Timeline

Photo courtesy of Jacksonville Historic Society

Historic information has been obtained from the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; the Olmsted Historic Site, Brookline, Massachusetts; the Memorial Park Association archives held at the Jacksonville Historic Society, and the Jacksonville Public Library, and other sources around the country.

Park Timeline

1918
November 12

November 12, 1918

Movement started by the Jacksonville Rotary Club to honor Florida’s dead in World War I begins with an idea proposed by George W. Hardee, Rotary president.
1919
June 13

June 1919

June 1919
City of Jacksonville purchases a 6.5-acre tract on Riverside Avenue for $125,000 for a waterfront memorial park. The land had already been bulkheaded along the waterfront and filled by private parties by pumping in sand from the river.
December 13

1919-1920

1919-1920
A Citizens Committee is appointed to work with the City to plan the park and raise funds for the memorial: Morgan V. Gress, Chairman; George W. Hardee, Vice Chairman; Mrs. Arthur G. Cummer, Treasurer; Miss Edith Gray and Mrs. McGarvey Cline, Secretaries
1920
July 13

1920

1920
Citizens Committee selects Charles Adrian Pillars of St. Augustine as the sculptor to create a bronze memorial sculpture to be the focal point of the park. Pillars’ idea is to depict the struggle of life and its subsequent victory.
October 13

1920

Citizens Committee raises $52,000 for the sculpture and park.
1921
December 13

1921-1922

1921-1922
At the suggestion of Harold Hume, a noted horticulturist, Glen Saint Mary, Florida, the Citizens Committee engages the nationally famous Olmsted Brothers of Brookline, Massachusetts to design the park. (James Frederick Dawson (left), Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., (center), and Percival Gallagher (right)) Photo courtesy of National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site.)
1922
February 3

February 3, 1922

Ninah Cummer invites the Olmsted Brothers to discuss a design for the park.
April 13

Spring, 1922

Pillars, sculptor, submits sketches of the bronze sculpture to Olmsted.
October 13

October 1922

Preliminary improvements for the park begins. Soil is hauled in to raise the level and furnish a place for planting. Oak trees are planted.
1923
January 13

1923

City of Jacksonville begins park construction, brings on local architect Roy Benjamin to provide construction oversight.
September 13

1923-1924

Walks are laid, the memorial gates built during the winter months. The landscape planting is done.
1924
December 25

December 25, 1924

December 25, 1924
Memorial Park sculpture “Spiritualized Life” is dedicated following a 4-year effort by sculptor Charles Adrian Pillars, and a 6-year effort by the Citizens Committee. Sealed in the cornerstone are parchments upon which are written the names of the 1,220 Floridians who died in the conflict. Sculpture is unveiled by two little girls, Mary Burroughs and Mary Bedell.
1927
January 13

1927

Parks Commissioner St. Elmo Acosta determines the park “is 99 per cent finished.”
1930
January 13

1930s – 1950s

1930s – 1950s
Memorial Park continues to be a focal point for community gatherings. Original plantings grow and mature.
1935
September 13

1935

Morgan Gress seeks advice from Olmsted Brothers regarding lighting for the sculpture.
1937
June 13

June 21, 1937

Charles Adrian Pillars, the sculptor, dies in Jacksonville at the age of 67 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Jacksonville.
1941
April 23

April 23, 1941

James Frederick Dawson, the landscape architect and Olmsted Firm partner, dies in Brookline, Massachusetts at the age of 67.
1950
September 13

Late 1950s

Late 1950s
Original landscape has become densely overgrown, uninviting and potentially unsafe.
1960
September 13

1960

City of Jacksonville Parks Department undertakes a renovation to clear out “dense, straggly growth.”
1981
September 13

1981-1985

Memorial Park is once again overgrown, run down and rife with crime.
1986
December 9

December 9, 1986

Park enthusiasts and local philanthropists create Memorial Park Association to preserve and restore the park.
1987
March 23

March 23, 1987

Memorial Park Association enters into an agreement with Jacksonville’s Department of Parks under the city’s Adopt-a-Park Ordinance.
1988
January 1

January 1988

Memorial Park Association receives a matching grant from Florida’s Historic Advisory Council for restoration plans for the park. The job is undertaken by BHR Planning Group, Jacksonville. Two landscape architects participate in the design following the original Olmsted drawings, C. James King and Marty Child.
1992
January 13

January 1992

January 1992
Memorial Park Association receives a second matching grant from Florida’s Historic Advisory Council to restore and preserve Charles Adrian Pillars’ bronze sculpture “Life,” the focal point of the park. The work is done by Washington University Technology Associates, St. Louis, Missouri. Ornamental fencing is added to the park’s east and west sides following an Olmsted design.
1993
January 13

1993-1994

The entrance gates are rebuilt following the original Olmsted design. The restoration is a gift in memory of William Randle Barnett by his wife and children, Jacksonville architect Ted Pappas assists with this project. Mr. and Mrs. Walter McRae, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Ernest and Mrs. Martin Stein complete the ornamental fence along Riverside Avenue in memory of Guy Botts. Councilwoman Ginny Myrick supplies funds to upgrade lighting in the park, repair the sprinkler system, some architectural repairs and landscape the Riverside Avenue frontage following the original Olmsted plans, designed by Jacksonville landscape architects C. James King and Marty Child and installed by B & L Landscape Co.
1994
January 13

1994

1994
Memorial Park Association is honored by the Jacksonville Landmarks Commission for its revitalization of the park.
1995
January 13

