Did you know that at one point in time, Jacksonville was known as “The Winter Film Capital of the World?” Back in the early 1900s before Hollywood existed, lots of movies were filmed in the 904, particularly in Springfield.

Before it became the Springfield that we know, it was once one of the most prominent areas town (1880-1920), and was the first neighborhood to be established outside of downtown Jacksonville. As time went by, Springfield changed just like any other neighborhood would, and now, it is far from its old reputation. But a dedicated group of the community has decided that it’s time for a change.

In 1974, a non-profit organization called the Springfield Preservation and Revitalization Council (SPAR) formed in the Springfield Historical District. SPAR sees a future for Springfield and wants to promote that change and shift people’s perspective of the area.

Photo by: Debra Heuskin

Photo by: Debra Heuskin

“I’ve never lived in a community so connected,” said Christina Parrish-Stone, Executive Director of SPAR. “It’s like we’re a family. We have a lot of conversations and work through our problems together.”

According to SPAR’s website, their mission is to provide leadership to the residents of Historic Springfield to revitalize, preserve and restore the community through its diverse programs. That being said, they strategize ways to make Springfield more enjoyable.

They’re known for their annual PorchFest on the first Saturday of November and the Spring Home Tour in May. There’s also monthly street clean-up events where people who live in the area gather to pick-up trash. The community even hosts a baseball game where the residents past West Main Street play against the residents past East Main Street — and it gets pretty competitive (in a friendly way).

Jason Kelloway, the owner of the Social Grounds Coffee Company that’s expected to open on North Main Street between 7th and 8th Street in April 2017, roasts his own coffee and donates it to the participants picking up trash and to other organizations like the Clara White Mission, a non-profit organization that strives to prevent and reduce homelessness through advocacy, housing, job training and employment.

“People want to see something happen,” Kelloway said. “It’s a wave of momentum.”

By hosting events like these, they’re hoping to draw in people from different parts of Jacksonville so they can see what Springfield has to offer, and use culture and art to show the diversity in the community.

SPAR’s Community Engagement Coordinator, Kevin O’Halloran also believes it’s time for a change.

“It’s a historic relic, it’s accessible and it’s close to downtown … There’s still a lot of work to do,” O’Halloran said.

Trash Pick-up Photo by: Stephanie Acar

Trash Pick-up
Photo by: Stephanie Acar

So far, they have 10 new businesses coming to the Springfield area in 2017. SPAR is also in the works of building and restoring the dog parks and gardens.

“The reason we chose Springfield really came down to two major factors. One, it is a historic neighborhood with great potential and second, the property prices in Springfield are very competitive for new businesses who are looking to open there,” said Dennis Espinosa, owner of the Main and Six Brewing Company, opening this fall.

SPAR likes to support the local businesses whether they’re large or small and offer ways for businesses to earn grants. Not only do they have their support, but they also have the support of the community.

“The Springfield crowd was relentless. They wanted us to move into their neighborhood,” said Alexandra McKeown, owner of Hyperion Brewing Company who’s expecting to open later this spring. “Every time we went to a local event, a First Friday, Porchfest or downtown serving at Hemming Park … the residents of Springfield were proud of their community, welcoming and genuine about their desire to see new commercial enterprises in the area. It was an easy decision and we’ve been met with so much support.”

The Block Skate Supply is another business coming to Springfield to support the local skating community in (possibly) spring 2017. They’ll provide skateboards, shoes, clothing and accessories for skaters.

“Springfield is definitely on the rise. There are tons of great people and new businesses moving into the area to complement the already great aesthetic of the community,” said Pete McMahon, owner of Block Skate Supply. “We hope to continue to show the positive impact skateboarding can have on our youth and Jacksonville as whole, and get more skate parks built.”

SPAR very optimistic about the future of Springfield as well as the residents.

West Main St. won against East Main St. Photo By: Bill Hoff

West Main St. won against East Main St.
Photo By: Bill Hoff

Kelloway and his wife described Springfield as a hidden jewel that is having its history and dignity restored.

“It’s the forgotten part of the city,” said Amanda Kelloway, Jason’s wife.

“If they knew the history, it’ll change perceptions,” Kelloway said. “We’re all in this together because it’s about all of us. We’re going to be a part of history creating the change that Springfield hasn’t seen in years.”

While working to bring businesses to the area, SPAR is hoping to bring new residents to the area to experience what Springfield has to offer, but it’s all about taking it one step at a time. The future for Springfield sounds promising, we’ll just have to wait and see what the outcome is.