Monday, November 21, 2011

The "Modern" Aberdeen Apartments

Here's a very pleasant 1940's apartment building in Jacksonville's historic Riverside neighborhood that shares a name with an older building just a few blocks away. 

Aberdeen Apartments, 1705 Aberdeen Street and 3122 Riverside Avenue, Jacksonville, Florida, built in 1941.  I have not been able to identify the architect of this excellent building.  The Aberdeen contains eight units.  It is constructed in a front-facing L configuration, on a corner lot, and faces both Aberdeen Street and Riverside Avenue.  At a mere seventy years old, it is a relative youngster compared to the first Aberdeen Apartments, seen below, which were built in 1919!

For more on the original Aberdeen Apartments at 2005 Herschel Street, and the architect Roy Benjamin, see my post from October 1st.  But in this post, I will focus on the 1941 building of the same name.  It's a red brick beauty, and a good representative of the decade in which it was built.  By the 1940's, most architects had dropped the elaborate, "fussy" decorations that were so common in buildings of the 1920's and '30's.  But a closer look reveals this apartment house, despite the lack of that kind of ornamentation, is hardly a plain-Jane!

A metal canopy with a scalloped edge is supported by simple black posts and extends out over the Aberdeen Street entrance.  Sidelights flank the front door.  The Riverside Avenue entrance to the building is identical.  

Metal casement windows, a common design element in the 1940's, are used in the Aberdeen Apartments.  No more old-fashioned wooden double-hung windows in "modern" buildings like this!  It's unusual, and a pleasure, to see windows from that era that are as well-maintained as these.  Until recently, it has been difficult to find replacement windows that match the original metal casements, and many buildings have suffered the consequences.  For an example, see my October 12th post on The Kahler apartments.  The Kahler is such a fine building, it holds up despite inappropriate replacement windows.  But what a difference the originals make in a building like the Aberdeen Apartments!

While the architect forgoes the elaborate cast-stone decorations of earlier decades, brickwork provides interesting patterns and all the decoration the building needs.

A set-back on the Aberdeen Street side allows an additional exposure for the apartments, and more light, which the Florida sun provides in abundance.

A vintage street light on the corner recalls the era when the building went up.  This is one of those places where you can take a minute and easily connect with the past.  The view is virtually the same as you would have seen seventy years ago in 1941.  Of course, the Aberdeen was brand new then-- but it still looks pretty good today!  The building was renovated in 2004.

Speaking of another era, it's worth pausing for a moment to enjoy another attribute of Aberdeen Street.  This is one of a handful of streets in Riverside that retain the original brick paving.  The sides of the street have obviously been resurfaced, and perhaps widened, but the brick is still there, another reminder of times past.  The asphalt of Riverside Avenue interrupts the brick, but it continues on the other side of the intersection for the length of the street.

Now let's go around back.  Here's the other side of that front-facing L, a nice, open backyard... 

...and another large expanse of windows to bring all of that sunshine and fresh air into the apartments.  There is something else in back that is seldom seen in Florida.

It's an entrance to, of all things, a basement!  Generally, there are no basements in Florida because the water table is too high, but the Aberdeen has one.  Actually, a number of apartment buildings and homes in Riverside have basements, but they are rare.

Air vents in the brickwork at ground level reveal the basement is localized to just one part of the building.  Elsewhere, a crawl-space is as much as you'll get.

There is covered parking in the rear of the building for tenants, who can exit by way of a back stairwell.  There are eight one-bedroom, one bath apartments, and eight covered spaces.

Here's a picture that says nothing about the building, but I like it and it's nice to look at, so I'll include it.

Back in front, here's the Riverside Avenue side of the building.  As mentioned above, the treatment surrounding the entrance is the same as on the Aberdeen Street side, providing a simple and attractive front door that welcomes you. 

The leasing company says the apartments include refinished hardwood floors, original pocket doors, and original bathroom tile in excellent condition.  The kitchens have been redone.  The building is well located, with the St. Johns River just two blocks away, and the shops of Avondale nearby.  And, as this view of the Riverside Avenue side shows, tree-shaded sidewalks make the walk to either destination a pleasant experience.

The Aberdeen is a fine example of 1940's multi-family residential architecture and a reminder that the Riverside-Avondale neighborhood was still growing along with the city in that decade.  Expressways, the flight to the suburbs, and endless sprawl had not yet begun.  Walkable, city neighborhoods were the norm, and would remain so for another ten or fifteen years.  Despite the decline that would eventually come, these historic neighborhoods held on and survived, thanks to the many people who did not give up on them.  A beautifully renovated building like the Aberdeen is evidence that Jacksonville's historic neighborhoods are alive and healthy, and the best is still ahead!


  1. Very Good collection of photographs and commentary on historic homes and buildings in various cities. I’m very impressed! Thanks

    Royal Athenaeum Suites