Group will help cast vision for how to honor local history as part of new development ~
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Plans to create a vibrant destination near Cascades Park are continuing to unfold as North American Properties (NAP) today announced the formation of a Community Historical User Group. The group will work with the development team to explore the historical and architectural significance of the three vacant buildings on the site and help cast a vision for how to best honor their history.
“Our goal with this project is to capture the spirit of Tallahassee and create a vibrant destination that serves as a source of pride for everyone,” said Shawn McIntyre, NAP Florida partner. “We believe that community engagement is a key step toward that end. This site is steeped in history, and we’re excited that this distinguished group of volunteers has committed to helping us determine how to best capture that history so that it will be remembered by generations to come.”
The user group – comprised of educators, preservationists, civil rights activists and community leaders – held its first meeting today at Cascades Park. Group members include*:
• Althemese Barnes
• John Due
• Gerald Ensley
• Delaitre Hollinger
• Dr. David Jackson
• Dr. Jennifer Koslow
• John Lawrence
• Alissa Slade Lotane
• James McAllister
• Rev. Henry Marion Steele
• Dr. Melissa Stoller
• Dr. Linda Teague
*More information on these members can be found in the addendum to this release.
Following the meeting, the group toured the historical buildings on the project site to better understand their current condition and to see firsthand the results of the extensive renovations that took place over the years to transform the structures into office space for the State of Florida.
All three of the buildings display architectural features of the Art Moderne style. Sometimes called “Streamline Moderne” for the frequent use of speed line accents on the exterior of buildings, Art Moderne architecture is a late variant of Art Deco architecture that emerged during the 1930s. The style’s simple, clean lines reflected both the economic realities of the Great Depression, as well as influences from industrial design to “streamline” buildings with aerodynamic curves.
The following offers a brief historical overview of each building on the project site according to local historian, Jonathan Lammers.
Firestone Building (Former Leon County Jail)
• Address: 409 E. Gaines Street
• Year Built: 1937
• Historical Significance: The Leon County Jail is significantly associated with the Civil Rights Movement in Tallahassee. Primarily, this association stems from various Civil Rights protests during the early 1960s, when peaceful African-American demonstrators, including FAMU students, were arrested and held in the jail.
• Structural Modifications: Since serving as the county jail in the early 1960’s, the Firestone building has undergone extensive remodeling efforts that have significantly eroded its historic integrity. These include the complete removal of interior features, as well as exterior alterations, including the replacement of all windows.
Bloxham Annex (Former Leon County Health Unit)
• Address: 325 E. Gaines Street
• Year Built: 1940
• Historical Significance: Jointly funded by Leon County, the City of Tallahassee and the Works Progress Administration (WPA), this building served as the first permanent home for the Leon County Health Unit, which was the oldest in the state. The Health Unit was staffed by interracial nurses and provided prenatal treatment for pregnant women, childhood vaccinations for smallpox, diphtheria and typhoid, dental examinations and treatment for common ailments such as hookworm. The building’s modern exterior was meant to reflect efficient technical and scientific medical work, and was described The Daily Democrat in July 1940 as “a great monument of progress of Floridians over disease, ill health, poor sanitation, and poverty.”
• Structural Modifications: The building is a clear and well-preserved example of Streamline Moderne design carried out under the aegis of the Public Works Administration. The building retains excellent exterior integrity. The only notable exterior alteration is the replacement of the original multi-light steel sash casement windows. The interior has been completely remodeled and no longer conveys clear association with its use as a health unit.
Bloxham Annex A / DNR Douglas Building (Former WPA District OfJices)
• Address: 319 E. Gaines Street
• Year Built: 1939
• Historical Significance: This building was originally constructed as the Works Projects Administration (WPA) District Offices. The WPA was created in 1935 as the largest and most ambitious of the New Deal programs designed to provide jobs and improve infrastructure during the Great Depression. It worked in tandem with similar federal programs, including the Public Works Administration (PWA). In Tallahassee, the WPA or PWA funded numerous civic projects, including the Leon County Jail, Leon High School, the Leon County Health Unit, the Leon County Armory, an addition to the old Florida
Capitol and the Dining Hall at Florida State University.
• Structural Modifications: As with the former Leon County Health Unit, of which it is a semi-twin, the building is a clear and well-preserved example of Streamline Moderne design. The only notable exterior alteration is the replacement of the original windows, and potentially the alteration of a wall at the basement level on the east facade. The interior has been completely remodeled and no longer conveys clear association with its original use.
North American Properties first became involved in the redevelopment project following an August 2016 Request for Proposals (RFP) issued by the Tallahassee CRA. NAP and its local partners were selected to bring forth plans for a vibrant mixed-use destination adjacent to Cascades Park. NAP is a national company with a local office in Tallahassee, and a history of quality investment in the city as demonstrated by the more than $150 million invested primarily in the Gaines Street Corridor.
