THE BEST OF RIVERSIDE: A DAY IN JACKSONVILLE’S URBAN CORE
By Jessica Malosh, High School Senior, Class of 2022 and 2022 Ponte Vedra Focus Blog Scholarship Participant
Lovers of culture, history, and a trendy urban core are guaranteed to be captivated by the uniqueness of Riverside Jacksonville. If that sounds appealing to you, follow my footsteps on my fun-filled and intellectually stimulating day around the Riverside area that will satisfy your mind, step-count goal, and tastebuds.
Jaxson Five Points & Brooklyn Walking Tour
My Saturday morning began with a brisk walk to the Cummer Art Museum, the starting location of the Jaxson Five Points & Brooklyn Walking Tour. During this two-hour experience, I learned about the forces that shaped Riverside’s infrastructural and economic development. The tour took the group under the Fuller Warren Bridge, onto the Northbank Riverwalk, on Park Street through Five Points, and into Memorial Park before returning to the Cummer Art Museum.
Bill Delaney, the tour’s creator, is the son of Jacksonville’s former Mayor John Delaney. Bill Delaney owns several publications, including Edible Northeast Florida Magazine and Modern Cities.
“Riverside has benefitted from a series of development patterns that have made it what it is today. It started as a streetcar suburb meaning that people could live here and connect to downtown. It grew through an urban development pattern meaning it is very walkable and very centered” explains Mr. Delaney, during a kindly provided interview. “It also had the good fortune of price drops in the 1950s-60s when a lot of people from urban neighborhoods started moving into the suburbs during suburbanization. Then there was a combination of really cool and useful architecture and cheap prices that attracted artists, bohemians, musicians, and the LGBTQ+ community. That’s what makes it such a special neighborhood.”
Mr. Delaney authored the book “Secret Jacksonville: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure,” highlighting Jacksonville areas whose histories are mysterious or unknown. Participants have an opportunity to purchase an author-signed copy of the book after the tour. This is a wonderful book for all, from tourists hoping to explore Jacksonville for the first time to long-time Jacksonville citizens wanting to learn more about their community.
“When you learn the history of the area around you, it gives you a sense of connection not only to that specific place but to other places that are like it,” said Mr. Delaney. “It gives you more of a background of the people who live there before and the ways that different neighborhoods grow differently. You learn that even when you are in a place that may not seem like a unique place, it will have a combination of lots of different factors that make it a unique place.”
The Cummer Art Museum
The Cummer Art Museum is one such place that makes Riverside culturally significant. The museum was once a mansion home on the river owned by Ninah Cummer. Even though the original house is not standing anymore, the gardens facing the river and the art collections in the galleries are the same. There is even an exhibit in the museum that is a replica of the mansion’s interior.
It was now noon, and after hearing the fascinating chronology of the Cummer on the tour, I decided to go in. As luck would have it, it was the first Saturday of the month, which means admission into the museum is free. Visitors of the Cummer have the pleasure of perusing the everchanging exhibits, walking in the exquisite gardens, and getting a bite to eat at The Cummer Cafe.
I walked into the current exhibit called “American Perspectives,” one of the Cummer’s limited-time exhibits that ends May 22, 2022. This exhibit could not be more appropriate for Riverside as it showcases many different artists bound by the geographical area of America, yet vastly different in their perspectives and experiences evident in their art.
The Riverside Arts Market
While ambling in the Cummer Gardens, I started fantasizing about freshly grilled inihaw and lumpia from Cely’s Filipino Food, my favorite food vendor in Riverside Arts Market (RAM). Not even a quarter-mile from the Cummer Art Museum, the RAM is held every Saturday under the Fuller Warren Bridge. A minute later, I find myself heading towards the heavenly smells of RAM.
RAM is comprised of a myriad of tents where small business owners sell their handmade jewelry, artwork, candles, skincare, clothing, etc. There are also vendors selling fresh produce and food trucks selling delicious local food. Towards the back of the market, there is an amphitheater where musicians play live music and visitors sit to enjoy and eat their meals. After enjoying a plate of Cely’s magic, I wandered through the rows of tents for a while, stopping to admire the creativity of the local artisans.
BREW Five Points
Positively exhausted, I made my way to BREW, a cafe in the commercial strip in Five Points serving heavenly coffee and tasty baked goods, such as Kolache, Eastern European influenced pastry. For students whose homework never ends, BREW provides an abundance of charging outlets and a conducive environment to study.
Five Points Shopping District
After caffeinating at BREW, I took a stroll through the shops in Five Points. While browsing through nostalgia-inducing antiques of Fans & Stoves Mall, trying on the stylish and edgy clothes in Wolfgang, and recharging my spiritual energy in Midnight Sun, the joy of experiencing a diversity of thought, lifestyle, and beliefs washed over me. Spending time in Riverside, surrounded by many walks of life, gives me hope for a more open-minded, inclusive, and tolerant society.
About the Author
Jessica Malosh is a high school senior planning to attend University of Miami in the fall 2022. Jessica’s writing has been featured in The Resident Newspaper where she has been offered a journalism internship this summer.