Mural I - "Allegory of a Library" (Right side when facing courtyard)
Setting: The architecture in this painting is based on elements from several architectural landmark buildings in Jacksonville. The top section comes from the balustrade at Memorial Park in Riverside, and the pediment is from the top of the 1905 Jacksonville Public Library on East Adams Street. Details in the lower section are from façade of the Greenleaf and Crosby building on North Laura Street. The winged figure of Freedom in the upper right of the mural is also from Memorial Park. A portrait of Taylor Hardwick, architect of the 1965 Main Library on Ocean Street is depicted in the architecture at the top of the fluted column.
This mural is an allegory of the many attributes of books: Books can take you to new heights; books can teach you something new; books can help you reach your dreams; and books can be teachers, counselors and friends.
The arbor in the second level is from the Cummer Gardens, as is the sculpted lion bench in the foreground upon which a young couple sits, reading Romeo and Juliet. In the interior are representations of several works of art from the Cummer Museum including, Marine View of Beacon Rock, Newport Harbor by John Frederick Kensett, The White Rowboat, St. Johns River by Winslow Homer, Orchid with an Amethyst Hummingbird by Martin Johnson Heade, and Horizons by Joseph Jeffers Dodge.
Two famous Jacksonville authors are inside the arch. In the distance is Zora Neale Hurston handing a copy of her well-known book Their Eyes Were Watching God to a young girl. Other books by Hurston are in the bookcase. Also in the bookcase are ceramic pieces by the beloved Jacksonville artist, Charlie Brown. Sitting in the arch in a black dress is the renowned children's author, E.L. Konigsberg. She is reading The View from Saturday while a young girl listens intently. Sitting on the ledge are more books by E.L. Konigsberg, including her very popular The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil Frankweiler.
At the bottom of the arch are the words, "Open to All". These words are on the 1905 library designed by Klutho and are also on many of the original Carnegie Libraries. A portrait of Klutho is at the top of the fluted column. The architectural portraits of Klutho and Hardwick were also inspired by the faces of "men of knowledge" in the tops of the columns of the 1905 library.
In the center of the middle section stands Jean Ribault, the French Huguenot explorer who first landed at the spot on the St. Johns River where Jacksonville eventually came to be settled. Nearby sits a little Cub Scout representing the fact that a Jacksonville man was the first African American to earn the Silver Beaver Award and also worked to enable African American young men to become Scouts. Sitting on the ground next to the Cub Scout is a copy of Jacksonville's Architectural Heritage, Landmarks for the Future, which was an invaluable resource for this mural.
The cows grazing behind the arches represent the urban legend that Jacksonville's original name was Cowford. This myth came from a misreading of labels on old maps marking a spot where the cows forded the St. Johns River.
The background of the lower level depicts the modern Jacksonville skyline, Jacksonville Landing, and the Main Street Bridge. On the river are several boats representing Jacksonville's colorful river history. These include a shrimp boat and a steamboat that once brought tourists down the St. Johns River.
On the bottom left in the foreground is the huge Crosby and Greenleaf clock. This clock symbolized the rebirth of Jacksonville after the Great Fire of 1901. The hands on the clock say 12:20, the time that the Fire is believed to have started. A little girl opens the door to the clock releasing an owl, a universal symbol of learning and wisdom. A quote from a former president of Harvard University, Charles W. Eliot, is pinned to the inside of the clock: "Books are the quietest and most constant of friends. They are the most accessible and wisest of counselors and the most patient of teachers."
The white rabbit below the clock is from a story recorded in the book, The Great Fire of 1901 by Bill Foley and Wayne W. Wood. This anecdote involves Stella, the wife of Dr. Charles Spratt, who lived and practiced in a house on the corner of Laura and Adams Streets, where the Greenleaf and Crosby clock is located today. She was with her sister and her baby Helen in the house when they heard shouting and smelled smoke. They could see the wall of flames coming down Adams Street. Stella quickly grabbed the baby and a few belongings, put them in the baby carriage and hastily evacuated. Suddenly the baby cried out "Bun-ny!" They realized they had left the child's little white rabbit behind. They raced back and retrieved the white rabbit at great risk.
Scattered at the bottom of the clock are books by William Bartram, Stetson Kennedy and James Weldon Johnson among others.
In the bottom right of this mural, inside the arch is a portrait gallery that includes depictions of a number of famous people associated with Jacksonville.
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Mural II - "Springfield Composition" (Left side when facing courtyard)
Setting: The architecture in this painting is inspired by the double porch façade of the Dr. Richard P. Daniel Residence, an historic landmark house on Hubbard Street in Springfield.
On the top porch, there is a group of musicians led by Frederick Delius in a performance of his "Florida Suite". Through the windows of the house is a view of the ocean and marshes. The silhouette of an aircraft carrier is visible representing Mayport. On the other side, a boy and a deer stand under a huge Live Oak. This view is reminiscent of Marjorie Rawlings' The Yearling. Books by Florida authors are stacked on both windowsills, including Ernest Hemingway, John Dufresne, Alison Lurie, Donald Justice, Edmund Skellings, James W. Hall and Wendy Bishop, among others.
On the lower porch a group of Jazz musicians plays. Some renowned musicians from the north Florida area are depicted here: Bunky Green on sax, Marcus Roberts on piano, Rich Matteson on the euphonium, Rick Ravelo on the bass, and J.B. Scott on trumpet. On the steps below, a woman, representing Eartha White accompanied by three young girls, sings "Lift Every Voice and Sing". In the books to the left of them are some favorite books requested by the Jacksonville Elementary school children, as well as three books on Robert A.M. Stern, the architect of the new Main Library.
A surfer seen through the window portrays Jacksonville's proximity to beaches and the ocean. "Balto," another canine character requested by Jacksonville children runs in the foreground, followed by a boy on a bike wearing a Super Bowl t-shirt as well as a Jacksonville Suns baseball cap.
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