Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Riverside Avenue Surprise

The title of this post is "A Riverside Avenue Surprise" because this apartment building was exactly that for me.  I had never noticed it, despite having traveled this stretch of Riverside Avenue countless times over the years, until a few weeks ago when it caught my eye.  That kind of serendipity is not unusual in this neighborhood, which is one of the things I like so much about Riverside-Avondale.  With five thousand buildings in an eight square mile area, it is one of the largest historic districts in the nation; there is always the possibility of a surprise or new discovery just around the corner!

Riverside Court, 2738-2744 Riverside Avenue, Riverside historic district, Jacksonville.  The building manager told me this apartment house was built sometime in the 1920's and contains 16 units: two studio apartments, one 1-bedroom, and thirteen 2-bedrooms.  Property records indicate it was constructed in 1929.  Riverside Court is built in a U configuration, with a central courtyard between two projecting wings.  A sidewalk of colorful broken tile leads to a central fountain/planter and the four entrances to the building.

The building is red brick, with white cast-stone insets and ornamentation, and is typical for Spanish-Mediterranean style buildings of the period.  This is a good example of how fairly routine buildings can still achieve a degree of style and add to the texture of a neighborhood.  It does not appear to be restored, but seems in relatively good condition.

Doorways are surrounded by decorative brickwork and simple tiles arranged in a way that is more evocative of Southwestern style than Mediterranean Revival style.  The result is not elaborate, but is attractive and adds a touch of individuality to the building.

The cast stone decorations appear straight out of a catalogue, identical to those that are likely to be seen on other buildings of this era.  Yet they add a nice touch in dressing up Riverside Court and provide the kind of style that was soon to be out of fashion.  These are the vintage attributes that catch our eye today, a reminder of the attention given to details in the day before the modern "shoebox" approach to apartment buildings.

Interior hallways are spartan, but pleasant enough; the french door downstairs and the window on the second floor landing ensure that the space is light filled.

The side of the building is rather bleak, but provides another reminder of the difference between apartment buildings of today and those of the early twentieth century.  In these vintage buildings from a time before climate controlled environments, there are no windowless kitchens or bathrooms.  Every room gets a window.  What a concept! 

Here's a view of Riverside Court looking back toward Riverside Avenue from the courtyard.  The broken tile sidewalk stands out as interesting design element.  The use of broken tile was common in Spanish-style buildings of the 1920's and '30's for sidewalks, outdoor terraces, and interior flooring in sun rooms and covered porches. 

Riverside Court manages to be in plain view on this busy street while also retreating behind a row of trees and foliage.  That may be why I missed it for so many years.  Now I can add it to the inventory of buildings I know and enjoy in this part of town.      

Next post, a whimsical Mediterranean Revival complex by a celebrated Jacksonville team. 

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