The University of North Florida might not have developed into the thriving institution that it is today without the A. C. Skinner family.
Land donated decades ago by the family established UNF’s core within a beautiful nature preserve on Jacksonville’s Southside, and the family’s ongoing support has given the University continued opportunities for future growth.
Their dedication to the campus was honored in March in the dedications of Buildings 3 and 4 in honor of Arthur Chester Skinner Jr., Charles Brightman Skinner and Mary Virginia Skinner Jones, Building 3 will be renamed Skinner-Jones Hall South and Building 4 will become Skinner-Jones Hall North. The two buildings are scheduled to undergo renovations in the near future and house labs, classes and offices for various academic departments on campus.
The family was credited during the dedication ceremony for their commitment to UNF and the Northeast Florida community. The land they held was turned from an underused portion of Duval County into a powerhouse corridor that has had a tremendous academic and economic impact on Jacksonville.
Chip Skinner III, Chester Jr.’s son, said it’s been a joy to see UNF develop into such a dynamic University.
“It’s great to see the land our family offered turn into this incredible addition to Northeast Florida,” he said. “It’s a proud achievement for our family to have been involved in such amazing growth.”
In the late 1890s, Richard Green Skinner settled in Jacksonville and accumulated around 16,000 acres of land in southeast Duval County to use for logging and turpentine production. After their father’s death, Richard Skinner’s seven sons managed the family land and business through the Great Depression while expanding their holdings.
One of those sons, A. Chester Skinner, eventually gave his portion of land to his three children; Arthur Chester Jr., Charles Brightman Skinner and Mary Virginia Skinner Jones. It was this land that the A. C. Skinner family used to facilitate the growth of Jacksonville through strategic donations of their land for the construction of J. Turner Butler Boulevard, Southside Boulevard and Interstate 295.
It was also this land, along with adjacent land owned by Alexander Brest and George Hodges, Sr., that was offered in 1968 to the selection committee charged with locating Florida’s newest university and on which UNF now resides. In 1992, the family donated an additional 288 acres adjacent to the campus, providing the University land for continued growth.
The family also played a part in the development of UNF’s bustling, commercial neighbor, the St. Johns Town Center. Arthur Chester Jr., Charles Brightman Skinner and Mary Virginia Skinner Jones sold 207 acres of land to Ben Carter Properties to develop the Town Center.