Hidden Gems in Downtown Jacksonville

Author: Laken Chaney, Downtown Vision Marketing and Events Assistant

Featured Photo: Artwork at Lee and Cates Glass

J. Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954), Operetta Composer/Singer by Krishna Achath. Learn more below.

Downtown Jacksonville is filled to the brim with history and there are tons of hidden gems around every corner. If you’re looking for some fun and secret spots for your next adventure in #DTJax, you’ve come to the right place.

Historic Jacob Jewelers Clock

Located on the corner of Laura Street and Adams Street, the Jacob Jewelers Clock has quite the history. At 15 ft. and weighing over a ton, the clock is still ticking after over a century. The clock was purchased by Greenleaf & Crosby Co. after the Great Fire of 1901 to symbolize the rebirth of Jacksonville. To learn more about the Historic Jacob Jewelers Clock, click here.

Lee and Cates Glass

Located on Forsyth Street, this building was built in 1908 and has been owned by Lee and Cates since 1926. The story behind this hidden gem is super interesting because it was the site of one of the nine Union gun batteries that were built along a long wall to protect Jacksonville against a Confederate attack that never came. Interestingly enough, archaeologists have found Union soldiers’ buttons, medicine bottles, ceramic pieces and a bullet casing underneath the Lee and Cates parking lot. Aside from its historical aspects, this building is a super cool site because it has art displayed in its windows that celebrates over 120 years of artists that have impacted the LaVilla area.  To learn more about the art featured in the windows of this building, click here to check out one of our previous blog posts! 

Chamblin’s Uptown

Located on 215 N. Laura Street, this location of Chamblin’s, first opened in 2008. When Ron Chamblin first bought this 1904 building, the aim was to help bring life to Downtown Jacksonville. Since the Chamblin’s Uptown location opened, Downtown Jacksonville has become a community full of events and support for local artists. Chamblin’s Uptown is a fun place to grab coffee, breakfast or lunch and offers plenty of vegetarian and vegan options and is the perfect place to browse some shelves for your next great read! To learn more about Chamblin’s, check out their website! 

The Volstead

Located at 115 West Adams Street, take a step back into the past and grab drinks at Volstead. Named after The Volstead Act, which enacted Prohibition, this speakeasy-type bar is a special spot in Downtown. Stop in for Swing Dance Sundays and to check out their seasonal and rotating menu. To learn more about The Volstead, click here.

The Map Room in The Main Public Library

photo source: @hiddenjacksonville

Located inside of The Main Public Library, The Map Room consists of over 240 antiquarian maps. Donated by the Ansbacher Family to the Jacksonville Public Library, the collection first began when local attorney, Lewis Ansbacher, received an antique map from his son as a gift. In addition to many world maps, the collection also features many maps and historical views of North Florida. To learn more about The Map Room, visit the Library’s website! 

Additional Fun Find: Check out the mural in our featured photo for this blog post while visiting the library!

Ritz Theatre

Built in 1939 in the LaVilla District, Ritz Theatre is located in an area of Downtown that known as the “Harlem of The South”. At the peak of the Jazz age, the Ritz hosted some of the most iconic artists and was a pillar in the LaVilla community. Nowadays, the Ritz houses Jacksonvilles’ African American Heritage Museum. The beautiful facade of the building makes for some fun photos and is a great place to visit to learn more about Jacksonville and its history during the early days of jazz. To learn more about The Ritz Theatre and Museum, visit their website here. 

Haydon Burns Library | The Jessie Ball duPont Center

The Haydon Burns Library first opened in 1965 when there was a need from the community for a larger library space. Designed by architect Taylor Hardwick, the library was designed to create a “bright” spot in Downtown Jax. The building is a true work of art and is wrapped in vibrantly colored tiles. Inside is even more colorful than the outside! There is a large and vivid mosaic mural, designed by local artist, Ann Williams. 

No longer a working library, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund purchased the building in 2013 and has since renovated it.  The Jessie partnered with Art Republic in 2020 to bring cultural and socially relevant works of art to the exterior of the building through the “Lift Every Voice” project, which includes art pieces such as the mosaic shown above. Today, the building is just as colorful as it was in the beginning and now houses over 20 non-profits and The Corner Gallery, which focuses on social issues through the expression of art and is curated by Shawana Brooks. To learn more about the Lift Every Voice project, check out one of our past blogs here.

For more information about The Jessie, visit their website here.

Corkscrew Park

Located on the Northbank under the Acosta Bridge, Corkscrew Park is a hidden gem all of its own. Created with art and physical fitness in mind, this park offers both and is a great space to have your next workout. Free weights, yoga mats, jump ropes and medicine balls are all available for public use at the park and it offers guests a great spot to workout right next to the river. Click here to learn more.

Tag your photos with #DTJax if you visit any of these hidden gems for a chance to be featured!