Friday, September 28, 2012

The John Gorrie: Homes from School

They don't build schools like this anymore...or homes either, for that matter, which is what the historic John Gorrie Junior High School has become.

John Gorrie Junior High School on College Avenue at the corner of Stockton Street in Jacksonville's historic Riverside neighborhood opened in 1923 and educated students until 1997.  The Mediterranean Revival building was the work of the Jacksonville team of Roy A. Benjamin and Mellen Greeley.  The men worked together for six years.  Kirby Smith Junior High in Springfield is a duplicate of John Gorrie. 

Cast stone columns, brackets and shields provide elaborate showcasing around the school's entrance.  The beautiful detailing may not made it fun to go to school, but surely it made the kids feel like they were entering a place of importance! 

Huge windows and high ceilings let in plenty of light and ventilation, and now provide condominium owners with sun-filled interiors. 

The transformation from school to condominiums began in 2009 when the (then) owners of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Wayne and Delores Weaver, bought the property. The Weavers live in the neighborhood and became intrigued by the vintage building while taking walks. They spent 13 million dollars renovating and reconfiguring the building into 68 condos.

Many original features and details of the school were preserved. 

Roy Benjamin and Mellen Greeley collaborated on a number of Jacksonville buildings including several noteworthy homes in Riverside and Avondale.  Benjamin also designed more than two hundred movie houses including downtown's Florida Theatre.

The school was named after Dr. John Gorrie who helped pave the way for modern Florida by inventing the first device that mechanically cooled air. In Apalachicola, Gorrie was looking for ways to treat patients with yellow fever and believed cool air would be beneficial. Refrigeration and air conditioning have their beginnings in his machine that was patented in 1851.

The Weavers have made a difference by re-purposing this historic school.  Who knows what might have become of it had they not stepped in.  They have transformed the building, improved the neighborhood, and provided reasonably priced homes in an historic setting.

The John Gorrie condominiums are located within easy walking distance of restaurants, stores, and the St. Johns River waterfront. 

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