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- 2014 - February - 24th -

50 years ago: Design approved for new federal building

From Staff

The design of Jacksonville’s proposed 11-story $7.79 million federal office building was accepted by the General Services Administration.

To be located on a site bordered by Bay, Clay, Pearl and Water streets, the building would provide space for six local branches of the federal government, according to a joint announcement by U.S. Sens. Spessard Holland and George Smathers.

The ground floor would be accessible from a 200-car parking lot on the south side of the property.

The recessed first floor with an entrance facing West Bay Street would be sheathed by sand-sculptured panels and surrounded by a pedestrian plaza.

The facility would have six elevators and a fallout shelter.

The building was designed by local architecture and engineering firm Reynolds, Smith and Hills.

Appropriations for the new building were part of $31.8 million in federal projects for Florida in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s proposed budget.

• Speaking before the Meninak Club of Jacksonville at the Mayflower Hotel, Lt. Col. John Powers said achieving and maintaining mastery of space was vital to the nation’s security.

Powers, better known as “Shorty,” was NASA’s voice of Mercury Control at Cape Canaveral during Project Mercury’s manned orbital flights.

His voice was known to millions of people who listened to radio and television broadcasts as he described the flights of six U.S. astronauts.

The audience gasped when Powers said that during the next generation of American space flight, Project Gemini, an astronaut would emerge from the space capsule for the first time in space and carry out assignments.

He described Project Apollo intended to land a man on the moon as the greatest adventure of all time.

“After that will come Mars and Venus,” Powers said.

Referring to the military significance of space, he said the United States and Russia would continue to utilize and explore space and “the United States must remain preeminent.”

• Campaign leaders were named for the 1964 United Community Services campaign. Also announced was attainment of the long-sought goal of establishment of the Greater Jacksonville Area Community Foundation.

Laurence F. Lee Jr., immediate past United Community Services campaign chairman, was elected president to succeed Thomas McGehee. C. D. Towers Jr. was chosen campaign chairman.

Accepting his position, Towers praised the job done by Lee in 1963 when a record $1.66 million was raised.

He called his selection an honor and a challenge.

“I am determined to work hard and do the very best job I know how to do,” Towers said.

A native of Jacksonville, Towers was a partner in the law firm of Rogers, Towers, Bailey, Jones and Gay.

McGehee announced the formation of the foundation, an organization that would operate independently of United Community Services.

He said the foundation would mean much to the area’s cultural, charitable and educational endeavors. McGehee said $55,285 already had been committed to the organization and a similar amount could soon be forthcoming.

The foundation, under the chairmanship of John Donahoo, was established after exhaustive studies by a committee of leading citizens, McGehee said.

“Its function is to accept gifts, grants or bequests to be held in trust for charitable, educational or cultural purposes designated by the donor to meet those needs for which funds were not already available,” he said.

• Mayor Haydon Burns appointed a special committee led by Parks and Finance Commissioner Dallas L. Thomas to study the controversial Treaty Oak park proposal.

Referring to what he called “community concern generated by various groups” over the proposal to make the 500-year-old tree the central attraction of a park and playground, Burns said he was asking the committee to study not only the position of city government in the controversy but also to make a search for funds for establishment of the proposed park.

The issue arose in 1963 when an application for zoning three lots along Flagler Street near the tree on the Southbank was submitted. The request, which would have allowed construction of three apartments on the property adjacent to the tree, was held up by the City Planning Advisory Board.

The Jacksonville-Duval County Area Planning Board was asked to intervene. It came up with a long-range plan for revitalizing the area with a park surrounding the oak as a focal point.

The board then recommended rejection of the zoning that could allow the apartments and sent the recommendation to the City Commission.

After its review, the commission sent the recommendation back to the planning board for reconsideration.

Burns said the situation regarding the proposed park and the proposed apartment development was “quite involved and will be tremendously expensive.”

• More than 100 people ran into the ocean at Jacksonville Beach – and quickly ran back out.

Gerry Wilson of the Jacksonville Beach Patrol said the 100 or so who could not resist a dip in the surf were part of an estimated 5,000 people who turned out to stroll or ride along the beaches.

“People always turn out on a nice sunshiny day,” Wilson said. “The water is warm enough for a swim, but people don’t count on chilly breezes, which quickly cool their enthusiasm.”

Wilson said “the usual surfboarders” were out in force despite the wind.

“They come out all winter long. They put on rubber suits and don’t even notice the cold.”

• City Council President Clyde Cannon said the council had no authority to appoint a biracial committee and if it did so, such a committee would have no official status.

A proposal that the council appoint a biracial committee to avert possible racial troubles in Jacksonville had been put forth by Arthur Milam, chairman of the Community Relations Committee of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Cannon said except where the maintenance of the peace was concerned, city government “would be ill-advised” to interfere in matters of individual negotiations between private parties.

He referred to comments in Milam’s letter regarding attempts by African-American ministers to register at a Downtown hotel and the picketing of a Downtown cafeteria by African-Americans complaining of discrimination there.

Milam’s letter was addressed to Cannon as council president. It was not officially brought before the council for action.

In his written reply to Milam, Cannon said Jacksonville citizens as a whole “should be highly commended for the intelligent manner in which relations between all groups have been handled. We feel that the assistance that your group has given in this effort has been most worthwhile and that you should continue to assist in all ways possible.”

Cannon said under the city charter, the council had powers only as a legislative body.

“I have consulted with our legal department and the City Council has no authority to appoint such a committee under the charter and if the City Council should undertake to do so, such committee would have no power or authority to act in any case or circumstance. Such a committee would have no official status,” he said in his reply.

• Students were preparing exhibits for the 1964 Northeast Florida regional Science Fair, scheduled March 5-7 in the Maxwell Snyder Armory.

Science students in junior and senior high schools in Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau and St. Johns counties would have their projects judged in hopes of securing a spot in the April 2-4 Florida State Science Fair at the Civic Auditorium.

Robert Liston, science coordinator for Duval County schools, said 300-325 entries were expected in the regional fair.

The primary purpose of the science fair, he said, was to “recognize the efforts and achievements of many gifted and accomplished students who are stimulated to test and expand their own capabilities apart from their normal class work.”

• The card for “Big Time Wrestling” in the Municipal Coliseum included a six-man tag team match with The Kentuckians, Jake and Luke, aka the “Bearded Giants” and Haystacks Calhoun vs. Skull Murphy, Brute Bernard and Big Bob Orton. General admission tickets were 50 cents, $2 for a ringside seat.

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