When the Jacksonville Terminal opened just after the stroke of midnight on November 17th, 1919, it was the ultimate expression in a tradition of local railroad architecture dating back to the late 1850s.
PLEASE NOTE that the Jacksonville Terminal is now the premier convention center for the City of Jacksonville. As such it is a working enterprise with much business to conduct. Therefore it is unfortunately NOT A RAILROAD MUSEUM in any way, and is not "open" for railfans or casual visitors! The facility can be visited however, during some of the many events & shows held at the center. There is a small collection of memoribilia and some pictures in the North & South Prefunction Area, which is where the trains were backed in to the station for passenger boarding. Some of the original gates and train signs have been preserved in this area.
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Check the CALANDER tab for the events schedule.
Outside of the Convention Center, are two outstanding pieces of Florida's railroad history:
Atlantic Coast Line 4-6-2 Light Pacific - Steam Locomotive #1504
The Seaboard Airline Line Railway's - Orange Blossom Special Passenger Car
View Facing SouthWest - Image from Florida Photographic Collection
Additional Pictures of the Jacksonville Terminal Building
Locomotive and car pictures of the Jacksonville Terminal
Track Drawings of the Jacksonville Terminal Company
Jacksonville's first train station, built during the winter of 1858-1859 by its first railroad, the Florida, Atlantic & Gulf Central, had been little more than a covered platform with a waiting room and blacksmith shop at one end. After the Civil War a larger, enclosed wooden depot, was built at the foot of Julia Street, on the river's edge, with its track and warehouses sitting partly over the water on pilings. This became the city's first "Union Station" (serving more than one railroad) when the Waycross Short Line was completed to Jacksonville in 1881 and shared the facility with the Florida Central.
The Savannah, Florida & Western built Jacksonville's first decent train station in 1883. Although conservative in design and rather plain-looking on the outside, it contained all the basic amenities inside, including rest rooms, a restaurant, and an elegantly furnished ladies waiting room with an ornate fireplace and an attendant always on duty This, too, became a union station in 1884 when the newly completed Jacksonville, Tampa & Key West Railroad began sharing it with the SF&W.
Other functional but rather ordinary depots were built in Jacksonville and across the river at Arlington, South Jacksonville, Mayport and Burnside and Pablo beaches during the 1880s. But it wasn't until 1893, when Henry M. Flagler organized the Jacksonville Terminal Company to build a Union Depot as a joint venture of the five major railroads serving Jacksonville, that the city got its first world-class train station.
With Flagler as its first president the JTC built a sprawling Union Depot in the classic Spanish mission style. It included an "immense" covered train shed 150 feet wide and more than the length of three football fields placed end to end, which local newspapers claimed was the longest in the world. Opened on February 4, 1895, but not completed until January 15, 1897, the Flagler Depot, as it came to I be called, was one of the busiest in the nation. By 1912 it was handling as many as 92 trains a day, and in that same year planning began for a new and an even larger station.
Public hearings in 1913 argued where the new station would be located, the city preferring a site west of Myrtle Avenue between Forsyth and Adams, the railroads wanting to remain at the Flagler Depot site where substantial savings could be realized utilizing existing yards and facilities.
The railroads won that debate, and in 1915 a nationwide competition was launched to secure the best possible design for the new station. In 1916 New York City Architect Kenneth Mackensie Murcheson was announced as the winner.
Murcheson's design was a scaled-down version of the main waiting room of New York City's enormous Pennsylvania Station. That station had been inspired by the lines and dimensions of the majestic ancient Roman baths of Caracalla, Titus and Diocletion. Those baths, with their huge central halls (called tepidariums), surrounded by gyms, steam and massage rooms, pools and baths, had been built like vast "temples of space and light", and the Jacksonville Terminal was designed in the same grand manner.
Because it was built on the marshy estuary of McCoys Creek, site preparations (begun on November 15, 1916), required the re-channelling of the creek and the driving of more than 2,000 pilings, some as deep as 80 feet. Actual construction, delayed by World War I conditions, was finally launched on April 1, 1918, as the enormous structure took shape it began to dominate the thinking of local civic leaders who saw in its "striking beauty" the dawn of "a new era to come in architectural design in the Southland". In a word, said one newspaper, it was "magnificent".
