(Originally published 2010-2014)
Meet Your New Neighbors
Name: Randy & Connie, and Family
Location: Walnut Street
Occupation: Randy is a driver for UPS and Connie is a homemaker. The kids are students at FSU, FSCJ and Stanton College Prep.
Fun Fact: The Logan's own a kiln to make pottery. Who else has that at home?
What brought you to the Springfield historic district?
Randy: In a two words, community and history.
Connie: I'll give you a quick synopsis. We were living a neighorhood on the Southside of Jacksonville. Randy actually built the house 22 years ago. While it was a small, quiet neigborhood, we really didn't know many people there. Everyone was polite, but just kept to themselves. One day, Randy came home and suggested we sell the house. It was a good time for us personally to do it, and we were ready for something new. Personally, I've have had an interest in Springfield from afar for many years. But, Randy and the kids weren't so sure about it. But, I was adement about looking. So we did. The more time we spent in the community, the more we felt comfortable. At our realtors advice, we attended a number of the community events and social gatherings to meet people and find out first hand what type of neighborhood it is. It really opened our eyes to what kind of people live here, and how far the neigborhood has come. We moved in to our "new" old home about 7 months ago.
Did you buy a new or old home, and how did you know it was "the one"?
Randy: Our house was built in 1912. We were specifically looking for an older home because we like the character and quality they have. Like the original fireplace and front door transom. It's hard to duplicate an original. We haven't done the research on the history of our house yet, but we plan to. We're interested in who lived in our house through the years, and what modifications have been made over the past century. One specific thing I liked about this one as opposed to the others we saw, was the additional storage - we have a basement. You don't those very often.
Connie: I think the first time we saw it we knew this was the one for us. We gave our realtor a list of specific criteria, so she had a good idea that we'd like it. She was right.
What do you like about living in neighborhood so far?
Connie: You know, I've really been impressed how neighborly everyone has been. The first day we moved in, I was sitting on the front porch. Someone walked by to say "Hello", mentioning that he saw us moving in a wanted to meet the new neighbors. Residents really seem to make an effort to reach out and connect with one another.
Randy: And it's not just our neighbors on our block or street. The entire community here considers themselves to be neighbors.
Something else I like is the location in proximity to other things in the city. In our old neighborhood, I used to think we were conveniently located to a lot of things. But in the past 6 months of living here, we walked down to The Landing for a gumbo festival. We saw a neighbor walking down the street one morning and made small talk. She mentioned she was walking to work. We can walk to the dog park. Those are things we would never do or see in our previous location.
Have you participated in any community activities so far?
Connie: We we're coming to Springfield events before we even found a home! We went to the July 4th Throwback Baseball game last year, the Home Tour, First Friday parties, tree plantings, and we all went to the "Turkey Bowl" community football game on Thanksgiving morning. What else?
Randy: Clarification. The boys played football on Thanksgiving morning in the park, while I stood on the sideline and froze.
Connie: Oh, we've really enjoyed the SAMBA "pop up" events at our local restaurants too. We're all about supporting local small businesses.
What did you family & friends think of your move?
Connie: "Are you sure you know what you're doing?" was the general comment I think. Our friends were skeptical at first, but became supportive. If you don't know the neighborhood first hand, then you really don't know the neighborhood.
Randy: I've lived in Jacksonville for 30 years. Until Connie insisted that we considered Springfield, I admit it wasn't even a consideration for me. I had my blinders on. I thought all of this general area was the same, and we didn't want to be in "the hood". Last year's spring-time Home Tour really made me see Springfield in a new light.
Connie: From what we gather, it seems like many people move to the neighborhood from outside Jacksonville. They don't know the old stereotypes so they see it for it is today, not what it was years ago.
What do you want to see happen in the neighborhood moving forward?
Randy: I definitely want to see more of the vacant and boarded up old homes renovated. I'd like to see them brought back to life.
Connie: I think a local business directory would be nice. We like to keep our money circulated locally as much as possible. I know there are a lot of creative people in the community, and a master list of their services would be nice too.
What advice do you have for those considering a move to the Springfield historic district?
Randy: Keep your valuable outside belongings secured. People pass through from time to time looking for something easy to grab.
Connie: I strongly advise using a local realtor from Springfield. We were initially using a realtor not famiiar with the neighborhood, and all she would show us were houses in Avondale and San Marco. Even when I told her we wanted to consider Springfield too, she wouldn't provide any information on properties. So we ditched her an found a local Springfield realtor that helped us find exactly what we were looking for. Local realtors know the nuance of the community, and it made all the difference in the world for us.
Meet Your Long-Time Neighbors
Name: Pastors William & Victoria (nicknames "Pastor Ham" and "PV")
Location: W. 7th Street
Occupation: Pastors at St. Johns Lutheran Church, on Silver Street
Fun Fact: Pastor Ham (ret. Navy) is an officer for the Buffalo Soldiers Historical Society, which celebrates African American military history from 1800-1951.
What brought you to the Springfield Historic District?
Pastor Ham: The Lutheran Church called us to be here.
PV: We came to Jacksonville to pastor our church specifically, and we wanted to live in the same community that we were serving. That’s why we chose to live in Springfield.
Pastor Ham: We moved from Slidell, LA, where we had lived for 18 years. The call came down for a mission in Jacksonville, FL. The mission was to redevelop St. Johns Lutheran Church, the oldest Lutheran church in Jacksonville, the second oldest in the state. The church’s congregation was withering. We only had about 12 regulars at the time, and their average age was 74 year old. They were all European Americans, PV and I were the first black members of the church, period. Because the neighborhood at the time was 86% African American, the national Lutheran Church decided we were good candidates. So when we arrived to Springfield in 1999 to serve the church, we had to first figure out what we were going to do with it. Do we move it? Sell the building? Invest in it?
