James Weldon Johnson Park History

On a warm spring day, lunch goers gather at outdoor tables enjoying food truck fare as live music echoes amid the downtown architecture. Sculptures stand tall and inviting, historic monuments beckon visitors and residents while dynamic mosaic art creates brilliant color accents along cement walls. 

This is James Weldon Johnson Park, located in the heart of downtown Jacksonville, flanked by City Hall, the Main Library and other notable buildings. It is an urban square whose vibrancy is palpable, whether through its daily happenings or many community events. This space, this 1.5-acre park, has been a gathering center since its earliest beginnings in 1866, when the city paid heirs of Isaiah D. Hart $10 to gain permanent ownership. Hart, Jacksonville’s founder and original urban planner, set aside the park land that has continued its use as one of the city’s oldest landmarks. This is a testament to the staying power of the location, especially given the many historic sites the city has not been able to preserve. 

 Today, this park has grown into a modern, urban space that engages diverse communities and restores vitality to our downtown. Memories are created here, whether from the various eats, tunes or artistic gatherings, or the everyday lunch with coworkers and friends. James Weldon Johnson Park is a daily experience in shared energy and joy- the intensity that only Jacksonville residents and visitors coming together in their park can create.  

 While the park has gone through many changes, it continues as the heartbeat of downtown: it is the place where history was and is made. That’s why the Friends of James Weldon Johnson Park are working closely with the city on a re-design for this iconic park. This important effort will continue a revitalization fitting to the park’s namesake, one of Jacksonville’s most accomplished native sons. 

Our park’s ability to connect the beautiful and vibrant diversity that is Jacksonville will only strengthen and grow in shared value. We look forward to seeing you downtown at James Weldon Johnson Park!