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Public School No. 8 | Photo © 2016 Bullet, www.abandonedfl.com

Public School No. 8

Location Class:
Built: 1909 | Abandoned: 2013
Status: Abandoned
Photojournalist: David Bulit

Public School No. 8 | Photo © 2016 Bullet, www.abandonedfl.com
The school has been closed since 2005

Known today as Public School No. 8, it first opened its doors in 1909 originally as Graded Springfield School. Though it’s uncertain who designed the building, it was likely designed by Richard Lewis Brown, Jacksonville’s first black architect, due to his extensive work with the Duval County School Board.

It’s not possible to talk about the school’s history without talking about the Phoenix Avenue neighborhood where it was built. Dating back to 1904, it was originally platted as the Dyal-Upchurch subdivision by Benjamin Dyal and Frank Upchurch. Their investment company moved from Georgia to Jacksonville following the Great Fire of 1901, the name “Phoenix” representing the city rising from the ashes of that fire.

With the different industries surrounding it, Phoenix Avenue developed as a working-class neighborhood largely built out before the start of World War II. This growth led to a need to expand the school in 1926. Roy Benjamin was hired to design the school’s expansion who is best known for designing the city’s Florida Theatre and San Marco Theatre.

Public School No. 8 | Photo © 2016 Bullet, www.abandonedfl.com
Public School No. 8 etched in the stone above the entrance

The neighborhood steadily grew until the early-1960s when the Haines Street Expressway was constructed just east of the school which limited access to the neighborhood. The 1960s also marked the decline of the city as a whole, plagued with corruption, an aging and overcrowded school system, and corruption among city officials. With the decline of the neighborhood, so did the school, and in 1991, it became a Montessori school in an effort to repurpose aging and under-performing schools in blighted neighborhoods. The school was also renamed J. Allen Axson Elementary School after the school’s longtime principal, James Allen Axson. The idea was that these schools would provide special courses that parents across the county might have an interest in enrolling their children into.

public school 8 fire
The school auditorium after the fire, 2021. Photo courtesy of the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department

By the late-1990s, it was the second-oldest public school building still in operation and it was in need of a $10 million investment from the school board to continue to do so. Instead of investing in the aging structure, the school board opted on building a new school 17 miles away. After the opening of the new Southside campus, Public School No. 8 operated as the Northeast Springfield Head Start Center before permanently closing in 2013. On the morning of May 30, 2021, firefighters responded to a fire at the vacant building. The fire department found that the fire was intentionally started in multiple spots within the building and called in the State Fire Marshall as the most likely cause was arson.

You can read about Public School No. 8 and many other abandoned places in my books, Abandoned Jacksonville: Remnants of the River City and Abandoned Jacksonville: Ruins of the First Coast.


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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