JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- North of downtown there's an area filled with homes built in the 1800s. It’s a little pocket of Jacksonville spanning about a square mile. Its roads are paved in brick and curbs made of granite. The area survived the great fire of 1901 and centuries later the victorian style houses that line several blocks are still intact, sharing stories of its origin and the people who helped to create what we now know as the Springfield Historic District.
"This is the original mortgage,” said Christina Parrish Stone, Executive Director of the Springfield Preservation and Revitalization Council as she flips through old articles and pictures revealing the history of a home built in 1897. “I've never seen one of these before. This is a copy of the property tax receipt from 1899. Her taxes for the year were $10.35."
On the porch of an old Victorian adorned with gingerbread trim Janie Coffey experiences a history lesson few are able to learn; the origins of her new home through its original owners by way of personal documents more than 120 years old.
"They were provided to SPAR in 1978 by the grandson of one of the ladies who lived here," said Stone. "His aunt who was a widow, Kate Crook bought this house from the original developer of Springfield in 1894."
Crook was a Jacksonville teacher who lived to be in her 90s. She paid $450 for the lot. She and her twin sister called Springfield home for decades. The two sat on what’s now Coffey’s porch 116 years ago and witnessed flames that would change the landscape of Jacksonville.
"She and her sister who lived in the house and you can see that on the records they were actually able to sit here and watch Jacksonville burn from the big fire that we had from this porch which is crazy because you know the fire didn't come across the water," said Coffey.
“The neighborhood was protected from the great fire in 1901 because Hogan's Creek which separates us from downtown kept the fire from spreading,” said Stone.
Historic Springfield’s brick paved streets in some spots now appear to be buckling. Original details are covered by asphalt, yet centuries of change all around the area seem to have skipped the Springfield Kate Crook once knew.
“It's really amazing to think how many generations were raised here,” said Coffey. “How many generations and people spent their afternoons on porches rocking up here, maybe having mint juleps or whatever it was that they did."
The Cook family owned their W. 4th Street home from the time in was built in 1897 to the 1970s. Many value Historic Springfield because it gives visitors a window into Jacksonville’s past. Stone says next year's city budget includes funding to restore the remaining brick paved streets in the area to its original condition.