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.
<! ========= Cool Timeline Free 2.5 =========>
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.
Citizens Committee raises $52,000 for the sculpture and park.
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.)
February 3, 1922
Ninah Cummer invites the Olmsted Brothers to discuss a design for the park.
Pillars, sculptor, submits sketches of the bronze sculpture to Olmsted.
Preliminary improvements for the park begins. Soil is hauled in to raise the level and furnish a place for planting. Oak trees are planted.
History of Florida: Past and Present, Historical and Biographical, Volume 1, is published in January 1923. Pages 184-201 include an incomplete list of the names of the Florida Fallen as the Citizens Memorial Committee was still compiling names when this book was published. The list contains just 1049 names, five of which were duplicates, as well as 17 names that inadvertently were not included on the scrolls.
City of Jacksonville begins park construction, brings on local architect Roy Benjamin to provide construction oversight.
Walks are laid, the memorial gates built during the winter months. The landscape planting is done.
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.
Parks Commissioner St. Elmo Acosta determines the park “is 99 per cent finished.”
Morgan Gress seeks advice from Olmsted Brothers regarding lighting for the sculpture.
June 21, 1937
Charles Adrian Pillars, the sculptor, dies in Jacksonville at the age of 67 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Jacksonville.
April 23, 1941
James Frederick Dawson, the landscape architect and Olmsted Firm partner, dies in Brookline, Massachusetts at the age of 67.
City of Jacksonville Parks Department undertakes a renovation to clear out “dense, straggly growth.”
Memorial Park is once again overgrown, run down and rife with crime.
December 9, 1986
Park enthusiasts and local philanthropists create Memorial Park Association to preserve and restore the park.
March 23, 1987
Memorial Park Association enters into an agreement with Jacksonville’s Department of Parks under the city’s Adopt-a-Park Ordinance.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For the first time, the Pillars’ sculpture is lighted for night viewing by the Roger Main Foundation.
A tornado destroys nine large trees in the park.
Mrs. Snead Davis gives two Live Oak trees in memory of her former husband Mr. A.D. Davis.
Flagpoles are donated by Dr. G. Dekle Taylor.
Phase 2 of landscape restoration begins.
The city restores the plaza area of the park, using original bricks, repairs the pool basin and repairs the balustrades along the river.
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.
Two bronze eagles, sculpted by Diane LaFond Insetta, are added to the plaza.
Memorial Park Association initiates major planning effort to restore/rehabilitate the park to its original grandeur.
Memorial Park Association Board of Directors adopts a Master Plan recommended by David Sacks, an Atlanta-based landscape architect.
The City of Jacksonville City Council adopts the work of David Sacks as the MPA Master Plan to move forward.
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.
First Amendment to Agreement between the City of Jacksonville and MPA is approved.
MPA adopts a Long-Range Plan with the goal of having the park completely restored by its 100th birthday, December 25, 2024.
Third restoration of Life sculpture is done by McKay Lodge of Overland, Ohio.
A list of capital improvements in the Master Plan are identified and itemized.
Olmsted authority Laurence Cotton holds Q&A session after screening of documentary, “Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America,” at Sun-Ray Cinema.
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 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, 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, 2017
Memorial Park is officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
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.
Campaign goal of $1.5 million for the first phase of the Spirit of Victory campaign is reached.
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.
City of Jacksonville begins process to secure funds to replace the park balustrade.
Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, author of “Saving Central Park,” is keynote speaker at Memorial Park Association annual reception
City of Jacksonville selects Intron Technologies to create new balusters and rebuild the historic balustrade.
Memorial Park Association establishes the Memorial Park Endowment at The Community Foundation of Northeast Florida.
Memorial Park Association is awarded the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2021 Outstanding Achievement Award for its restoration and rehabilitation efforts.