A town with a long history is also a town with quite a few skeletons in its old, creaky closets. As Halloween slowly creeps up on us, Wimberly at Deerwood is here to set the stage with a spooky look at some of Jacksonville’s most amazing and, dare we say, unsettling historic properties.
7. Old St. Andrew’s Church
We open our list with the only major church to survive Jacksonville’s Great Fire of 1901, Old St. Andrew’s Church. Built in 1888, Old St. Andrews stands as a rare relic of life in 19th-century Jacksonville, with its pressed brick constructruction, solid mahogany doors, and 120-foot tower that once made it the tallest building in the city. No doubt it would have landed higher on our spook list had we assessed it before a Jacksonville Historical Society restoration project in the 1990s.
Spook-ometer: Carefree whistling
6. The Merrill House
While its status as a house museum lowers its street cred a tiny bit, The James E. Merrill House still holds plenty of cachet as the largest and most architecturally significant of the 19th-century homes in East Jax. The house was also moved several times before landing at its current location at 319 A. Philip Randolph Blvd. This at least begs the question: Can we trust a house that just ups and moves?
Spook-ometer: Keeping calm and carrying on
5. The St. James Building
A jewel of Jacksonville’s post-fire redevelopment, The St. James Building opened in 1912 and earned architect Henry J. Klutho plenty of accolades as one of his finest works. Originally designed for the Cohen Bros. Department Store, this notable structure on Duval Street went out of commission when the store closed in 1987. Ten years later, it found a new purpose as the home for… City Hall! Dun dun dun!
Spook-ometer: Slightly frowning emoji
4. Kingsley Plantation
The highest-ranked home on our list of potentially paranormal places, the Kingsley Plantation owns the distinction of being the oldest residential home still standing in Jacksonville. Built in 1797, it is also the last remaining plantation house in the state. Visitors to the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve can visit the original slave quarters and honor their stories.
Spook-ometer: Shoulder shimmy and shivers
3. Old St. Luke’s Hospital
It’s no fault of hospitals that they become undeniably creepy after more than a hundred years of existence. The origin of Old St. Luke’s Hospital in 1878 is actually a heartening story of Jacksonville citizens pulling together to take care of one another and their guests. But strolling the same halls where citizens were treated for the yellow fever epidemic of 1888 and the typhoid fever epidemic in 1898? Beware…
Spook-ometer: Frequent looks over shoulder
2. The Casket Factory
Next door to Old St. Luke’s you’ll find the Florida Casket Company Building, also known as the Casket Factory. Really, we could stop there. Built in the early 1920s, the Casket Factory did indeed serve as a coffin factory and also as a warehouse before sitting vacant and accumulating still more creepy vibes. While the Jacksonville Historical Society has announced plans to renovate and use parts of the building as an archive and a music history museum, you know what they say: You can never take the casket out of the Casket Factory.
Spook-ometer: Grabbing neighbor’s arm
1. The Neff House
For high-level spook to go with your history, you can’t do better than The Neff House on Fort George Island. Exhibit A: While Chicago businessman Nettleton Neff was just six months into developing the property as a winter home for his family, Neff lost his wife, two small children, and his older son. Exhibit B: Neff also died before the house was completed. Exhibit C: A 1975 article in the Jacksonville Journal remembers “organ music in the seven-level, 21-room mansion, but no organ was found in the house; mysterious phone calls…voices and banging doors were heard in the house; and glass from closed cupboards would sometimes crash onto the floor.”
Spook-ometer: Audible exclamations
We hope you enjoy Jacksonville’s haunted – or merely historic – places this Halloween! For more tips on cool local hangouts and details on upcoming events, make sure to check out the Wimberly at Deerwood blog.