Originally designated as a public square, the 1.5-acre parcel that now comprises Hemming Park is Jacksonville’s first and oldest park.
In 1866 it was sold to the city for $10 by the heirs of Isaiah D. Hart, the founder of Jacksonville. Watch this video to learn more.
Hemming Park was the cultural and social center of the city, and for over a century it was the heart of downtown—becoming the hub of commerce, and the public meeting place for citizens from all walks of life. In 1978 the grass was removed, and the park was redesigned as a plaza.
Current efforts by the Friends of Hemming Park seek to breathe life back into the heart of our city once again by transforming it into a green, urban gathering space to serve as the epicenter of the revitalization of Jacksonville.
Timeline of Hemming Park events:
- 1866: The heirs of Isaiah D. Hart sell the park to the City of Jacksonville for $10. The park is known as City Park.
- 1869: The St. James Hotel is constructed across the street. The park is renamed St. James Park.
- 1899: Civil War veteran Charles C. Hemming dedicates a monument to the park, which stands today in the center. The park is renamed Hemming Park.
- 1901: The Great Fire of 1901 burned and destroyed most of Jacksonville’s urban core. The Charles C. Hemming monument was the lone structure standing in the park.
- 1977: Hemming Park undergoes a transformation into a plaza. Bricks and pavers are introduced, covering over the lawn and natural landscape. The park is then named Hemming Plaza.
- 2014: Friends of Hemming Park are awarded a contract to manage the plaza using placemaking, events, programs, and new amenities to revitalize the public space. The plaza is renamed Hemming Park to invoke the aspiration to introduce more greenspace and encourage an atmosphere where the edges are once again softened and natural.
Hemming Park has a variety of historical landmarks and monuments, including:
- Charles C. Hemming monument – Dedicated in 1899, the monument that stands in the center of the park.
- Charles Edward Bennett statue – Dedicated to the Jacksonville, Florida statesman.
- JFK monument – Memorializing when President John F. Kennedy came to speak in 1960.
- Great Fire of 1901 plaque – Commemorates the Great Fire of Jacksonville, which burned a majority of the city to the ground. The community quickly pulled their resources together to rebuild the urban center.
- Ax Handle Saturday plaque – Because of its high visibility and patronage, Hemming Park and surrounding stores were the site of numerous civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s. Black Sit-ins began on August 13, 1960 when students asked to be served at the segregated lunch counter at Woolworths, Morrison’s Cafeteria and other eateries. They were denied service and this came to a head on “Ax Handle Saturday”, August 27, 1960.
Come visit us in Hemming Park to learn more about our history and see what the future has in store for the park.