Sugar Hill Mosaic Honors Neighborhood’s Historic Legacy

One of the most unique forms of visual art is the mosaic, which is essentially a decorated surface made up of individual tile or glass pieces. Last week, Groundwork Jacksonville, in collaboration with Kate and Kenny Rouh of RouxArt and the City of Jacksonville (COJ) Parks, Recreation and Community Services, dedicated the Sugar Hill Mosaic, which became the largest mosaic art installation in the city.

The five-foot high, 96-foot long mosaic honors the past, present and future of Sugar Hill, once the center of African-American prosperity in Northeast Florida. An estimated 41,000 individual tile pieces were used to create the public art mosaic.

Sugar Hill is bordered by Brentwood to the North, Durkeeville to the west, Springfield to the east and LaVilla to the south and was home to many of Jacksonville’s most prominent African-American families from the late 1800s to the early 1960s.

The dedication ceremony was held on site included a historical narrative about Sugar Hill, remarks from local dignitaries and light refreshments. According to Kate Rouh, designer and co-creator, the mosaic represents more than 1,000 man hours contributed by RouxArt and hundreds of volunteers from all areas of the community.

Most of the stately homes along 8th street were demolished, the quaint tree-canopied streets became high-speed thoroughfares and the once treasured neighborhood fell into obscurity. In attendance were descendants of Dr. Emmett Washington, a prominent black Obstetrics-Gynecologist (OBYGN). Washington’s home was located in the heart of Sugar Hill at 1125 W. 8th Street where he and his wife Inez, a nurse at Brewster Hospital, raised their three children in the home that was built in 1938.

For 80 years the Sugar Hill home has stood the test of time. Daughter Celia (Washington) Carr was proud to have the moment in the spotlight to spread the word on the history and legacy of the Sugar Hill neighborhood, “My sister and I live in the home now.  I was born in this house. My history and legacy lives on in this house. We will never forget the prominence of Sugar Hill and my father’s willingness to help the neighborhood with medical issues, there was no insurance for blacks.” Washington reminisced that her father took many forms of payments for his service and smiled each time patients left his office.  Daughter Cecelia Carr attachment to the mosaic installations is a testimony to her artistic gift as a nationally known Disney artist and muralist. Carr’s resume includes commissioned work for former President Barrack Obama.

Additionally, Groundwork received support from several public and private agencies including City Councilman Reginald Gaffney, District 7, who sponsored the project bill,“The Sugar Hill Mosaic is an important reminder of the contributions to our city by the African-American residents who once called it home,” said Council Reginald Gaffney. “But just as important, it celebrates our future as we work together to build the Emerald Necklace with its miles of trails, parks, public art, recreation and economic opportunity.”

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