PV: If i'm remembering right, it was late 1999 when we first visited, before we actually moved. We walked around the neighborhood, up and down almost every street. We saw some early pioneers working on their houses. Everyone was friendly, no matter the status in life, and we decided to take the mission to redevelop the church.
Why move to this neighborhood specifically?
Pastor Ham: We strongly feel that you live in the community you serve. To be truly part of it.
How did you choose your home?
Pastor Ham: When we first arrived, we were renting a house short-term on Pearl Street, near W. 4th Street. But we had to move out by a date certain. We didn’t know the area very well at the time, so we had to rely on church members and new neighbors to help us find a home. Unlike today where most people go through reputable realty companies to complete the transaction, the neighborhood was still pretty unrefined in that aspect at the time. Pretty much everything was for sale for the right price. But, our budget was also limited, $100k or below. Plus, we came here to renovate lives, not houses, so the idea of a big renovation definitely did not appeal to us. During the 2000 Spring Home Tour, a congregation member called PV and I to come look at a house on the Tour that was for sale. It was mostly renovated, with just a few minor things left to work on. We met the owners, they said they had just got an offer for $108k, but would sell it to us for $99,999.00, technically just under our budget to make it work for us. They said they didn’t know the other person making the offer at all, but liked what we were trying to do in the community, so they allowed us to buy the home. They also helped us move in. Charlie & Scott were their names.
PV: We kind of feel like we didn’t choose our home, it was chosen for us, in a way. In a good way.
What was the neighborhood like around that time?
Pastor Ham: There were a lot of renovations going on in the area. People looking for houses would drive down the streets very slowly looking at potential houses, and the work that others were doing. It was a little bit more innocent of a time I think, because if someone was working on their house and saw a person in the car looking at it, the owner would invite them in to look at it, show them photo albums of the work, etc. You’d always see people sitting out on their front porches, keeping an eye on things on their block. This was before social media, so people actually went to each other’s houses to talk to each other, to get referrals for contractors, here the latest on what happened down the road, etc. Although we’re more connected now via the internet as a neighborhood, I think it was actually a more authentic kind of connection and socialability back then.
Do you have any specific memories or stories that standout?
Pastor Ham: Some time ago there was road work on 8th Street, between Silver and Main, I think. They diverted the traffic off 8th Street and on to W. 7th Street, so the traffic went right by our house. This lasted for several months. The thing is, back then, there were lots of prostitutes on 8th Street, so when the cars (aka their customers) were diverted to go by our house, the prostitutes soon followed. So for some months we had ladies of night congregating in our alleys and streets. We sometimes left the door open, and their conversations would loft into our house. They were “interesting”.
What’s changed since 1999?
Pastor Ham: The urban pioneers who bought the really cheap houses and renovated them have mostly moved on. Their houses were sold to people who could afford $300k homes. Then, the fences went up. I guess someone who buys a house for $100k may not have as much to worry about in their house as someone who can afford a $300k home, so people started to put up a lot fences. Someone that can afford an expensive house may also have two adults working, so they may not be home, also a reason to put up a fence, I guess. But I think something in the community was lost around that time, maybe a sense of openness, if that makes sense.
PV: I’m going to say this, and you quote me: there’s a thought in some African American areas that you know things are changing, or you know things must be getting better, when you see white people walking and jogging around the area. So, I think it’s fair to say that's an applicable change here.
Pastor Ham: Just after we moved in to our home, PV and I were walking around the neighborhood in the afternoon, maybe around 5pm. There was a corner store at the corner of 5th & Silver where Mr. Reed worked. It’s a vacant lot today. Anyways, we stopped in about 5pm and Mr. Reed said” You shouldn’t be walking around this time of day”. It was still light outside, but he warned us to be careful. It might not have been that bad then, he may have just been around from before when it was that bad, but that’s the advice he gave us at the time.
PV: We have momentary incidents of this or that now, but it’s changed so much for the better. The area has come a long way.
What do you hope for the neighborhood moving forward?
PV: For me, there’s always a little piece of me that wants to go back to the times when things were just turning the corner in the neighborhood. It just think it was more of an open atmosphere, where everyone knew everyone else. The neighborhood has developed so much now, that we’ve lost some of that. It seems like if you’re connected through email and social media you’re “in”, but if you’re not, then you’re sort of left out.
Pastor Ham: I hope we see respect for one another. To be tolerable of who our neighbors are, what their beliefs are, etc. We’re a diverse neighborhood with all kinds of perspectives, so respect for one another is important.
PV: It's sad to say, but Main Street really looks like a ghetto in some places, so of course we want to see that change too.
What do you enjoy about the community today?
PV: Our home is our hideaway now. It’s peaceful. And we love Three Layers Café. We sit and chat, listen to music, etc. It’s close and easy.
What advice would you have for someone looking to move to the Springfield Historic District?
Pastor Ham: Seek out the organizations that are here and become members or participate. This community is active. You can become involved in a wide range of neighborhood projects, clubs, or efforts. There’s something here for everyone. And, we’d love for you to visit St. Lutherans Church of Jacksonville, at the corner of Silver and W. 11th. It’s a diverse church, about 50/50 percent of white & black, and we welcome you to see us there.