Scenes from Springfield neighborhood in Jacksonville, Fl

by Jessie K on January 2, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJune’s grandparents live in Jacksonville, which is really more the Deep South than Florida in terms of sensibilities and customs. My dad and step mom Theresa (pictured above — it’s not easy to get a decent photo of grandparents and squirming toddler!) live in a really interesting neighborhood called Springfield.

Once upon a time, Springfield was considered the grandest of neighborhoods, full of beautiful Victorian homes within walking distance of downtown. A terrible fire swept through Jacksonville in 1901, destroying nearly every neighborhood except Springfield. Its one of the only neighborhoods in the city where these grand old homes still stand.

Springfield fell on hard times during the 70s and 80s; longtime residents fled for the suburbs. Crack was sold on street corners. City planners launched an effort to revitalize the neighborhood and restore these grand old homes to their former prominence by offering lots at extremely affordable prices ($10,000 for a Victorian home!) with the caveat that the historic homes could not be torn down but renovated and restored. Savvy home buyers and investors headed to Springfield. It looked like the neighborhood was on the upswing.

New owners dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars in new renovations. Property values ticked upward at a brisk pace. Buyers assumed they’d see a nice return on their investment, outfitting their new homes with vintage stained glass and other period details.

But then the market tanked in 2008.  Property values bottomed out. More than a few investors lost their shirts. A small, second wave of bargain hunters were able to snap up these fully restored homes for a song.

Today, Springfield is a study in contrasts, a mix of highs and lows, where boarded up derelict homes stand next to gorgeous showpiece properties, where the homeless (or seemingly homeless) push grocery carts piled with possessions past soccer moms in Volvo SUVs and where a new coffee shop sells cappuccinos for $5 while a diner two doors down still serves a cup of ham and eggs for $2.  Despite the economic disparity, crime remains low. I love walking around and checking out the wide variety of homes.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Paula January 2, 2013 at 3:12 pm

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Hope the restoration will start up again. Wonderful old neighborhoods should be saved whenever possible!

Brad K. January 3, 2013 at 12:11 am

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I saw the naval base view of Mayport, FL, from the deck of the USS Saratoga, back in ’77-78. The waterfront wasn’t a “grand restoration” kind of neighborhood back then.

I only got to Jacksonville a few times. There is a nice, small state park just a ways south of Jacksonville that had a surprising number of micro-climes, and it made an educational day trip.

Molly O January 3, 2013 at 1:00 am

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We were just in St. Pete for the holidays visiting the Gramma. She lives in a 1940’s neighborhood, but we took a stroll around the old part of town. I love looking at the old houses. It’s amazing that so much of the residential architecture from the 20’s was the same all the way from Florida to Seattle!

Amanda Searle January 4, 2013 at 7:08 am

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I am a Realtor who has been living in Springfield and selling real estate here for close to 9 years now. Thank you for highlighting our community – it is truly unique. Actually prices bottomed out in 2011 and 2012 has seen an 18% increase in values. Many homes that hit the market are getting multiple offers again and lots of people are moving back in.

We also have a local non-profit, Preservation SOS, that works to save many of the derelict properties and works with some of the lower income people of our community to help in the upkeep of their homes so that the neighborhood remains diverse and does not become fully gentrified. They have huge events called Make it Happen where tons of people living in the neighborhood get together and work on a house where the homeowner cannot afford to do the work that the house needs to keep it code compliant.

We also have another non-profit, Sustainable Springfield, that runs a community garden, community orchard, and kids garden. Sustainable Springfield works on projects to make Springfield a truly sustainable mile by mile square so that people of all incomes can benefit by having local resources. http://www.SustainableSpringfield.net

I could go on and on. It is a one of a kind community, the word “neighborhood” just doesn’t do it justice

Melanie J. January 6, 2013 at 3:04 pm

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Last comment opened my mind a pinch. Just moved to NC after 14 + years in Jax, and when you said Springfield, my first thought was “geez, hope they get outta there without having to bust a cap in someone’s arse!” That area’s history takes an unfortunate backseat to the crime in that city. But certain gems, like the Three Layers bunny and the beautiful old homes, warrant positive notes. Glad you enjoyed your stay!

steph January 9, 2013 at 10:11 am

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A friend of mine moved there recently and LOVES it. Thanks for sharing!

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