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Florida Baptist Convention Building | Photo © 2016 Bullet, www.abandonedfl.com

Florida Baptist Convention Building

City/Town:
Location Class:
Built: 1924 | Abandoned: ~1980s
Historic Designation: National Register of Historic Places (1984)
Status: Abandoned
Photojournalist: David Bulit

Florida Baptist Convention Building

Constructed in 1924, the Florida Baptist Convention Building was designed by renowned architect Henry John Klutho to house the denominational offices of the Florida Baptist Convention and the Witness Press, a church publishing organization. Despite objection by church officials due to the financial risks involved, director S. A. Rogers obtained approval to construct the building that would provide rental income and potential expansion. At the time, no other state convention had constructed its own office building. Unlike Klutho’s other works, this building was not built in the Prairie School style he was known for. Instead, he employed modest classical decorative elements in its façade with a practical approach that characterized commercial design in the 1930s.

At the request of Convention officials, the original four-story structure was designed to permit expansion. Less than a year after its construction, one of its occupants, the U.S. Veterans Bureau, requested additional space, prompting the construction of a fifth floor. Within another year, the Bureau vacated the building following the revelation of the fraud committed during the Harding Administration by Bureau Director Charles R. Forbes.  

In 1928, two other federal agencies moved into the third and fourth floors of the building, the Prohibition Bureau and the Intelligence Unit of the U.S. Treasury Department who were in charge of enforcing the eighteenth amendment. The Southern Bell Telephone Company occupied one floor of the building in 1928. The building was renamed the Rogers Building in 1932, serving as the headquarters for several insurance companies including Independent Life, which was in the process of turning Jacksonville into the insurance center of the southeast. In addition, the office of architect Mel Greeley was located here between 1946 and 1954. During this period, he directed the Florida State Board of Architecture affairs. 

Henry J klutho sketch
Original rendering of the Florida Baptist Building by Henry J. Klutho

Future Plans

In 1959, the Florida Baptist Convention sold the structure and relocated to a larger site located just south of downtown. At the time of its addition to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, the building was known as the 218 West Church Street Building. It was occupied by Register and Cummings, a Jacksonville engineering firm. In August 2020, it was announced that JWB had purchased the Florida Baptist Building and the adjacent Florida Reserve Bank with plans to develop the buildings into a city block of apartments, restaurants, and retail use.

You can read about the Florida Baptist Convention Building and many other abandoned places in my books, Abandoned Jacksonville: Remnants of the River City and Abandoned Jacksonville: Ruins of the First Coast.

1949 sanborn florida baptist
1949 Sanborn Insurance Map of Jacksonville, Florida. The Florida Baptist Convention Building can be seen at the top, then known as the Rogers Building. Library of Congress

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Bullet

David Bulit is a photographer, author, and historian from Miami, Florida. He has published a number of books on abandoned and forgotten locales throughout the United States and continues to advocate for preserving these historic landmarks. His work has been featured throughout the world in news outlets such as the Miami New Times, the Florida Times-Union, the Orlando Sentinel, NPR, Yahoo News, MSN, the Daily Mail, UK Sun, and many others. You can find more of his work at davidbulit.com as well as amazon.com/author/davidbulit.

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