Public School Number Four

Public School Number Four was constructed on the former Riverside Park School site. The modest in size, wooden-framed school house had multiple additions since being built in 1891. However, it eventually was considered unsafe and closed after being deemed a fire hazard.

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Historic Photo of Public School Number Four.

In 1915, Duval County voters passed legislation to build a dozen new brick school houses. Public School Number Four was completed in 1918 at a cost of $250,000. The school featured a beautiful view of Riverside Park.

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Historic Photo of Public School Number Four

Public School Number Four was designed by architect Rutledge Holmes and built by Florida Engineering and Construction Company. The entire two-story building is solid concrete making it virtually fireproof. The 46,000 square foot school house has a Neo-Classical design with massive columns prominitly placed at the front and side entrances.

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Side entrance to Public School Number Four.

Classrooms were located upstairs with the library, auditorium, and administration offices on the first floor. The school house featured large windows and high ceilings with a fireplace in the cafeteria.

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The school sits within just a few hundred feet of the I-95 interstate.
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Even though “Public School Number Four” is inscribed across the capital, it was never referred to by that name while in use.

The “Public School Number Four” inscription refers to the school being Duval County’s fourth public school house. The school was known as Riverside Grammar School until 1950, but then later was renamed Annie Lytle Elementary School after former principal and teacher, Annie Lytle Housh.

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During the late 1950s, I-10 and I-95 interstate construction isolated the school leading it to close in 1960. The building was used for office storage until it was condemned in 1971. There are rumors the school was rented as a Catholic school for a few years in the late 1960s before it was abandoned.

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The amount of vandalism throughout the years has left the school in deteriorating condition.

Over the next 3o years, the enormous brick building became a favorite hangout for the homeless, thrill seekers, and drug addicts. In a state of decay, the graffiti covered walls and busted windows made it an attractive environment for disreputable acts.

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Walking inside from the auditorium, the first floor is entirely pitch black.

Stories of hauntings and satanic worship began in the 1960s. There were also rumors of killer principals, missing kids, and even a cannibalistic janitor that tortured kids in the boiler room. All of which were highly untrue.

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The second floor hallway is more visible due to the lack of windows and natural sun light.

Police reports indicate a rape occurred shortly after the building was condemned, along with various other accounts of trespassing and vandalism. Sadly, there is even a classroom labeled the “rape room” by taggers. Easy to see why the school gained the nickname, “The Devil’s School.” Later in 1995, vagrants set fire to the auditorium causing half of the roof to collapse.

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The interstate comes within feet of the abandoned school.
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Every classroom was covered in graffiti, the only light creeping in between the boarded windows.
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From the second floor classroom windows, you feel like you can touch the cars passing by.

In 1999, Foundation Holding Incorporated purchased the property and planned to demolish the school building. In its place would be a retirement facility named Lytle House Condominiums. Some of the units were sold before construction even began. After public outrage and pressure from multiple historic groups, the City of Jacksonville designated the school a historic landmark in 2000, halting plans for demolition indefinitely.

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By 2014, the collapsed auditorium roof debris had been removed.

In 2005, The Annie Lytle Preservation Group was created by a group of neighborhood volunteers aiming to preserve and clean up Public School Number Four. They hoped it would make it more marketable to a buyer who would renovate the 98-year old school.

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The group has removed tons of debris and dead trees from the school property enhancing the appearance. Another fire in the auditorium broke out in 2012, collapsing the partial roof that was left. The school also suffered fires on the first floor administration offices set by transients.

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The Boys restroom with a large pile of trash waiting to be hauled away.

Today, a barbed-wire fence standing six feet tall surrounds the entire property. The preservation group actively patrols the grounds and reports anyone trespassing to law enforcement.

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Upstairs hallway, 2014.

After our visit with the preservation group, my tour guide pointed out the upside-down crucifix in the photo. The window frame was empty while we were there with no visible cross on the bricks in the background. The upside-down crucifix was considered a Christian symbol and sign of humility among Catholics in ancient times. However, today it is commonly used as a symbol of atheism and the occult. I cannot explain it, but it adds to the long list of tales of Public School Number Four.

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7 thoughts on “Public School Number Four

  1. What a brilliant post – must have taken a lot of work to put together. I am fascinated by abandoned places so wil be looking at your other posts too. Got here via a post Mostly Blogging put up sometime ago but I only just read it.

    Liked by 1 person

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