HISTORY AS PERTAINS TO TOPOGRAPHY
One geographical characteristic of the Cathedral District is that “Billy Goat Hill” now referred to as the location of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, is the highest point in Downtown Jacksonville.
In the east-west direction the topography slopes from Market St. to Main Street at the west end and Hogan’s Creek on the east end. Main Street used to be called Pine Street and was originally a ditch running north and south. North/south, the topography slopes down to the St. Johns River with a big drop-off between Duval Street to Monroe Street.
Liberty Street at the St. Johns River was the “cow ford” where cattle were barged over the river to southside. The river depth along that line was excessive, so cows were barged over to the other side. They did not swim over as some believe.
Historically, all settlements were originally generated by the intersection of two modes of transportation. In the case of Jacksonville, the settlement was the result of the intersection of Kings Road (from Savannah to St. Augustine). The intersection of Kings Road and the St. Johns River (the main mode of transportation) where the city started.
HISTORIC STRUCTURE OVERVIEW
Jacksonville’s northeast downtown quadrant is where the most iconic architectural structures of the city are located…the Cathedral District. It is the home of Landmarked and contributing structures of record:
• St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, built in 1906 (2-previous structures burned), 69.5’Tower
• Immaculate Conception Basilica, built in 1910, 178.5’ steeple
• First Methodist United Church, built in 1960, 130’ steeple
• First Presbyterian Church, built in 1902, 130’ steeple
• Historic Mt. Zion AME Church, built 1870, 90’ steeple
• Morocco Temple, built in 1911, 68’ tall
• Yates Building, built in 190265’ tall
• Bedell Law Firm, formerly the Carnegie Library, built in 1905
• YWCA Building, built in 1949
• Elena Flats Apartments, built in 1909
• On the edge of the District is the Jessie Ball duPont building (formerly
Hayden Burnes Library), Florida Theater, and the former Fire station.
After the historic great fire of 1901, most of these buildings were rebuilt or rehabilitated. Today all but one are in active use and contribute to Jacksonville’s majestic architectural history. One will be under adaptive reuse
construction as apartments in 2021.
Although not designated nationally as a Historic District, the Cathedral District is the quintessential example of the Cathedral’s residential and institutional history of neighborhoods. The redevelopment of the District needs to be a reminder of where we came from and where we are going.
Starting in 2020, new residential construction has been under way. Establishing recommended and desired design standards for new construction must keep in mind the practicality of construction costs today. Currently the zoning for the Cathedral District is Commercial Central Business District (CCBD) with a height limitation of 65 feet for single family, multifamily and commercial development.
Design Standards for Cathedral District are based on:
• The 2016 study by the Urban Land Institute (ULI)
• The 2017 Master Development Plan by Torti-Gallas + Partners
• City zoning ordinances for downtown
• Downtown Investment Authority Ordinance
Cathedral District Design Standards are meant to Encourage and Respect the historic neighborhood
1. Historic buildings and structures should have “breathing room” around them to preserve their scale and
2. New development should have an urban vs suburban scale and design.
3. Focus should be on a neighborhood-feel for both residential and commercial.
4. Commercial and residential should look different in orientation to street, vary in building form in height, juxtaposed in/out frontage.
5. Facade should be “articulated” i. e. facade should be undulated, not flat frontage; should present as an urban neighborhood.
6. Newer building materials are desired for practical cost implementation but should respect and mimic the
7. Height waivers are acceptable if 150 ft away from churches and historic building.
8. New development outside 150 ft radius should be encouraged to terrace or step-down height as it approaches historic churches.
9. Use the unusual District topography, of a 10 ft drop from its center, for development advantage, such as underground parking, recreation or retail.
10. Recognize the “grey tone” and brick of the historic buildings to blend facade finishes, landscape, fencing, and in general blend with the color pallet for new construction.
11. Minimize parking garage view from street frontage; hide facade of building.