For more information, visit cascadesproject.com
ABOUT NORTH AMERICAN PROPERTIES
Founded in 1954, North American Properties (NAP) is a privately-held, multi-regional real estate operating company that has acquired, developed and managed a variety of retail, multifamily, mixed-use and office properties across the U.S. The company also holds extensive experience developing successful mixed-use projects surrounding public parks, including the Historic Fourth Ward Park in Atlanta and Centennial Park in Nashville. Locally, NAP has invested more than $150 million in quality, mixed-use developments in Tallahassee since 2013, specifically in the Gaines Street District. These projects have collectively created more than 800 construction jobs and nearly 200 permanent ongoing jobs, with a total annual economic impact of more than $17 million. Most recently, the company relocated Tallahassee-based J.H. Dowling Construction Materials from their office on Madison Street to a more efficient facility on Jackson Bluff Road through adaptive reuse of two vacant buildings. The relocation enabled the 70-year-old, family-owned company to remain in business and expand its local presence.
Addendum: Community Historical User Group Member Bios
• Founder of Riley House Museum
• Spearheaded Smokey Hollow Memorial project
• Established The Florida African American Heritage Preservation Network, a statewide professional museum association in 1997
• Received the Evelyn Fortune Bartlett Award, the highest annual award from the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, Inc.
• Education: Bachelor’s in Music Education, Master’s in Guidance and Counseling (FAMU)
• Civil Rights activist and attorney
• Graduate of FAMU law school
• Moved to Tallahassee in the early 60’s to get involved in the Civil Rights Movement
• Husband of the late Patricia Stephens-Due, who spent 49 days in the old Leon County Jail in 1960 after refusing to pay a Sine for sitting in a Woolworth’s “White only” lunch counter in Tallahassee
• Renowned Community Columnist for the Tallahassee Democrat
• Retired from the Tallahassee Democrat after 35 years but continues to contribute as Senior Writer with a specific focus on history
• The recipient of more than 50 state and national awards for his writing
• Graduate of FSU
• Executive Director/CEO of the National Association for the Preservation of African- American History & Culture, Inc.
• President of Aquilina Howell Foundation
• Founding Curator and Associate Director of Taylor House Museum of Historic Frenchtown
• Published two award-winning books: And This Too Shall Pass – The Story of Aquilina C. Howell and STAND UP!: 75 Young Activists Who Rock the World and How You Can Too!
Dr. David Jackson
• Associate Provost for Graduate Education, Dean of the Graduate College and Professor of History at FAMU
• Author or editor of five scholarly books, including Go Sound the Trumpet! Selections in Florida’s African American History
• Serves on the Board of the Florida Historical Society and was Chairman of the Board for the John G. Riley House Museum and Resource Center of African American History and Culture
• The recipient of multiple honors and awards for his leadership and academic contributions
• Education: Bachelor’s in History Education, Master’s in Public Administration (FAMU); Ph.D. in History (University of Memphis)
Dr. Jennifer Koslow
• Associate Professor of History at FSU
• Former Assistant Director of the Dr. William M. Scholl Center for Family and Community History at the Newberry Library in Chicago
• Community engagement includes work on Tallahassee Moderne; Tallahassee Civil Rights Memorial Sidewalk; nomination of Meridian Road to National Register of Historic Places; Smokey Hollow Historic American Landscape Survey Project
• Author of Cultivating Health: Los Angeles Women and Public Health Reform
• Former science teacher at Leon High School and first African-American principal at Godby High School
• Former Bureau Chief of Adult and Community Education at the Florida Department of Education.
• Active in the community through numerous organizations, including the Council on Culture & Arts (COCA), Tallahassee Urban League, Leon County Housing Finance Authority, Leon County Investment Oversight Committee
• Holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology from North Carolina Central University and two master’s degrees from Florida A&M University
Alissa Slade Lotane
• Chief, Bureau of Historic Preservation, Florida Department of State
• Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer for Florida
• Former Supervisor, Historic Preservation Grants program at the Florida Department of State
• Holds B.S. in History (Troy University), M.A. in Anthropology (FSU), & Certificate inMuseum Studies (FSU)
• Held fellowships at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Ca’d’Zan at Ringling Museum of Art, and Appleton Museum of Art
• Ph.D. student of 19th century American history at FSU
• 21-year resident of Tallahassee
• Helped create Tallahassee Moderne website; completed research project on the Firestone building
Rev. Henry Marion Steele
• Civil Rights activist who was instrumental in desegregating the Tallahassee public bus system in the 1950s
• At age 16, was among the youngest to be incarcerated at the old Leon County Jail during the Civil Rights Movement
• The son of Civil Rights leader, Rev. C.K. Steele
• Retired from the pastoral ministry and works at the Tallahassee Senior Center
• Graduate of Morehouse College and Colgate-Rochester Divinity School
Dr. Melissa Stoller
• Executive Director of Tallahassee Trust for Historic Preservation
• Worked as consultant and preservation specialist conducting architectural survey and evaluation, National Register Nomination, historic context studies
• Holds M.S. in Historic Preservation (University of Oregon), Ph.D. in Design & Human Environment (Oregon State University)
Dr. Linda Teague
• Grew up in the Myers Park neighborhood
• Former Teacher at Leon High School for 36 years (History, AP Psychology, Student Government) and adjunct professor at FSU (Social Science Education)
• Member of Tallahassee Historical Society
• Played a significant role in the historical research of Leon High School and its placement on the National Register of Historic Places
• Author of The Lions’ Pride: A Pictorial and Anecdotal History of Leon High School