June’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.