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Archive for the ‘Avondale’ Category

Hours: 8:15-6:00pm – 8.75 hrs

Today was our introduction in the Parks and Recreation department’s archival files. Last week I was informed that we, the other volunteer and I, are going to start recording the histories of the Jacksonville city parks into a state database. The database and history research for parks over 50 years old is on course for the historic preservation department. The parks and recreation department wishes to also complete the history research on the parks that a park historian painstakingly already began. Unfortunately, his position was eliminated when the city’s departments were reorganized after budget cuts.

Much their paper files for the parks and recreation department are in the Jacksonville Armory building. The building was once used as a the headquarters for the National Guard of Florida. It was also used as a place to hold concerts and special city events. The parks and recreation department took over the building in 1973. Now their files are stored on the upper, open balcony of the auditorium where Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin once played and where Eleanore Roosevelt once spoke.

Jacksonville Armory Building

It seems as though the city reorganization has created arrested development in many of the city’s departments. Both the parks employee and the volunteer services representative remarked about how they couldn’t properly go ahead with some of their duties (be it writing new forms or organizing archives) because final organizational changes have yet to occur. If the departments put a lot of effort into a task that would only need to be changed in a few months, that would be wasting their own time and the city’s resources. Even one of the planners in the historic preservation section is in a bit of a tumultuous state because she is unaware of when or where the city will reassign her position. Take the once park historian who was reassigned to the library. The city cannot necessarily fire him but must move him to another open post where he could put his archival knowledge to use. Did he ask for that library position? I’m sure not. From what I hear he was very devoted to his research and enjoyed his work. But I’m sure that reassigning him would have certainly been better than laying him off. That is where a civil servant position differs from a corporate job. Is one type of job better than the other? I don’t know. Depends on ones own priorities and opinions on corporate versus public employment. But I divert. Let’s get back to the day’s duties.

Not only did we see where the files were located but we also discussed what the differing needs of the historic preservation office and the parks and recreation department. Joel would like to have a fairly detailed history developed while the parks and recreation department only needs a snippet or abstract for their records. We also got an introduction into the work that the former parks historian had already completed, which was substantial. Data entry into the databases will be the only need for those parks.

Joel also introduced Bryan and I to the real estate division office. That is where we will be able to access unpublished mortgages and other such information.

Bryan and I tried again to locate the cemetery plot eluded us last week. We tried looking for a deed under the funeral home’s name, we tried the cemetery itself again, we looked even further back in time with any name possible with no further success. We concluded that the cemetery company was just not very diligent with their records. We assumed that they failed to file the deed with the city. [Update: There might not have been any sold lots. See “week 2 update” post] I feel bad for the family. It must be upsetting to not know exactly where your loved one is buried.

After lunch Bryan and I did not have a lot of work to do. Joel was gone at a meeting and we have yet to get a sign-in for our computer station. Fortunately, I was able to get to know the planners in the office a little better. I was trying to find out how they gained their positions at the city. One of the more senior planners took the masters program in Historic Preservation at SCAD. (I am completely jealous of her. I would love to go to that school but I am poor and it ain’t cheap.) She obviously is passionate about historic preservation and I hope that I can learn more from her. One of the other planners has a BA in poly sci. I think that she is young and plans to develop her career further beyond preservation. But you know, it takes people of varying interests to offer any organization with a level of objectivity.

After Joel came back from his meeting, the office had their own little meeting to discuss the property action issues. This particular meeting was focused around the properties in Riverside that had been scrutinized by RAP. Our meeting was to discuss whether to add the suggestions made by RAP or not. Most them were used while others were deemed a little exorbitant.

In all, I feel as though I learned a lot about how the city operates. Which is important of course. Hopefully, I will be able to get into the nitty-gritty of research and productive work next week.

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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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