Historic Broward House Preserved (FL)

Jacksonville, 7/30/04 – The historic former summer residence of Florida’s 19th Governor, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, will be preserved as part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve thanks to a partnership between the National Park Service, the State of Florida, the City of Jacksonville, and the national nonprofit Trust for Public Land (TPL).

Announced today by TPL, the newly-protected Broward House will be added to the Timucuan State and National Parks—a unique cooperative partnership between the City of Jacksonville, the State of Florida, and the National Park Service. The Timucuan parks include some of the last unspoiled coastal wetlands on the Atlantic Coast and preserve the area’s rich historic and prehistoric sites. The Broward House is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a Landmark by the City of Jacksonville.

“The Trust for Public Land has a rich history of conservation and preservation locally with both Jacksonville and Florida, and nationally with the Park Service,” said Will Rogers, president of the Trust for Public Land. “This is our first project with the Park Service in Jacksonville, and we’re thrilled to bring together the heritage of the Broward House with the existing natural resource of Timucuan.”

The Broward House is a fine example of the Folk Victorian style of architecture, popular between 1870 and 1910. With lacy brackets on porch posts, filigreed balustrades, and a third-story cupola above a widow’s walk, the structure was built in 1878 as part of “Pilot Town,” a community home to many of the bar pilots who worked the St. Johns bar—a shifting sandbar located at the mouth of the St. Johns River. Bar pilots were essential for navigating ocean-going vessels through the shallow waters. The building has not been greatly altered or changed from its original design, and recent renovations were planned and undertaken to preserve the historical and architectural integrity of the house.

“The Broward House is a great addition to the Timucuan Preserve because it allows us to interpret the Spanish American War era in relation to one of Florida’s prominent native sons, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward,” said National Park Service Superintendent Barbara Goodman.

“The purchase of Broward House preserves a very important historical structure,” said Mayor John Peyton, City of Jacksonville. “This is further evidence that the unique partnership between the City, the National Park Service and the State of Florida is transforming the nation’s largest park system into the best. The Trust for Public Land has been an essential partner in the effort to create the model park system in Jacksonville.”

Born in rural Duval County in 1857, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward was sometimes called “Florida’s Fighting Democrat.” At over six feet tall and 200 pounds, he was a striking figure and a well known adventurer. He was also known for running guns to Cuban insurgents fighting Spain for the independence—outrunning the gunboats of both the Spanish and the U.S. government, which had outlawed gun shipments. In his boat, The Three Friends, Broward made eight successful trips to Cuba.

Broward was appointed sheriff of Duval County in 1888, and then elected to the post in 1890 and again in 1896. In 1900, he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives, and in 1904 became Florida’s 19th governor. As governor, Broward worked for better teachers salaries, prison reform, child labor laws, and an eight-hour day. Unfortunately, he is probably best known for his push to drain the Everglades.

Licensed as a bar pilot in 1883, Broward purchased the house in 1897 as a summer residence for him and his family. The residence remained in the Broward family until very recently.

Located at the turn-off to Kingsley Plantation on A1A north of the St. Johns River ferry landing, the Broward House stands at the corner of Heckscher Drive. The house was purchased from Broward’s great grandson in 1996 by attorney Karl Zillgitt, who spent the next seven years rehabilitating the structure before moving to Lakeland earlier this year. Zillgitt was the first non-Broward family member to own the house since Napoleon B. Broward bought it in 1897.

“We always wanted to own a Victorian house, and this one was really beautiful,” Zillgitt said, “It will be a really good addition to the park. If we had to give it up, this is what I hoped would happen.”

The 2.9-acre site has been inhabited for thousands of year and is almost entirely covered with a Timucuan Indian shell midden and artifacts that date back 3,500 years. This location at the mouth of the St. Johns River at the Atlantic Ocean, and on Shad Creek, leading to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, was an abundant habitat for Native Americans.

“We will soon begin a public process to gather input on how to best meet park goals and objectives while we provide protection to the historic structure along with public access,” Superintendent Goodman said. “We look forward to hearing suggestions from the public on the future use.”

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.9 million acres of land in 45 states. In Florida, TPL has protected more than 290 sites—over 200,000 acres at a market value of about $500 million. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information please contact us at (850) 222-7911