Friday, November 18, 2011

Royal Court Apartments

Here's an interesting apartment house in Jacksonville's historic Riverside that's brimming with the kind of architectural features that bring instant happiness to an old-building aficionado like me (and you?).  It's another fine example of the work of one of the city's celebrated teams of the 1920's.

Royal Court Apartments, 2969 Herschel Street, Riverside, Jacksonville; built in 1926, architects Mark & Sheftall  (for more about Earl Mark and Leeroy Sheftall, see my post from October 4th, Two by Mark & Sheftall).  This Mediterranean Revival delight may have used up the neighborhood's quota for archways!  The ones you see on the front are just the beginning!

A passage through the central archway leads to an interior courtyard;  the steps on either side lead to landings and the first-floor apartments on the front of the building.  At the back of the landing, another set of stairs leads up to the breezeway which is lined with twelve arches (six on each side!), and the corresponding second floor apartments.  Other apartments are reached through the courtyard.  The Royal Court is a ten-unit building and contains a combination of two-bedroom apartments and studios.

As you walk through the central passage toward the courtyard, additional archways rise up on either side of you from spiralled Corinthian columns.  The floors of the landings are surfaced with broken tiles.  My wife insists the proper term is cracked tile.  This, she says, is the term she heard from people who knew such things when we lived in a 1925 Spanish-style house in Miami's historic Morningside neighborhood.  It sounds odd to me, and I remember the same experts using the term broken tile.  In either case, you get the idea.

Once through the passageway, you reach the interior courtyard.  I took the first picture from the second floor breezeway, looking down into the brick-paved courtyard.  A planter/fountain serves as the centerpiece for this pretty and inviting space.       

Turn and look back in the direction of the street, and you can the two sets of stairs leading up to the second floor breezeway with its profusion of arches.  Don't you agree, looking at this closer view of the planter, that the vase at the top was once a fountain?    

On either end of the second floor breezeway, are the doorways to two of the apartments.  It appears there may have originally been transoms and sidelights, but these have been filled in.

Here's the view down to the street.  Whichever way you look, the view is framed by all of those archways!  Note the less ornate, but no less stately, columns upstairs.

Back in the courtyard, some doorways lead to individual apartments, while others lead to stairwells.

As is usual in a Mediterannean Revival, cast-stone decorations are strategically placed on the building.

Chimneys peak up over the roofline, a sign of fireplaces inside the apartments.

I almost got a view of one of the fireplaces.  A friendly Royal Court apartment dweller let me inside for a's somewhere there behind the bicycles!  One of the things that has changed since the 1920's-- we all need more storage space for our stuff than they did in those days!  It doesn't look like Mark & Sheftall considered the possibility of indoor bike storage.  The tenant assured me the wood-burning fireplace does work, but this is Jacksonville.  How often do we really light them up? 

The Royal Court Apartments, a landmark building... a landmark neighborhood.  Earl Mark and Leeroy Sheftall both apprenticed in the office of the great Jacksonville architect H.J. Klutho, then distinguished themselves with buildings like this when they struck out on their own.

The tenant I met told me the owner/landlord is a very nice guy who is from Kenya and currently lives in Deland, which is an interesting combination.  I'd like to know the story of how he came to own the Royal Court Apartments.  Based on my observations during my visit, I would say he is acting as a good steward of Mark & Sheftall's architectural legacy.  Don't you wish all apartment buildings had such charm and style?


  1. Hi Mike,
    I am the owner and I have some better photos of the interiors if you would like. Kind regards Chris

  2. I lived here and absolutely loved it. Best place ever. Had to move out of state and miss it so much