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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Aug. 11, 202205:23 PM EST

Florida Casket Co. renovation design approved

The Jacksonville Historical Society plans to create a museum, archive space and an event venue in the building.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

The Downtown Development Review Board unanimously awarded final design approval Aug. 11 for the Jacksonville Historical Society’s proposed renovation of the Florida Casket Co. building.

The former factory, at 318 Palmetto St., is next to the historical society’s offices in the former St. Luke’s Hospital. 

DDRB documents say it was built in 1882 and is designated local historic landmark.

However, the historical society said Aug. 18 the factory was built in 1920 and is not a landmark. It said the DDRB landmark status derives from it being on the same property as the historic hospital.

The historical society plans to renovate the three-story, 15,200-square-foot structure to comprise a proposed Jacksonville music history museum on the ground floor, a library and storage space for the organization’s archives on the second floor and an event and performance venue on the third floor.

Thompson Construction Co. is the contractor and Powell & Hinkle Engineering is the engineer for the $3 million addition and interior renovation project.

Elevations of the renovated Florida Casket Co. building.

The addition comprises three-story stucco structures to be built on the east and west sides of the building. The additions will house stairwells designed to comply with modern building code and public safety regulations, restrooms and a catering kitchen.

The board approved the conceptual design June 9 but withheld final approval until the architect, Jeffrey Lane of Lane Architecture in Jacksonville, addressed possibly restoring the windows on the ground floor.

The project received a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission on June 22.

Lane’s design presented Aug. 11 shows the brick covering the windows on the south side of the ground floor replaced by metal panels. They would provide a space for murals or promotional posters and also to maintain security.

The brick infill on the first- and second-floor windows on the north side of the building facing Duval Street would remain.

The south elevation of the Florida Casket Co. building.

DDRB staff recommended approving the plan to provide an interim phase, conditioned upon the design being reconsidered in three years to restore the first-floor windows of the south elevation, or for the historical society to seek a deviation.

Jacksonville Historical Society CEO Alan Bliss said the nonprofit does not support restoring the windows because the building has limited exposure to the streetscape.

The structure is surrounded on three sides by the Duval Street elevated roadway, the Maxwell House coffee plant and the loading dock for VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

The south side with the building entrance faces the historical society’s offices and parking lot.

The Florida Casket Co. building is Downtown near VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. (Google)

“There is no pedestrian traffic around the building. You’ll only see inside when you are going into the building,” Lane said.

Bliss said having the windows covered would better protect the historic archived material from being damaged by light and would provide more protection for the collection during tropical storms.

The board voted to amend the final approval to extend the deadline to later evaluate the windows from three years to five years.

DDRB Chair Matt Brockelman advised the historical society to work with the city Planning Department to make the south facade “as engaging as possible” during the permitting process.

“I think it’s a great project,” Brockelman said.

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