The historic Women’s Club building in Riverside will not become a city landmark and the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens received the go-ahead to demolish it.
The Jacksonville Planning and Development Department determined the building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, did not meet all of the criteria to be designated a city landmark, which would have stopped or slowed down the demolition process.
On Wednesday, the city’s Historic Preservation Commission voted 4-1 to deny landmark status and unanimously approved demolition.
Carolyn Kennelly started going to the Woman’s Club as a senior in high school. Throughout World War II, every Friday night the women would wear ball gowns down to the floor and the men would arrive in their dress whites. She was president of the club when the Tudor-style building received national landmark status in 1992.
“There’s not much tradition left in Jacksonville,” she said. “We need to realize we have roots like other people.”
It’s important to make sure the memories and the work the women did do not fade away, she said.
The commission decided last month to have the planning department complete the report as a matter of precedent for future demolitions of historic buildings.
The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, which owns the Mellen Clark Greeley-designed building, intended to restore it, but after Formosan termites were found in the building museum officials asked the commission for permission to demolish.
Hope McMath, director of the museum, said it will continue to recognize the club’s work. She said she doesn’t know the timeline for demolition, but the museum will salvage the tile and brick for future use, while disposing of the wood.
It will be the first time in recent memory that a historic building has been demolished for termites, said Kristen Reed, chief of the community planning division.
The building has been plagued with Formosan termites for months, and they have been found in other old buildings in the Riverside area.
The city created a Formosan termite task force made up of preservation groups, researchers, pest control companies and others to focus on training and outreach. The group met for the first time earlier this month.