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Jacksonville is home to a collection of "Klutho" buildings. These buildings were built by a New York architect by the name of Henry Klutho who helped rebuild downtown Jacksonville after it was obliterated by a fire on May 2nd, 1901. He rebuilt downtown Jacksonville using the “Praire Style,” a style popularlized by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
The fire was certainly a large one: within a single day the entire business district was destroyed and ten thousand residents were left unemployed.
Time has not been kind to the Klutho buildings, as many have bulldozed over in recent years. Even after so many of the Klutho buildings have been destroyed, Jacksonville still brags that it has one of the largest collections of Prairie Style buildings outside the Midwest. To Praire Style building fanatics, this may be of considerable interest!
For those of you who want to check the surviving buildings out, the ones that do survive are the St. James Building from 1911, a former department store that is now Jacksonville's City Hall, and the Morocco Temple from 1910.
Also of note architecturally is the city's historic Riverside Avondale district. Rarely does a city get the opportunity to start from scratch, but Jacksonville was an empty canvas after the great fire. As wealthy and well-established families left the burned-out areas of downtown and built large, elegant homes in this area, Riverside Avenue, known locally as the “Row,” gained a national reputation as one of the most beautiful streets in America.
Hundreds of architects traveled here to aid in the rebuilding effort, and the area became a proving ground for the diverse residential styles they promoted. With Mediterranean and Georgian Revival, Tudor, Shingle, and Prairie Styles, as well as variants of the homey bungalow, the richness and variety of homes built during Riverside’s heyday of 1895 to 1929 was remarkable.
With the success of Riverside as a suburb, several wealthy investors assembled a large undeveloped tract of land immediately to the south in the summer of 1920. They set about building a new exclusive subdivision that would overshadow all of the other developments around it. They called it “Avondale” and advertised it as “Riverside’s Residential Ideal,” where only the “correct” and “well to do” people would live. Gently curving roadways and sixteen small parks were laid out by a well-known landscape architect from Ohio. Adopting the architectural style that would saturate Florida during the booming years of the 1920s, a large proportion of the early Avondale residences were built in the Mediterranean Revival style. Would-be Italian and Spanish villas sprang up beneath the moss-draped oak trees.
The legacy of that tremendous burst of creativity is that, today, Riverside Avondale Historic District is a textbook of Florida’s architecture from the 1890s to the early 1930s. No other neighborhood in the state has such a diverse and extensive collection of architectural styles. Visitors to the district may want to contact the local preservation society, Riverside Avondale Preservation, for information about walking tours and area maps.