One of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Jacksonville, the Riverside area blossomed after a tragic fire almost destroyed the entire city in 1901. Architects flocked to the area and lent their then-cutting-edge skills to the rebuilding process. The result was an area filled with a variety of stunningly designed—but eminently livable—houses and buildings, many of which survive to this day.
The tree-lined streets have a gentle Southern charm to them, but a diverse mixture of residents and businesses gives the area an energy and sense of style that’s largely missing from many other areas of the city.
The best place to start exploring the area is Riverside Park (753 Park St.), which is the heart of the neighborhood. Walking paths are shaded by century-old trees, stone bridges cross tiny duck-filled lakes, and despite the proximity of I-95, the vibe here is resolutely pastoral. The park is also home to arts fairs, farmers markets, and other local gatherings.
Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
Nearby, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens (829 Riverside Ave., 904/356-6857, www.cummer.org, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Tues., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Wed.–Fri., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sat., noon–5 p.m. Sun., $10 adults, $6 seniors, military, and students, children 5 and under free) sits on the banks of the St. Johns River and is best known for its permanent collection of Meissen porcelain works. In addition there’s a strong focus on early-20th-century American art and European Old Masters.
The two-acre garden complex overlooks the river, and there are several distinct gardens, all of which were conceived as residential gardens. With their selection of sculptures and statues, they nicely complement the museum’s artistic efforts.
Walking through Five Points (intersection of Park St., Lomax St., and Margaret St.) may not be quite as refined an experience as a stroll through the Cummer Gardens, but the area’s quirky mix of shops, restaurants, and music venues gives it a definite pulse.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition