Laura Street

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Laura Street
Laurastreet.png
Hemming Plaza.JPG
view from the Bank of America Tower looking toward Hemming Park
Owner City of Jacksonville
Maintained by Department of Public Works
Postal code 32202, 32206
Nearest metro station Monorail:
Hemming Plaza Station
Rosa Parks Transit Station
North end 12th Street in Springfield (contiguous segment)
South end Independent Drive in Northbank

Laura Street is a north-south street in Jacksonville named for the daughter of city's founder, Isaiah D. Hart . The portion that runs through Downtown has historically been considered Jacksonville's financial district.

Description

The street's contiguous segment runs from 12th Street in the historic neighborhood of Springfield south through downtown, terminating at Independent Drive. South of State Street, Laura Street runs though the core of downtown's Northbank, and is one of the busiest pedestrian streets in the city. Serving as an important corridor connecting a high concentration of office blocks, the area has historically functioned as a preeminent shopping and financial district, and has remained an important economic and cultural epicenter for the region. The street is also home to Jacksonville's oldest park, Hemming Park, the Jacksonville Landing, Main Public Library, the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, and City Hall. [1]

History

Laura Street was named for the daughter of Jacksonville's founder, Isaiah D. Hart. [2] In 1856, the city's oldest public park was designated along Laura Street, occupying the entire city block bordered by Monroe, Hogan and Duval Streets. The area attracted numerous hotels, most notably the St. James Hotel, completed in 1869, and the Windsor Hotel, completed in 1875. [3]

Laura Street in 1894.

The Great Fire of 1901 ravaged almost the entirety of today's modern downtown core, including much of Laura Street. The street did act as a fire line between the junctions of Adams Street through to the St. Johns River. [4] Just as in the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, the massive level of destruction left in the wake of the fire precipitated a robust period growth and a building boom the would last up until the Great Depression. The corridor between Adams Street, where a remaining portion of the business district still existed, and Hemming Park was the center of much of the more notable commercial development.

Postcard depicting the Financial Center of Jacksonville, c.1910

Originally the Mercantile Exchange Bank Building, one of the first buildings to be built after the fire was the Old Florida National Bank in 1902. It was designed by Edward H. Glidden in the Classical Revival style, and is now part of a group of buildings known as the Laura Street Trio. Architect Henry John Klutho designed the other two buildings, these being the Bisbee Building in 1908, and the Florida Life Building in 1911, both designed in the Chicago school of architecture. He also designed the YMCA Building in 1909, and the St. James Building in 1912. [5] New York architecture firm Mowbray and Uffinger contributed two significant structures to the corridor during this period. In 1909, 121 Atlantic Place, originally Atlantic National Bank Building, opened as the tallest building in Florida. Barnett National Bank Building would open its doors in 1926 also breaking the state height record. [6] Local architecture firm Marsh & Saxelbye also contributed multiple works along the route, including Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum (1921), Schultz Building (1926), Hotel George Washington (1926) and Greenleaf & Crosby Building (1928).

RTKL Associates Inc., a planning and consultant firm from Baltimore was hired in 1970 to study the city's increasing urban blight related to suburbanization and the development of retail malls. The recommendations were included in the 1971 Downtown Master Plan drafted by the Downtown Development Authority. The plans called for creating a Pedestrian mall, a one-way transportation loop and elevated walkways that would permitting safe movement from the retail core, centered on Hemming Park, to the riverfront. The plans further called for a riverfront park, convention center with attached hotel, an exhibition center, Sears Department Store, and a high-rise offices. Though many portion of the plan never came to fruition, a few of the Laura Street's features are a result of the 1971 Downtown Master Plan, the most striking of which being the Wells Fargo Center, designed by Kemp, Bunch & Jackson in 1974 for the Independent Life Insurance Company. [7]

In 2011, $2.3 million was spent to enhance the street by adding traffic calming features, more sidewalk space, trees with colorful uplighting and other hardscape features. In 2015, a five-block segment of Laura Street beginning at West Duval Street near Hemming Park, and stretching to the Jacksonville Landing ending at East Independent Drive was recognized by the American Planning Association as one of its "Great Places in America." [8]

Notable places

SunTrust Tower

(from South to North):

Transportation

The Jacksonville Landing is at the southern terminus of Laura Street and offers access to the Jacksonville Water Taxi as well as other marine services.

The Jacksonville Skyway serves two stations near Laura Street:

Gallery


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