Jacksonville, FL - One of downtown Jacksonville’s most valuable vacant properties could soon be put to use.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans Kirby-Smith Camp 1209 wants to “lease” the Old Armory building from the City of Jacksonville. They intend to restore the building, which has been vacant for several years, and use it for meetings, memorabilia display, and possible civic or corporate partnerships.
“To honor the veterans who have served Jacksonville, the State of Florida and the United State,” says Camp Spokesman Hal Schemer.
Schemer says the organization realized that if someone didn’t step in, the building could remain vacant and deteriorating, and eventually reach a point where it could not be restored.
“That building is probably the most historic building in Jacksonville,” he says.
And that history over everything else is why the Camp hopes to get this lease deal approved.
“We’ve never asked for money, we just ask for an opportunity,” says Kirby-Smith Camp 1209 Commander Calvin Hart.
He says the camp is not looking for city money for this project, and would instead fund it through private partnerships, grants and other similar means.
He tells me when the Old Armory was built in 1915, it served as an important training site in preparation for World War I. The memory of the soldiers who trained at that location, as well as those who never returned from combat, are built in to the walls.
“We think that building should stand as a memorial and tribute to those soldiers,” he says.
Hart says there are also many members of the Camp and others they know who have military collections they would be willing and interested in showcasing in a museum, of sorts, which would highlight the military in Florida.
Hart knows there have been other groups that have recently shown an interest in the building, but hopes the City Council considers their commitment to preserving the history of the building along with putting it to a current use, rather than just fixing the building and altering its intent.
City Council will vote Tuesday night on the current lease proposal, which would allow the local camp to “lease” the building for $1 per year in exchange for investing in restoring it.