St. Andrew's Episcopal Church (aka Old St. Andrew's) was designed by architect Robert S. Schuyler in the Gothic Revival style. Schuyler also designed St. Peter's Church in Fernandina, built in 1881, as well as chapels in Waldo, Fairbanks, Pablo Beach, and Lake Santa Fe. St. Andrew's was built in 1887 on a single level using brick masonry and contained a massive front corner tower with louvered belfry and steep spire roof. It stood at 317 Florida Avenue, now 317 A. Phillip Randolph Boulevard.
St. Andrew's was the only major church in the city that survived the Great Fire of 1901.
Economic BoomBeginning with World War II, the area along the river north of the city center experienced an economic boom as dozens of industrial operations moved in. Liberty Ships were built to support the war effort. The Gator Bowl Stadium was erected in 1949 and construction began on the Mathews Bridge, which opened in 1953. Jacksonville Baseball Park began construction in 1954. The once quiet neighborhood had become undesirable, and residents began to move elsewhere. Residential development in the suburbs increased dramatically, and membership at St. Andrews fell to the point that it could no longer support itself. The Arlington Mission of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida was created in July 1959, and in January 1960, it was renamed St. Andrew's and all the furnishings and memorials of the old St. Andrew's were moved to 7801 Lone Star Road.
Old St. Andrew's Episcopal Church was deconsecrated, closed and boarded up. The once thriving area around the church declined, and by the late 1970s the building had fallen into disuse and disrepair. Vacant for almost three decades, the building was a tremendous challenge for historic preservation. The situation changed with the arrival of the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team, as the City of Jacksonville purchased most of the land around Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, including the Old St. Andrew's site.
RebirthThe City of Jacksonville gave the Jacksonville Historical Society the rights to the building to restore it. According to the JHS website, many people thought that the condition of the structure was beyond repair. However, a $242,000 preservation grant was secured from the state of Florida in 1996, and a challenge grant from the Weaver Foundation helped the JHS to raise $1 million to complete the project. Restoration began in 1996 and was completed on April 18, 1998, with the structure becoming the new home of the Jacksonville Historical Society. Since restoration the building is seen as one of the finest specimens of nineteenth-century architecture in Duval County, and it is a popular spot for meetings, weddings and other civic events. It was the site of the ESPN Super Bowl XXXIX party in January 2005.