It's not that I've been avoiding Springfield -- at least not intentionally. Taking a tour of the historic neighborhood and snapping some photos has been on my to-do list for a while. A few days ago, I finally had the opportunity to do so, thanks in large part to my friend Kamron, a Springfield resident and local history buff.
Springfield was established in 1867. Following the Great Fire of 1901, which wiped out much of downtown Jacksonville, Springfield became a haven for Jacksonville residents. During this time, it experienced tremendous growth as a number of wealthy Jacksonville residents moved to the area. Many of Springfield's homes and buildings were built during this period, including several by Henry John Klutho, Jacksonville's most well-known architect. Klutho also designed his own home in Springfield, where he lived for several years.
Springfield's growth stopped in the years leading up to the Great Depression. The neighborhood eventually began to decline drastically. In the mid-1970s, residents formed Springfield Preservation and Restoration (SPAR), and began to develop a revitalization strategy.
In the past decade, Springfield has made major progress toward its goal. In 2010, Southern Living magazine named it the South's "Best Comeback Neighborhood" for its gains, particularly in crime reduction. It also praised the neighborhood's Prairie-style homes, for which it's well known. Confederate Park, which runs along Hogan's Creek in Springfield, is one of the city's most beautiful parks, complete with the beautiful Rose Arbor.
Springfield, however, still has a way to go. On one street, you may find a row of beautifully restored historic homes; on the next, it's common to find a string of condemned and abandoned properties, trapped in the system, waiting to be rescued or eventually demolished.
We found such a street before leaving the area. Each of the homes on it were condemned by the city. Most of them were vandalized and contained large amounts of trash, which could possibly be due to squatters, or perhaps due to neglectful previous tenants.
Prior to leaving the area, we stopped at Three Layers Cafe -- one of Jacksonville's finest coffee shops. Three Layers serves up more than just espresso; the cafe also offers light meals and snacks. I had an Americano and a pear, walnut and spinach salad with raspberry vinaigrette.
Three Layers also features a small zen garden in the back, complete with a resident bunny named Bugsy. Of course, we had to visit him. He was quite photogenic.
All in all, Springfield is one of Jacksonville's most fascinating neighborhoods.
Images © Edward R. Jenkins