There is a rich history in this neighborhood and understanding that history goes a long way to learning your way around the community. Riverside was developed prior to Avondale, which lies to the south. Both neighborhoods took off tremendously after the Great Fire Of 1901 in which most of down town was burned down, leaving thousands of people homeless. Many of the city’s wealthier residents rebuilt in Riverside, and eventually Avondale as well. The neighborhoods are rich in architectural styles including: Greek and Gothic Revival, Victorian, Romanesque Revival, Mediterranean, Tudor, Georgian, early modern, and Colonial.
However, the same rush to the suburbs that plagued most US cities post-war also occurred here and the neighborhoods began a decline. Many homes were torn down to make way for commercial interests and others were divided up into make shift apartments.
Several residents decided to do something about it and formed the Riverside Avondale Preservation Group in 1974. From there and into the 90’s RAP fought the city’s rezoning efforts to convert much of the neighborhood to commercial, allowing the historic homes to be razed, and plans for a 2 lane neighborhood road to be widened and even a highway to cut right through the middle. In 1990 RAP sponsored the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Ordinance which has helped tremendously with the conservation of the architecture, buildings, and rich history.
The area also boasts 26 parks throughout.
There are also several commercial districts scattered through the neighborhoods. Riverside provides the Five Points area with plenty of artsy shops, cafes, restaurants, and more. Avondale, on the other hand, provides a more sophisticated area with upscale shops, specialty boutiques and fine art galleries. There is also the popular Park & King District and several other smaller commercial spots woven in.
Riverside Avenue has more Prairie-style buildings than any other street outside of the Midwest.
Riverside Avondale has the largest collection of bungalows of any neighborhood in Florida.
Avondale joined the National Register Of Historic Places in 1989, four years after Avondale
Bordered on the east by the St. Johns River, to the north and west by the Ortega River and south of Avondale, this community is a peninsula on the river. Convenient private schools, area churches and small parks along the river contribute to Ortega’s charm. The 1920’s Ortega River Bridge is one of the oldest functioning drawbridges.
Development of Ortega began around 1902-1906, after The Great Fire Of 1901, and was centered around the City Beautiful Movement, popular at the time. The City Beautiful Movement was a progressive architectural and urban planning movement centered around the intent of introducing beautification and monumental grandeur in cities across the country.
In 1908, a wooden bridge was built that connected Ortega to Riverside, Avondale, downtown areas of the river. Originally, Ortega was designed as a streetcar suburb with radiating streets that ran to the peninsula’s waterfront. There are many bungalow-style homes of this era still standing. Many more homes were built during the Florida Land Boom of the 1920’s and the favored architectural styles are Tudor Revival and Mediterranean.
In 1927, a concrete drawbridge replaced the wooden bridge and a trolley line connected the peninsula to the Avondale community.
Ortega has a distinctly traditional southern culture and is home to many of Jacksonville’s wealthiest communities, with home lining the waterfront along the peninsula. In 2004, a section of Ortega was designated the Old Ortega Historic District by The National Register Of Historic Places.
If you are into boating, then you should check out the The Florida Yacht Club, located at the southern point of the peninsula.