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Photos by Max Marbut - The First Guaranty Trust & Savings Bank along East Bay Street, often referred to as the "jaguar building," on Tuesday was recommended for designation as a local historic landmark by the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Com...
Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Nov. 14, 201212:00 PM EST

First Guaranty Bank & Trust building recommended for landmark designation

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Over the objection of the property owners, the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission on Tuesday recommended that the First Guaranty Trust & Savings Bank building at 101 E. Bay St. be declared a local historic landmark.

The designation would prevent the structure from demolition, which was requested by the owners but denied Sept. 26 by the commission.

Representing Guaranty Trust Investments Inc., owners of the building, Val Bostwick Jr. on Tuesday presented a letter to the commission stating the owners have filed an appeal to the denial with the City Council.

The letter also stated the owner serves a cease-and-desist request to the commission "to refrain from further actions regarding its property at this time."

The Bostwick family has owned the building since 1902. The City has levied a fine of $100 per day for the past five months because the structure does not comply with building codes.

City Historic Planner Joel McEachin said the building meets six of seven criteria for designation as a local historic landmark, including it being one of the first buildings constructed after the Great Fire of 1901, its architectural characteristics and its relation to Jacksonville's financial prominence in the early 20th century.

The building was designed by J.H.W. Hawkins, who also designed Snyder Memorial Methodist Church along Laura Street at Hemming Plaza, the Herkimer Block along East Bay Street at Newnan Street and numerous local residences in the "Dutch revival" style.

McEachin said an engineering study in 2008 determined the building needs additional structural support for the roof and walls and some repair to the foundation, but retains "most of its exterior fabric."

During the public hearing at the meeting, Bostwick said seeking designation of the building as a landmark was an issue for the owner to decide "consistent with property rights."

He contended that when the commission denied the demolition permit application, the commission's authority ended.

Bostwick questioned the timing of the consideration of the building for historic designation – immediately after the denial of the demolition permit application.

"The building is 110 years old. It has been vacant nearly 30 years. Not once has the planning department or the public raised the issue of landmark status," Bostwick said.

"This is the planning department operating on its own," he said.

City Assistant General Counsel Jason Teal advised the commission that, according to City ordinance, local historic landmark designation may be sponsored by the commission, the mayor or Council without the property owner's agreement.

"Our charge is to protect historic building stock," said Angela Schifanella, commission chairman.

On a 4-0 vote, the commission approved recommending to Council the building be designated a local historic landmark

Teal said Council will consider the appeal of the denial of the demolition permit application in conjunction with the commission's recommendation that building be preserved as a landmark. He said additional public hearings on the historic designation will be scheduled before the Council's Land Use and Zoning Committee.

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