Originally named Riverside Park School, it was built in 1891 and was a small wooden school house. Due to a population increase in the area, wings and extensions were added to the building until it was considered a fire hazard.
In 1915, Duval County voters passed a $1 million bond to build more than a dozen new brick school houses. The school built over the site of the old Riverside Park School was first known as Public School No. 4, before it was later renamed to Annie Lytle Elementary School, after it’s former long-time teacher and principal. Built by Florida Engineering and Construction Company, construction started in 1917 and was designed by architect Rutledge Holmes, one of many architects who moved to Jacksonville after the Great Fire of 1901 and who’s work can still be seen today throughout the city, such as the Professional Building and the Holmes Block.
It was completed in 1918 and cost over $250,000 to construct. Overlooking Riverside Park, the grand brick building had many beautiful features such as columns at the school entrance, a very large auditorium, high ceiling classrooms, large windows, and a large fireplace in the cafeteria. The classrooms were located on the second floor, while the administrative rooms, library, lunch room and auditorium were located on the first floor.
In the 1950s, the construction of I-95 and I-10 isolated the school, leading it to it’s closure in 1960. Sometime after, the building was used as office space and storage for the for the Duval County Public School System before it was condemned in 1971. There are stories that it was rented out to a Catholic school in the late-60s or early-70s, but there is no evidence to confirm this.
On October 29, 1999, Foundation Holding Incorporated purchased the property in order to build “Lytle Place Condominiums” in its place, but due to public outcry and pressure from multiple historic societies, Jacksonville approved historic landmark designation in 2000, halting any plans for demolition for the time being.
Abandoned 40 years ago, time has taken it’s toll on the old school house. Signs of vandalism can be seen throughout, as almost every inch of the interior walls are covered in graffiti and garbage is littered about. In 1995, there was a fire which lead to the roof of the auditorium to cave in.
The school is frequented by many teens and is known to the many residents of Jacksonville as the local haunt, famous for the rumors and legends that surround it. Of the many legends associated with the school, my favorite would be the story of the janitor who took kids down into the boiler room and burned them alive, until one escaped and blowing up the boiler room in the process, causing the east wing to catch fire….which just makes me think someone saw Nightmare on Elm Street too many times.