Archive for March, 2008

Florida Theater Building

I met with Joel McEachin on Thursday for our interview in the historic commission office. The majority of the Planning and Development department’s administrative offices, including the historic section, are located in the Florida Theatre Building. Joel informed me that the planning and development department will eventually move into the Ed Ball Building next to Hemming Plaza. That will allow them to have all of their offices on one floor. Which, after taking a tour of the office, I can completely understand the merit in moving. We had to travel around a few different offices on two floors to see all of the historic section’s files and document archives.

One of the filing rooms is in an old projector room.  When the theater was in its heyday, the staff would use a small screening room (about half the size of San Marco Theatre) to view prospective entertainment.   The projector room had to be fireproof so it was surrounded in concrete walls.  And because the the person running the projector could not leave his/her post during a screening, there was a built-in, single restroom.  It looked like the restroom hadn’t been used in forty or fifty years.

Joel informed me about the projects that he hopes that I and the other volunteer, Brian, will be able to work on.  The Parks and Recreation department requested ther Historic section to research the history of all Jacksonville parks.  Fortunately, a man had already done extensive research on many of the parks.  Joel would like for us to continue the work.  He also mentioned a project on local cemetaries as well.  Other office duties (mundane but necessary) will be filing publications, helping set up for the commission meetings and data entry. 

I am very excited to get started.  I’m a little nervous to meet the rest of the historic section’s employees.  Although given Joel’s laidback, accepting nature I just don’t see how anyone in that office could be super uptight.


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Wing Hotel ca. 1930’sMy first visit to the historic commission office was in the fall of 2006 when I researching the town of Bayard, FL for a class project. My professor of Public History, Dr. Carolyn Williams, referred me to Mr. McEachin for assistance. At the time, I was only slightly aware of the historic commission’s function for the city.  I gleaned a lot of knowledge in that first visit.

I knew that they wielded some degree of local authority over the city’s designated historic areas and landmarks. Areas like Riverside/Avondale, Springfield and downtown  were certain historic districts.  But, I was surprised to find out that San Marco and Murray Hill have not been given such designations.

Some of the functions that I learned about in that first visit was documentation and historic appropriateness. They keep a library of archival files on thousands of historic structures and landmarks in town. The information they had on Bayard became my primary source of reference for my project. (Side note: Before having to go to a city office, I would recommend researching structures at local libraries (of course), historical societies and preservation associations first.)

It was also interesting to overhear a conversation one of the planners had with a contractor. Apparently the contractor was trying to replace some windows on a house in Riverside with a modern style sash. The planner was trying to work with him on alternate window options that would meet the historic board’s approval. If you have ever had to submit architectural plans to the city for permitting, you might have had a similar encounter with a plans examiner. Not only are they there to approve or disapprove plans but they are also available for consultation. The planner in the historic commission seemed to work in a similar sort of fashion. It makes sense that the administrative arm of the historic commission is housed in the same overall department as building inspections and permitting offices.

I will be meeting with Joel McEachin, big boss man in the historic commission office, on Thursday to discuss my internship/volunteer job. Hopefully, everything will go well and I won’t make a big fool of myself like I did in my interview with his boss. (For some odd reason I kept saying that I “loved” everything. My neighborhood, my house, my professors. I think I was a bit nervous and couldn’t get my brain to come up with any other verbs.)

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This is a new blog about discovering the ins and outs of architectural historic preservation and research. I will be volunteering at the city of Jacksonville (Florida) Historic Preservation Commission and hope to gain practical experience within the field.

I just want to start with a little blog disclaimer. I believe that when I refer to the Historic Preservation Commission in these entries it is a bit of a misnomer. According to the city of Jacksonville website:

The Planning and Development Department has been delegated to coordinate municipal historic preservation activities as well as provide assistance and information regarding historic preservation. The Historic Preservation Section of the department also acts as the administrative staff of the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission.

The commission is really just the board that regulates the preservation issues in a monthly meeting. The office that handles the day-to-day research, documentation and planning is the “Historic Preservation Section of the Planning and Development Department.” This is the office that I am actually volunteering for. We’ve got to make sure that we keep abreast of the subtle intricacies of governmental offices. However, for the purpose of this blog I will simply call the office “historic commission” or “the commission.”

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