History of RAP
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead
In the 1970s, a handful of residents watched with dismay as unique historical structures were left in disrepair or demolished before their eyes. These concerned citizens, led by Dr. Wayne Wood, decided to take action and formed Riverside Avondale Preservation in 1974 with the aim of preserving the unique scenic, cultural and historical atmosphere of the neighborhood.
In that first year the organization hired an Executive Director, published the first newspaper, and developed and coordinated member events like the Arts Festival, the Home Tour, a Fourth of July Picnic and a Haunted House on Halloween. The group also began to identify and organize opposition to activities that threatened the area’s well being, such as large-scale developments, proposed bridges and roadways that might divide the district, and the possible loss of a neighborhood school and library.
In 1979, the nomination of the Riverside area (Old Riverside, Riverside Annex and New Riverside) to the National Register of Historic Places was made a top priority. Volunteers began making records for every home in the district that was over 50 years old; according to preservation guidelines, such buildings are deemed “a contributing structure.”
In 1985, after years of survey and research, Riverside and Riverside Annex became the first Jacksonville neighborhoods to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This addition to the National Register helped to protect historical properties and bring attention to the significant and varied architecture of our area.
An architectural and historical survey of Avondale was initiated in 1985 and by 1989 Avondale, too, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. That same year, the long-awaited preservation ordinance was introduced in City Council and the city included a state-required “historical preservation concern” as an “element” of the city’s 2010 Comprehensive Plan.
In 1990, Ordinance 90-706-486 passed through City Council. This Historic Preservation Ordinance, which established the seven-member Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission, brought RAP closer to what it had been working for since 1974 by protecting landmark sites and historic districts.
That same year, the building that served as RAP’s headquarters was itself placed in jeopardy. RAP had leased the building located at 2624 Riverside Avenue from a local family for twelve years when the family decided to sell the property to St. Vincent’s Medical Center. RAP not only had to find a new home, but also had to save the old one, plus two others still on the property that were in danger of demolition. The old RAP house was saved and moved to a residential area. Soon thereafter, a woman from Ohio heard about RAP’s need for a new headquarters and donated the Buckland House at 2623 Herschel Street to RAP!
In an effort to speed up restoration efforts in the most neglected part of the neighborhood and to provide an opportunity for home ownership, RAP formed a separate organization called Riverside Avondale Development Organization (RADO) in 1998. The goal was to purchase homes, restore them and sell them to low and moderate-income purchasers. While this continues to be RADO’s mission today, RAP no long has any affiliation with the organization, and the two organizations have been completely separate and independent for many years.
Riverside Avondale Preservation is now one of the South’s largest neighborhood preservation groups, guarding and guiding the ever-evolving mix of history, architecture, culture, and commerce in the Riverside Avondale area. The organization continues to focus on balancing progress and preservation, provides services and educational opportunities to members and property owners, and works to address quality of life concerns for our neighborhood.