The area known as Springfield is one of Jacksonville’s oldest planned residential communities. Among its major features are brick streets, patterned sidewalks, narrow lots, large and architecturally-significant residential, commercial, and public structures and large oak tree-lined streets which reflect Jacksonville's early history.
The name Springfield was given to the section of land north of Hogans Creek about 1869 by a local citizen, C.L. Robinson. The name was derived from a spring of good water that was located in a field through which West 4th Street now passes. Although Jacksonville received its first charter in 1832, Springfield remained an unincorporated division until May 1887.
In May of 1882, the Springfield Company was formed by several of the leading citizens of Jacksonville, including Johnathan Greeley, S. B. Hubbard and William McDuff.
Historically, Springfield has played an important role in the development of Jacksonville. In August of 1878, the city chose a tract of land in Springfield as the site of the first public works plant completed in 1880.
By 1880, Jacksonville had acquired a reputation throughout the country as an excellent winter resort, due in large part to its climate, coast location and public accommodations. With the development of railroads and steamships, the city was flooded with tourists from all over the country. During the 1880s, in the hope of offering a novel attraction to travelers, the Jacksonville Board of Trade conceived the idea of the Florida Sub-Tropical. Its purpose was to present a complete display of all the products and resources of Florida. According to an 1887 Board of Trade publication, “such an exposition has never before been attempted in the United States and when completed according to plans originally proposed will be unequaled anywhere in the world.” The Sub-Tropical Exposition was designed by local architect A. G. McClore. It opened in 1888, was successful, and ran for four years, closing in 1891.
The year 1891 found Springfield a center for military action as Jacksonville became involved in the Spanish-American War effort. An 8 block section was selected for Camp Cuba Libre. It was also the summer headquarters for General Fitzhugh Lee and his Virginia Regiment.
Springfield was spared the disaster of the 1901 fire which destroyed most of downtown Jackson. On the day of the fire, Springfield residents manned a bucket brigade along Hogans Creek. After the fire, Springfield found itself in the middle of a heightened period of growth and development, as residents homeless as a result of the fire moved primarily to Springfield and Riverside.
Throughout the late 19th and early 20th century, Springfield remained a predominately residential area. Buildings in the community demonstrate many of the transitional phases of American Residential Architecture during this period. The houses typify the Queen Anne shingle style and variations of these themes. The Classic and Colonial revival influences of the early 20th century are found in many Springfield homes. This trend was in part a reaction against the decoration complexity of the late Victorian taste. The Bungaloid and Prairie School designs throughout the neighborhood were popular in the early half of the decade. The finest examples of Prairie School architecture in Springfield are Dionne's Springfield apartments and H. J. Klutho's residence, both designed by Klutho. The Springfield community thus illustrates the variety of residential designs popular in Jacksonville from the latter decades of the nineteenth century through the early decades of the twentieth.
Springfield's cultural and historic resources have recently been recognized as worthy of preservation due to the efforts of two major programs. The first program was a survey that began in October 1984 thanks to funding provided by the Jacksonville Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Florida Department of State. A survey is a detailed examination of the properties in a geographic area to determine their history, character and number. The consulting firm of Historic Property Associates of St. Augustine and SPAR volunteers surveyed over 1800 structures within the boundaries of Springfield. The survey report concludes that "Springfield numbers among Florida's architecturally significant residential neighborhoods." It contains one of the greatest concentrations of early twentieth century architecture in the state. With the survey completed, SPAR's next step is to seek registration of the area as an historic district on the National Register of Historic Places, thus receiving national recognition of Springfield's Historic Significance.
The second program was funded by the Jacksonville Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Jacksonville Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The program is a public service of the national American Institute of Architects completed by a Regional/ Urban Design Assistance Team. Springfield's nine member team was selected nationwide from experts in the fields of architecture, urban design, sociology, economics, and preservation. Their 96 hour “hands on" study of Springfield consisted of interviews, neighborhood walkthroughs and analysis of the copious documentation available on the area. The R/UDAT team then developed an 87 page document outlining the neighborhood's strengths and weaknesses, and presenting strategies toward solving its problems. These strategies represent a course of action whereby Springfield's historic community may successfully be preserved and improved.
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