Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project



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Institution Name: Jacksonville University
Original/Historic Place Name: Branchester Tract (main campus), Park Tract (dorm area), Anderson Tract; Jacksonville Junior College (1934) in downtown Jacksonville location; land bought for present location in 1947
Location on Campus:
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1816purchase of original property Unknown
1948master plan McVoy, Arthur
Type of Place: Building group
Style(s) of majority of buildings: Postmodern, Contemporary, Modern/post-WWII
Style(s) of minority of buildings: Regionalist/Vernacular
Building group type: Modern; Other: the campus is situated along more than one mile of the St. Johns River with curving roads connecting the academic and administration buildings with dorm itories and athletic fields. The main body of campus is located on a bluff above the St. Johns River with intersecting pedestrian malls providing the university community with convenience in moving around campus while enabling them to enjoy garden areas with fountains and benches surrounded by natural and planned vegetation. T here are areas of campus that have not been developed and have much natural vegetation, making them suited for nature walks.
Relationship to landscape:
All buildings and landscape key are based on the Founders Building (1950). They have been designed in a late modern Brutalist mode, ncluding the new Davis College of Business. Promenades linking the buildings are landscaped and come together in several places with a circle and benches, and there is a fountain outside the Kinne Student Center that enhances the site . Several buildings are oriented on a bluff overlooking the St. Johns River.
Ideas associated with building group:
This campus offers a cohesive ly p ost WWII modern collective of buildings , with much of the design work completed by either Kemp, Bunch, and Jackson or J. Brooks Haas. These two firms have completed work on campus that has garnared awards.
1818-present (2007)master plan (campus)

Significance: architecture, culture, education, history, landscape
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

Ownership of the original property dates back to 1816. Through the early 1900s various sections of the property were purchased by individuals for riverfront homes and the property was covered with orange groves. By 1935 a freeze had killed off the orange groves, and the owners moved from the property. The homes fell into disrepair, and the land became a wilderness again. Because of the seclusion the area became populated with gypsies, pirates, and bootleggers. It is rumored that moonshine was ferried across the St. Johns and ended up at one of the most popular restaurants in Jacksonville.

Since 1950 the campus has been home to Jacksonville University (JU). There are 25 buildings supporting the academic programs and administration with a new building under construction that will be the home of the Schools of Nursing and Orthodontics. Nine halls located in five dormitory buildings and four apartment buildings provide housing for JU residential students. Four additional apartment buildings are under construction, with opening having been scheduled for Fall 2003. There are athletic fields and facilities supporting the football, basketball, golf, tennis, track and field, and crew programs.

The land that is now the campus of Jacksonville University passed through many hands from the time of the Spanish grants. Records show Francis Richard as the owner of the Branchester Tract in 1816, and they also show that the Park Tract, now the area for JU dormitories, had a number of owners as well. In 1873 one of the landowners sold a small portion of the property to the African Methodist Episcopal Church for use as a cemetery. More recent history reflects that until the purchase of the original 137 acres (Branchester Tract) in 1947, the riverfront portion of the property was an exclusive area populated by stately homes, the Chesterfield plantation, and covered with handsome orange groves.

Apart from Edward Waters College, founded in 1866 for black students, there were no educational opportunities for the local citizens of Jacksonville. What began as Porter University, a two-year college, in the fall of 1934 is now Jacksonville University. Since the purchase of the original 137 acre property in 1947 for the new home of the university, additional purchases have given the institution 235 contiguous acres. The campus is well-maintained, with educational and administration buildings that support the educational mission of JU and provide a setting conducive to the enjoyment of the learning experience. Constructed fountains with benches and gazebos and grassy areas with planted flora are positioned on campus to blend in with the natural setting of the area. Natural areas have been left intact for the enjoyment of those of the university and the community at large. From various areas of the campus a viewer can watch the St. Johns River flow past on its way to the Atlantic Ocean.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Bald, Ralph D. 4 Decades of Growth. Jacksonville, FL: Jacksonville University Office of Public Relations, 1975.

Bald, Ralph D., Jr. A History of Jacksonville University, The First Twenty-Five Years, 1934-1959. Jacksonville, FL: Jacksonville University, 1959.

Hallam, George. Our Place in the Sun, A History of Jacksonville University. Jacksonville, FL: Jacksonville University, 1988.

"History of Jacksonville University. Descriptions of the University--Photographs." [n.d.] Carl S. Swisher Library, Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, FL.

Middleton, Bill. "McGully's Gulch: Where It Began." Florida-Times Union, October 23, 1951.

II. Location of other data:
University: Library

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