During its heyday, the Riverdale Inn was one of 50 mansions that lined Riverside Avenue in an area known as 'The Row.' Today, sadly, only two of these fabulous mansions remain. The Riverdale Inn, newly renovated and refurbished, is one of them.
The mansion was built in 1901 by William Kelly, a wealthy turpentine baron who was one of a powerful group of men known as The Gum Bunch, so called because of the commodity they dealt in. The mansion reflects its previous owner's wealth and good taste in the solid heart of pine floors, wainscoting, crown moldings and the original painted shingle façade that is still as enduring today as it was the day it was put in place. The spacious, bright rooms with their wide windows, for the most part still glazed with the original beveled glass, reflect the graciousness of the era in which the house was built.
The elegant staircase that winds up to the third floor, has a small intimate landing on each level that lets guests enjoy a glimpse of gracious guest chambers all with the original heart of pine floors, some with fireplaces with the original tile, and all decorated in a style reminiscent of the turn of the century. Each guest chamber has window and bed treatments created especially for that room, private bathrooms, luxury robes, a comfortable chair for relaxing and of course all the up-to-date amenities of our modern world.
Outside, shingled pillars draw the eye to the front of the grand mansion. The Shingle Style originated in the seacoast towns of New England towards the end of the Victorian Era, and became a popular alternative to the exuberance of the Queen Anne Style. This style emphasized the exterior surface of the building which was usually uniformly covered with stained shingles. The porch posts and roof dormers were sometimes covered with shingles as well. The roof eaves found in the Shingle Style were usually abbreviated, however, some examples found in Riverside and Avondale contain broad overhangs in response to the Florida sun. Two fine examples of the Shingle Style in the district include 1521 Riverside Avenue and 2799 Riverside Avenue.
The façade welcomes visitors as they step off the hand placed brick walkway past the landscaped front garden onto a dark red porch that says 'Welcome'! At the back of the house, an extensive wooden deck has been added and chairs and umbrellas add a cheerful jaunty look. The deck overlooks the herb gardens and carriage house that has a double jerkin-head cross gable roof, considered to be one of the rarest roofs in Jacksonville. Today, looking at the old mansion, one can only reflect on its endurance throughout the years and be thankful for the master craftsmen of the day who certainly knew how to build a house that would stand for a century or more.