1995

Three marble benches, copies of the original benches, are given to the park. One in memory of Harlow Branett by his wife, one in memory of Jaquelin J. Daniel by his wife, one in memory of Mrs. John A. Gilliland’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. W.M. McCrory, and grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Russell, by Mrs. Gilliland.
1996
January 13

1996

Mrs. Judson Freeman gives architectural urns for the plaza area near the sculpture. Mrs. Walter McRae gives a Memorial Garden which features relics from the original Riverside Avenue entrance gates.
1997
January 13

1997

For the first time, the Pillars’ sculpture is lighted for night viewing by the Roger Main Foundation.
September 13

1997

A tornado destroys nine large trees in the park.
1998
January 13

1998

Mrs. Snead Davis gives two Live Oak trees in memory of her former husband Mr. A.D. Davis.
1999
September 13

1999

Flagpoles are donated by Dr. G. Dekle Taylor.
2001
January 13

2001-2002

Phase 2 of landscape restoration begins.
2002
June 13

2002-2004

The city restores the plaza area of the park, using original bricks, repairs the pool basin and repairs the balustrades along the river.
2004
January 13

2004

Two marble benches, copies of the original, are given by Mr. Randall Berg in memory of his brother, Captain Henry Challen Berg who died during World War II and by Mr. and Mrs. W.H. Walton and family in memory of Mildred Adams Walton and William H. Walton.
September 13

2004-2005

2004-2005
The sculpture is cleaned and repaired by Patrick Rice, Objects Conservation, St. Louis Missouri. The cost is shared by the Parks Department and Memorial Park Association.
2010
January 13

2010

2010
The Association completes a $90,000 fundraising effort for two new bronze eagles.
2011
January 13

2011

Two bronze eagles, sculpted by Diane LaFond Insetta, are added to the plaza.
2012
January 13

2012

Memorial Park Association initiates major planning effort to restore/rehabilitate the park to its original grandeur.
2013
March 13

March 2013

Memorial Park Association Board of Directors adopts a Master Plan recommended by David Sacks, an Atlanta-based landscape architect.
June 13

June 2013

The City of Jacksonville City Council adopts the work of David Sacks as the MPA Master Plan to move forward.
2014
September 13

2014

The City of Jacksonville offers a matching grant of $200,000 to restore the “Spiritualized Life” sculpture and fountain. The matching funds are raised from past and current members of the Board of Directors of MPA.
2015
February 13

February 2015

First Amendment to Agreement between the City of Jacksonville and MPA is approved.
September 13

September 2015

MPA adopts a Long-Range Plan with the goal of having the park completely restored by its 100th birthday, December 25, 2024.
November 13

November 2015

Third restoration of Life sculpture is done by McKay Lodge of Overland, Ohio.
2016
September 13

2016

A list of capital improvements in the Master Plan are identified and itemized.
2017
January 13

January 2017

Olmsted authority Laurence Cotton holds Q&A session after screening of documentary, “Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America,” at Sun-Ray Cinema.
July 13

July 2017

A “quiet phase” of the Spirit of Victory $2.5 million capital campaign is launched with the first gift of $100,000. The Construction Committee begins oversight of capital improvements with the City of Jacksonville.
September 13

September 10, 2017

September 10, 2017
Hurricane Irma hits Jacksonville as a Category 4 storm, destroys the park balustrade and floods the fountain and most of the park grounds. Pictures of the iconic “Spiritualized Life” sculpture with water over the bulkhead are in newspapers from Los Angeles to London. Memorial Park launches a recovery fund to repair damage to the park lawn, benches and balustrade.
September 27

September 27, 2017

The Spiritualized Life sculpture is officially designated a “WWI Centennial Memorial” by the World War One Centennial Commission and receives $2,000 matching grant funds towards the restoration and maintenance of the memorial through 100 Cities/100 Memorials program.
October 25

October 25, 2017

Memorial Park is officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
October 30

October 30, 2017

Dr. R. B. Rosenburg, [now retired] Associate Dean and Professor of History, Clayton State University, Morrow, Georgia, begins research which eventually yields more than 500 names to be added to the original 1,220 on the Florida Fallen scrolls.
2018
September 27

September 27, 2018

September 27, 2018
In anticipation of the park’s centennial in 2024, Memorial Park Association unearths the memorial scrolls to learn the names of the Florida Fallen. During the disinterment, the scrolls are discovered to be waterlogged.
October 13

October-November 2018

October-November 2018
The memorial scrolls are restored through efforts by Ann Seibert, paper conservationist, and Starr Cox, director of archaeological conservation at the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program.
November 13

November 2018

Campaign goal of $1.5 million for the first phase of the Spirit of Victory campaign is reached.
November 13

November 11, 2018

November 11, 2018
MPA commemorates the 100-year end of WWI by producing the largest event to date featuring the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra, a glass poppy garden created by Jacksonville University students under the direction of Brian Fuhs and underwritten by Mrs. David Hicks. The evening ends with fireworks.
2019
January 1

2019

City of Jacksonville begins process to secure funds to replace the park balustrade.
January 30

January 2019

Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, author of “Saving Central Park,” is keynote speaker at Memorial Park Association annual reception
2020
June 13

June 2020

City of Jacksonville selects Intron Technologies to create new balusters and rebuild the historic balustrade.
July 13

July 2020

Memorial Park Association establishes the Memorial Park Endowment at The Community Foundation of Northeast Florida.
2021
March 13

March 2021

March 2021
Intron Technologies begins to affix the new 90-lb. balusters to the 560-foot-long stretch of seawall.
July 13

July 2021

Memorial Park Association is awarded the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2021 Outstanding Achievement Award for its restoration and rehabilitation efforts.
August 13

August 2021

August 2021
Intron Technologies completes the balustrade replacement project.