the dwellings we visited were interesting and welcoming, reflecting each present owner's personal style with a nod to the historicity of the community.
Suggestion: If your hometown has a historic district or a formerly rundown area that is being rehabbed, seek it out and explore its history and the efforts being made to maintain it or resurrect it. If tours are offered to help raise money for the community, by all means choose that occasion to explore your own city's neighborhoods different from your own. We thoroughly enjoyed walking this lovely old neighborhood in Jacksonville.