First, as upscale apartments in downtown Jacksonville, the Ambassador Hotel opened in 1924 on 310 West Church Street. By 1943, it was converted into a hotel by a personal friend of Ed Ball, the executor of the DuPont Estate, Charles Griner. Wanting nothing to do with the building, after Griner’s death, Ball advised his window Doris to demolish the building. Feeling they every other old hotel had already been torn down, she objected.
Often Doris is referred to as a modern-day hero for Downtown Jacksonville. She bucked the all-too-common wisdom from Jacksonville’s “elite” to tear down a historic building in hope of future development. The building was converted into a hotel in 1944 and renamed the Three-Ten Hotel. From 1947 to 1955 the building had three name changes. First to Hotel Southland, then in 1949 to The Griner and finally in 1955, The Ambassador Hotel.
Built-in an H pattern, the six-story brick, and limestone Georgian Revival-style building give every room a large window view. The building can house about 110 residents.
Even placing it on the National Register of Historic Buildings in 1983 couldn’t keep it from an ugly path of dilapidation. Code enforcement where consistently on the owners back and multiple drug busts and raids scarred its name. Residents who were paying $80 a week in 1997 received notice that it was unlawful to be rented, leased or occupied. Twice stickers were placed on rooms, one reading 7-11-97 and the other 11-13-97.
By 1998, the entire building was condemned and closed. With other buildings in the neighborhood also be condemned and closed, many of the residents dispersed into various homeless shelters throughout Downtown.
Plans were drawn up in 2005 to remodel The Ambassador Hotel but were placed on hold and dropped. Then in 2009 plans again were drawn up and to rename it The Ambassador Lofts. The plans consisted of 50 apartments and retail space, with an estimated cost of 8 million dollars. The prospective owner can acquire half of the money and is hoping for help from the city or government in the form of grants and low-interest loans.
In one of Downtown’s most forgotten streets, the building has remained a silent anchor, but finally on the new life is on the horizon after several false starts. Two groups, Augustine Development Group and Axis Hotels, LLC acquired the property in 2018 along with 1.5 acres.
Ambassador Hotel is being renovated into a 127-room La Quinta Inn and Suites hotel with a rooftop bar. With interior demolition well underway, the group expects to complete construction in 2020.
Photo by YourMainParadox