George W. Simons, Jr. Planning Collection

Finding Aid

Collection Number: M09-1
Dates: (Inclusive) 1899-1993 (Bulk) 1940-1970
Size: 36 linear ft. (44 boxes)
Repository: Special Collections, Thomas G. Carpenter Library, University of North Florida
Arrangement: Alphabetical by series; chronological within folder.
Language: English
Container List: View Container List

Abstract

The Collection contains the personal papers and business / professional files of George W. (Washington) Simons, Jr., a prominent Jacksonville, Florida, city planner active in the Southeastern United States in the twentieth century. His preparation of Florida's first comprehensive municipal plan (Jacksonville, 1929) launched his professional career as a municipal consultant, and over a forty year period he was retained by over seventy municipalities to prepare city, county, regional and zoning plans, reports and studies. His plans for major Florida cities include: Tampa, Orlando, Pensacola, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami Beach.


Publications and printed materials form the majority of the collection. The project files of Mr. Simons provide added depth to the planning documents, and a wide range of subject files show his broad interests in various planning topics. The collection in totality provides rare insights into Florida's urban history, and an overview of the work and contributions of a major urban planner during Florida's century of unparalleled growth and development.

Acquisition

The collection was donated to the Library in 2005 by the Northeast Florida Regional Council, and Christian Simons LaRoche, the late daughter of Mr. Simons.

Access to the Collection

The collection is open for research. For information relating to Mr. Simons and to make an appointment to view the collection, contact (904) 620-1533 or e-mail lib-special@unf.edu.

Preferred Citation

George W. Simons, Jr. Planning Collection, Thomas G. Carpenter Library, University of North Florida, Jacksonville, Florida.

Additional Guides

Descriptions of individual items and photographs are available in the Simons Container List. 

Related Materials

Biological studies / by the pupils of William Thompson Sedgwick. Boston : Printed at the University of Chicago Press, 1906.


"FPZA History: George W. Simons, Jr.," The Florida Planning & Zoning Association Overview, v. 6, no. 2 (Fall 2009): 7.

Whipple, George Chandler. State sanitation : a review of the work of the Massachusetts State Board of Health. Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 1917.

Historical / Biographical Note

George W. Simons, Jr. was born in Portland, Oregon, on February 23, 1891. Upon the death of his mother, he was raised by his grandmother in Rochelle, Illinois. He attended Beloit College (Beloit, Wisconsin) for his undergraduate education, graduating with a science degree in 1912. After taking classes at Harvard University, he obtained a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1915, and briefly worked on the M.I.T. teaching staff.


Mr. Simons moved to Jacksonville, Florida, in 1916, where he resided for the remainder of his life. His professional engineering career began when he was hired by the Florida State Board of Health to establish the Bureau of Sanitary Engineering in 1916. He served as Chief Engineer of the Bureau for nine years. During this time, he founded the first Anti-Mosquito Association of Florida, and was appointed to Jacksonville's first planning board in 1922. In 1925, he resigned his state position and joined the Consolidated Development and Engineering Corp. of Jacksonville, a private company active in land development during the region's construction boom of the 1920s. Named Chief Engineer of the Company, he was instrumental in the development of the Jacksonville residential subdivisions, Venetia and Lake Forest, and the Woodlawn subdivision in St. Petersburg, Florida.


His lifetime work for which he was to become known - as a planning, zoning and municipal consultant - commenced in 1928, when he was hired by the City of Jacksonville to develop a comprehensive city plan and zoning ordinance. The following year, the city of Miami Beach hired him to prepare its first zoning ordinance. Over the next forty years, he was retained by over seventy municipalities to prepare planning documents and reports. He also created economic and marketing studies for Jacksonville and Wilmington, North Carolina.


His professional affiliations were numerous: Past President and Fellow of the Florida Engineering Society; life member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, American Institute of Planners, and the American Society of Planning Officials; honorary member of the American Public Works Association; and a member of the Institute of Traffic Engineers, National Housing and Redevelopment Association, and the National Society of Professional Engineers. During World War II, he was appointed as a special consultant to the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta, and later served as Coordinator for the Florida State War Production Board. He retired from professional life in 1970.


His prodigious civic service, contributions, and memberships in associations and organizations in Jacksonville were varied and extensive over a sixty year span. He assumed a leadership role in many of them, including two years as President of the Community Chest-United Fund, twelve years as a Commissioner / Member of the Housing Authority, seven years as President of the Civic Music Association, Trustee of the Jacksonville Public Library, President of the Council of Social Agencies, Little Theatre of Jacksonville, and Torch Club. In particular, his association with the Civitan Club, on both a local and national level, was a life-long involvement. He frequently attended national Civitan Club conventions, and served as International President in 1930 and 1931.


Religious affiliations were particularly meaningful to Mr. Simons, and he maintained a strong and vigorous membership with the Riverside Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville. He served as the Men's Bible Class teacher for 32 years, and Elder of the Church and Board of Trustees. From 1962-1977, he wrote a weekly Sunday School column in the Florida Times-Union newspaper.


He was married to Marion Guest Simons and had two children, a daughter, Christian, and a son, George Guest Simons. After an extended illness, Mr. Simons died on July 8, 1977, at the age of 86.

Scope and Content Note

The collection contains correspondence, publications and printed materials, project and subject files, and photographs relating to Mr. Simons' personal and professional activities throughout his adult life, from his college years until his retirement in 1970. The chronology begins with documentation of his higher education activities, including class notebooks, his thesis (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1915) and correspondence with professors. His professional career as a planning, zoning and municipal consultant is well-documented with extensive business files, including contracts and agreements, notes, correspondence, and working papers for many of the municipal planning, land use, and zoning projects undertaken by Mr. Simons. One strength of the collection is its depth of project publications, reports and plans created by Mr. Simons over a forty year professional career, 1928-1970. Subject files also show Mr. Simons' broad-ranging interests in various urban planning and financial topics.


The Jacksonville, Florida, connection is well-documented in his personal papers. Mr. Simons was a longtime resident and civic leader in Jacksonville with broad personal interests, and the collection contains printed materials, including ephemera, relating to his numerous memberships in local clubs and organizations, and his religious affiliation with Riverside Presbyterian Church. Also, included are rare photographs of early Jacksonville residential construction scenes (Venetia), snapshots of Jacksonville landscapes and buildings, city parks, and numerous group photographs from Mr. Simons' participation in professional and social organizations.

Index Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection:

 

  • Simons, George W. 1891-1977
  • City planning--Florida
  • City planning--Florida--Jacksonville
  • City planning--Florida--Jacksonville Beach
  • City planning--Florida--Tampa
  • City planners--Florida--Jacksonville--Biography
  • Zoning--Florida
  • Zoning law--Florida
  • Jacksonville (Fla.)--Biography
  • Jacksonville (Fla.)--History