3D Anaglyph Stereo Image NorthWest View of the Jacksonville Terminal
Created & Copyrighted by John A. Leynes Jr. 8-2004
The Florida Railroad Company Collection
Murcheson's design of a 180-foot facade of 14 Doric columns, each rising 42 feet and weighing 45 tons, created a classic colonnade of majestic dimensions at the main entrance which seemed to dwarf all who entered. Inside, a barrel-vaulted ceiling, framing massive arched windows, soared cathedrallike some 75 feet over the main waiting room's marble floor, sustaining the impression Murcheson intended of space and light in vast and elegant dimensions.
Murcheson used stained glass in spheres and stripes in unexpected places. There was a main restaurant of classic design and beauty, both in its styling and in its almost overpowering dimensions. And there were snack bars, news stands, barber, florist and gift shops, as well as a drug store and other facilities for pleasure and resort. Passing through the main waiting room one entered the main concourse with its many ornamental iron gates that led to the waiting trains; and beyond were the vast rail yards designed to accommodate as many as 210 trains per day.
The trains never stopped rolling, not for 55 years.
On the day it opened the terminal handled more than 110 trains and 20,000 passengers, and at the peak of its operations 25 years later during World War II, as many as 100,000 servicemen and civilians passed through on the busiest days.
Those were the years when everybody who was anybody passed through Jacksonville by train. The famous and the infamous, from John D. Rockefeller to Al Capone; the high and the mighty, from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman; and most celebrities of stage and screen passed through on their way south at one time or another.
Some of the trains became as famous as the celebrities they carried, and their names still have a romantic ring. Names like the "Orange Blossom Special", the "Silver Meteor" and "Silver Star", the "South Wind", the "Flamingo", the "Dixie Flyer", and the "Florida Special".
Before the last train passed out of the terminal shortly after midnight on January 3rd, 1974, upwards of 12 to 15 million travelers had passed in and out of the busy station annually. Airlines and superjets, and autos and superhighways had been its undoing, leaving it abandoned to the whims of vandals and vagrants who cluttered and defiled its once elegant spaces.
For several years developers attempted to restore and convert the terminal into an entertainment or retail attraction. Two such attempts, "Gaslight Square" and "Railroad Square" came to naught, and the once proud terminal was reduced to housing a flea market and bazaar.
On November 12, 1977, Riverside Avondale Preservation staged a party in the terminal to focus attention on its plight. When thousands attended it became clearly evident how deeply entrenched in public sentiment and how strong the old station's romantic appeal remained.
Finally, early in 1982, Jacksonville civic and business leaders joined with the city to form a "public-private partnership" which, under the leadership of former CSX chairman Prime F Osborn III, rescued the old terminal from the wrecker's ball.
On November 22, 1983, the Jacksonville City Council approved a bond issue to finance various public projects, among them the restoration of the terminal as part of a much needed convention center. Restoration and new construction started in 1984 and on October 17, 1986 the convention center opened.
Ironically, when the terminal first opened in 1919 civic leaders had hoped it would usher in an era of architectural splendor and stimulate Jacksonville growth and prosperity But it was not until the terminal had been closed, abandoned and then restored in the 1980's that it became what has best been described as "a catalyst" and an anchor on the west for the city of the future Jacksonville is building today.
Mr. Prime F. Osborn III
Prime F Osborn III will be remembered as one of Jacksonville's outstanding citizens. He was noted as much for his service to mankind as he was for his business acumen. Mr. Osborn was chairman of the task force that put the Convention Center concept together and nurtured it to fruition. For this reason, early in 1986, the Mayor and City Council jointly introduced a resolution to name the Convention Center after Osborn . "He was a true gentleman of compassion, intelligence, integrity, sincerity, humility, charity, civic-mindedness and grace, who by his exemplary leadership and conduct led a life of distinction as one of Jacksonville's finest citizens."
Text and Picture of Mr. Osborn Courtesy of the:
PRIME F. OSBORN III CONVENTION CENTER
1000 Water Street
Jacksonville Florida, 32204