Riverside-Avondale Historic District Boasts Most Diverse Collection of Historic Homes in State | Home & Garden

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Riverside-Avondale Historic District Boasts Most Diverse Collection of Historic Homes in State
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The American Planning Association (APA) today announced the designation of Riverside Avondale as one of 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2010 under the organization's Great Places in America program. APA Great Places exemplify exceptional character and highlight the role planners and planning play in creating communities of lasting value. Also designated in Florida as one of APA's Great Places for 2010 is Plaza Real in Boca Raton.

APA singled out the neighborhood for its approximately 5,000 historic and architecturally diverse residential, commercial, and institutional properties, abundant parks and open space, emphasis on planning, and neighborhood advocacy efforts.

"I am so pleased that the APA agrees with what the people of Jacksonville have long known - that Riverside-Avondale is one of our city's most outstanding communities," said Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton. "This neighborhood celebrates its historical roots, commits to local schools and businesses and forges strong partnerships with preservation advocates like Riverside Avondale Preservation and the city's planning department. The Riverside-Avondale community is a source of great pride for many in Jacksonville, and is a model for preserving our city's other historic neighborhoods."

Through Great Places in America, APA recognizes unique and authentic characteristics found in three essential components of all communities - streets, neighborhoods, and public spaces. APA Great Places offer better choices for where and how people work and live, and are defined by many things including planning, architectural styles, accessibility and community involvement.

Since APA began Great Places in America in 2007, 40 neighborhoods, 40 streets and 30 public spaces have been designated in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

"We're very excited to name Riverside-Avondale as one of this year's Great Neighborhoods," said APA Chief Executive Officer Paul Farmer, FAICP. "The neighborhood is Jacksonville's hidden gem. Collaboration by the city and residents has been a crucial part of efforts to protect the neighborhood's unique character, which boasts one of the country's best collections of Prairie School-styled homes and a striking view of downtown," he added.

Located on the bank of the St. Johns River, Riverside and Avondale are contiguous with each individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Jointly, they have been designated as a City of Jacksonville Historic District.  Originally part of Colonial Spanish land grants and later home to several plantations, Riverside began to develop shortly after the Civil War. Once Jacksonville annexed the neighborhood in 1887, and trolley lines extended to the area, development hastened.

A disastrous downtown fire in 1901 led many families to flock to Riverside, causing the neighborhood to become a virtual laboratory for aspiring architects who introduced a variety of contemporary styles. During the next 11 years, 13,000 new residential and commercial buildings were erected.  Many of the new residences reflected the unique Prairie Style of architecture not common outside of the Midwest where it was developed particularly through the influence of noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright.  

Avondale - with its curved roadways and grassy rights of way - took its cue from the 19th Century English Garden City movement and the City Beautiful movement. This portion of the neighborhood features a variety of architectural styles, particular the Spanish Eclectic, Italian Renaissance, Tudor Revival, and the modernistic Craftsman, beneath moss-draped oak trees, with many facing small pocket parks.

City protection efforts have included adoption of a historic preservation element to the comprehensive plan in 1990, formation of the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission, and approval of design guidelines. In 1997, Riverside-Avondale was designated as a City of Jacksonville Historic District which ensures that work is done consistent with these design guidelines. The design review process is complemented by a zoning overlay for the neighborhood established in 2008 to further protect its character and economic vitality.

Working with the city to protect the neighborhood's character has been Riverside Avondale Preservation. Established in 1974, it helped secure federal historic status for the neighborhood and encourages preservation efforts.

The nine other APA 2010 Great Neighborhoods are: Downtown Frederick in Frederick, MD; Historic Ninth Street Hill in Lafayette, IN; Lower Downtown in Denver, CO; The Paseo in Oklahoma City, OK; Cathedral Historic District in Sioux Falls, SD; Frank Lloyd Wright Historic Neighborhood in Oak Park, IL; Historic John S. Park Neighborhood in Las Vegas, NV; Hyde Park in Cincinnati, OH; and the Back Bay in Boston, MA.

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