An Era Ends, The Future Awaits Knights of Columbus Hall – The Resident Community News Group, Inc.
With the purchase of the Knights of Columbus Hall in San Marco by Worth Turner, the Knights of Columbus Council-Bishop Kenny 1951 moves into new premises at Assumption Catholic Church on Atlantic Boulevard. It’s a bittersweet moment full of warm memories and hopeful projects.
The pandemic prevented the council from renting the hall for community events, which reduced rental income.
“Trying to keep the building in working order was very difficult,” said Dick Collins, former Grand Knight of Bishop Kenny Council in 1951. “We wished we had to sell the building, but time changes things. This is a new chapter and we are looking forward to the future. Collins still works at board events, helps wherever he can, and is a board director.
The Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization with nearly 1.9 million members worldwide, focuses on its founding principles of charity, unity, brotherhood and patriotism. Its 1951 Bishop Kenny Council was established in 1919. The group has carried out many community service projects over the years, such as sponsoring Little League and basketball teams; fundraise and help spell bees; coach youth leagues; organize fundraising events for the benefit of local non-profit organizations; conducting blood drives; unload, sort and distribute Easter baskets and organize a Christmas party for children in foster care with the family support services in San Marco; and cook for more than 3,000 children with special needs and their families at the Trout River Grille at the Jacksonville Zoo. The council also prepares a burger breakfast each year for Bishop Kenny’s students and faculty.
“I happened to show a colleague, Dennis Alston, an old photo I had of one of the Little League teams on the board,” Collins said. The guy recognized his brother, Ben Alston, in the photo. He told his brother that Collins had a photo of him, and the brother came to Collins’ office at Coastal Industries Inc., near St. Johns Bluff Road.
Alston asked for the photo because he recognized a lot of boys in it, saying, “The Knights of Columbus kept me out of trouble. They have been good role models for me.
Collins remembers that many neighborhood kids made good use of the elevated pool, playground and softball field where the tennis courts are now located next to the Bishop Kenny Council building.
In 2017, while Collins was Grand Knight, the 1951 Bishop Kenny Council won the Knights of Columbus Florida State Council’s Most Prestigious Community Service Award.
“We will still be able to do charitable work for the community without our building,” Collins said. “The pastor of the Catholic Church of the Assumption is a member of our council and very united.”
“We anticipate that our time in church will make us more visible to its members, especially young people, which will further encourage them to become board members,” Collins said.
Membership is open to men 18 years of age or older who are practicing Catholics.
The building at 1509 Hendricks Avenue was a two-story auto / mechanic shop when Bishop Kenny Council acquired it in the early 1960s. The group met upstairs above the auto store. The terrazzo floor of the entrance to the building bears the initials of the organization – KFC.
“Worth Turner said he would keep the initials when renovating the building to commemorate our history in the building and in the community,” Collins said.
Prior to its life as a store, Collins believes the building was a fire station for the town of South Jacksonville. Right next door, where Aardwolf Brewing Company now makes beer, was the South Jacksonville Utility Building. Across the street, where the San Marco Preservation Society is today, was South Jacksonville Town Hall.
The 1996 revised edition of Wayne Wood’s book, Jacksonville’s Architectural Heritage, notes that South Jacksonville was incorporated into a city in 1907, with a population of around 600. Almost 25 years later, on January 1, 1932, South Jacksonville was absorbed into the City of Jacksonville.
By Karen Rieley
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