Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Of all places

"Why on earth would you move to Springfield?"

6 years ago when the lease for our 2-bedroom/1 bath apartment in a run-of-the-mill apartment complex was up for renewal and after many tours driving through Historic Springfield, hubby and I oohing and aaaahing over the beautiful old houses, we took the plunge and set our signatures under a rental contract for a humongous 3 bedroom/1 bath apartment in an almost 100 year old home overlooking an inner city park. Not only did we fall in love with our landlady who is just the sweetest but we knew the moment we set foot into the apartment, seeing the light-flooded airy rooms with the high ceilings and glossy hardwood floors, that this is how we wanted to live.
[A house in Historic Springfield - no, not ours]

Our friends weren't quite as excited. Frankly, most of them were utterly flabbergasted that we would consider moving into this neighborhood. You see, Springfield, as most urban core neighborhoods, looks back onto years of rough history and these times are not yet forgotten with most residents. Springfield carries somewhat of a reputation for being a rough, tough and tumble neighborhood and at some point this reputation did ring true. Then, gentrification began ...

One by one dilapidated homes were bought and rehabbed restoring houses and the oak-lined streets of the historic district to their former glory (well, the ghost of their former glory - it will take many more years to get anywhere near Springfield's original beauty). Neighbors banded together, cleaned alleys and parks and worked toward turning the neighborhood around. When we moved in Springfield had already come a long long way, the shared love for those old houses bringing people from all walks of life together.

Is everything peachy-keen now? I'd be lying if I said it were :o) Springfield is, like its century-old houses, a work in progress but it's definitely well on its way. Sure there are still a few rough patches around, as an urban core neighborhood we experience homeless people roaming, break ins and our fair share of other inner city crime but this neighborhood has improved by leaps and bounds. I feel safe, I know my neighbors look out for us and we for them and I can't think of a tighter knit community.

"People come for the houses, and stay for the people."

People tend to fall in love with the charm of the historic homes but what sucks you really into the 'hood are the people. They come from all walks of life and are as diverse as you'd expect from an urban core neighborhood. And they -do- stuff: we have a Mommies group, a women's club, a community garden, an animal rescue group, a garden club, and, and, and.
We rope off an entire block for First Friday neighborhood parties and cart our children in groups of 20-30 around the neighborhood on hay rides for Halloween. Santa Claus rides through Historic Springfield on a fire truck, we have cook-offs and Dog Days in the Park, and so much more. Springfield never gets old![Truth be told, hubby and I toured a few houses outside of Springfield at the beginning of our house hunting adventure but every time we ended up realizing we were not willing to give up Springfield and all that it comes with.]

[Historic Springfield map: New Springfield is actually Brentwood - don't let it fool you ;o)
Historic Springfield has very clearly defined borders]

Soo, what's the deal with Springfield?

Historic Springfield is a small historic neighborhood in Jacksonville, FL, just north of the downtown core. The district contains 119 city blocks, an area just shy of a square mile, with approximately 1500 structures representing building styles such as wood frame vernacular structures, some examples of late 19th century revival and romantic styles, including Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and the Stick style. 20th century types include Prairie School, Bungalow, and Mediterranean. You can find the occasional brick pavers and granite curbstones, carriage stepping stones and wrought iron fences scattered throughout the neighborhood, hinting at the turn of the century origins in the shade of the large oak trees lining the streets. It was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1987. You can find the entry here

However, Springfield is best experienced than talked about. For us, hubby the city crawler and me the country gal, it's a fantastic compromise between living right smack in the middle of town while being surrounded by green.
I pulled up a couple of links, in case you'd like to see and read some more. It's getting late and the excitement over our closing on our own piece of Springfield on Friday is wearing me out for good :o)

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