Recently, CBS’s venerable “Sunday Morning” show highlighted an architecture firm that specializes in buildings with finishing touches you don’t normally see in new construction. In other words, they build ‘em like they used to.
This resurgence of building with “old world” details speaks to the way beautiful design makes us feel and the importance of rehabilitating Downtown’s existing stock of historic buildings begging for attention. While it can be less expensive to build new, restoring craftsmanship of bygone days lends a richer hand to the tapestry of a city.
Downtown Jacksonville is fortunate to still have a significant stock of historic architecture, despite a rash of demolitions by wrecking ball or implosion (e.g., the Rhodes Furniture Building) and demolitions by neglect (e.g., the Centre Theatre) over the past 30 years. Despite the holes, there is still a patchwork of buildings in various states of repair with such materials as terracotta cornices, heart pine floors and marble exteriors.
Why undertake such an arduous task as restoration of a building that some say should meet the same fate as its neighbors? It comes down to authenticity of place. Historic city centers hold a presence of the past – that draw of an authentic place, that sense of wonder that occurs when you go into a building that’s stood for more than a century and has seen more than you ever will.