Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The San Juline Apartments

Here's a signature building in Jacksonville's historic Riverside, distinguished both by the elegance of its design and by its location on Riverside Avenue across from Memorial Park and the St. Johns River.  I will reveal my bias at the outset-- I fell in love with this apartment building the first time I saw it years ago.  It comes into view just as Riverside Avenue makes a sharp turn and the river widens dramatically.  Suddenly, there is great beauty on both sides of the street: the park and the river on one side, and The San Juline Apartments on the other.

The San Juline Apartments, 1617-1637 Riverside Avenue, built in 1916, Roy Benjamin architect.  I mentioned in a recent post that Benjamin's work is difficult to avoid in Jacksonville because it is everywhere.  The San Juline is another significant and wondeful example of this.  The building is a large-scale modified version of the "U" plan we've seen on many simple 4-plex buildings.  A central three-story core is flanked by two-story wings extending out toward the street.  Each portion of the building has its own grand entrance.

A massive cast-stone entry with pilasters and an arched pediment leads to the front door of the central part of the house.  Two ribbons of tall leaded glass casement windows rise above the pediment, culminating in an awning overhang topped with green barrel-tiles.  The front door in this central part of the building is slightly narrower than the doors in the two side-wings, reflecting the more vertical thrust of the three-story section of the building.  These are doors that would be equally at home on Prairie or Craftsman structures.

Welcome to the San Juline Apartments.  The entablature over each door includes the name.  According to Jacksonville's Architectural Heritage, the San Juline did much to advance the concept of "an apartment as a home," a new concept to Jacksonville in the World War I era.  Thus, a grand entrance helped set the stage for something special, as does the building's location, across the street from the park and the river.  Each apartment has both front and rear exposures, assuring "perfect ventilation" from river breezes.

Benjamin's design included many details, such as the urns that help showcase the entrance.  The two sets of leaded glass windows add another touch of elegance.  This central entrance leads to six apartments.

This side-view gives a better sense of how the central part of the building is slightly set back from the vertical "tower" of the front entrance.

Now, here is one of the side-wing entrance doors.  A comparison with the door above will show that they are not identical; this door, as I mentioned earlier, is slightly wider.  The two side-wing entrances lead to four apartments each.  There are fourteen apartments in the San Juline.

Instead of an arched pediment, the side-wing doors are topped by a balustrade, then the ribbon of leaded glass casement windows.

The pleasing details of the design include the aforementioned urns, cast-stone window boxes, and decorative bracket supports under the roofline and balconies.  Jacksonville's Architectural Heritage says, when new, the apartment building was touted to have "every known convenience, such as steam heat, gas, and speaking tubes" to make it "high class." 

On each two-story side-wing, there are sunroom extensions with enormous casement windows and five exposures!   This provides another opportunity to take advantage of every cooling breeze off the river, and to flood the apartment with sunlight.

While the sunroom windows and the leaded glass windows in front are casements, other windows in the building are double-hung sash windows.  The broad bands of windows are another Prairie school influence evident in the building.

On the back of the building, Benjamin dropped decoration for practicality.  Each apartment has a back porch and stairway access to the backyard and parking area.

Roy Benjamin and builder H.F. McAden collaborated on a number of apartment buildings in Riverside and in Springfield on the northside of downtown.  The San Juline is the premier building of the group.

I mentioned earlier the strategic location of the San Juline, with Memorial Park and the river right across the street.  Each apartment has a view of the park and the St. Johns River.  The river view came first.  When the San Juline was built in 1916, the area across the street was known as "the picnic ground."  The park, with design by the Olmstead Brothers, was developed from 1922-1924, as a memorial to Florida citizens who died in the war.  Here is a view of the San Juline from the park, followed by a view of the park from the San Juline. 

And while we're in the park, here's a reminder of the history in this part of Florida and the St. Johns River.  At a mere ninety-five years old, the San Juline is a youngster!

Next post, a magnificent neighbor from 1924.

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