Skinners' Dairy was a family-run dairy that existed in and around Jacksonville, Florida from the 1950s until the mid-1990s.
The family of Samuel Benjamin "Ben" Skinner operated a dairy farm on a portion of their vast land holdings in northeast Florida beginning in the early 1950s. During the late 50s the growing influence of grocery stores made it more difficult for small, independent dairies to remain financially solvent. The decision was made to build small freestanding "milk houses" in residential neighborhoods. These stores offered milk and other dairy products and they were ideally suited to replace the declining milk home delivery service. The first store was built in 1958 and the chain peaked in 1985 with 21 stores throughout northeastern Florida (19 in Jacksonville and two in St. Augustine).
Architectural design of stores
Created by the architectural firm of Hardwick & Lee, the Skinner's Milk Houses were thoughtfully designed and visually interesting structures that became an iconic presence throughout the Jacksonville area. Under their pitched "butterfly" roofs, each identical store was painted orange, grey, and white, incorporated a drive-through that could be approached from both sides, and used aluminum sliding glass doors which were a novelty at the time. The overhanging roof design also provided shelter for drive-through customers during north Florida's frequent rainstorms.
Skinners' Dairy transitioned to new management in the mid-1980s. Under the new management a second wave of Milk House construction began in 1987. For unknown reasons the modernist Hardwick & Lee design was replaced by a new design (architect unknown) which was pedestrian and forgettable. The location and quantity of buildings of the second series is unknown, but it is estimated that between one and two dozen were built from 1987-1995. Three stores built in 1987 are in Clay County.
The relatively short lifespan of the second series combined with their bland appearance occasionally leads to locals misremembering that these stores were built in the manner of the earlier Hardwick & Lee design.
The dairy was sold to Velda Farms in January 1996. The land that constituted the dairy headquarters and farm was a sizable piece of property located off Bowden Road on the city's south side. The land was redeveloped in 2000 as an office park known as "The Silos", a reference to the land's previous appearance and function. Yet what has endured the rapid population growth and environmental changes of the last 20 years are the iconic Skinners' Dairy "Milk Houses".
Today the former Skinners' Dairy stores exist as a curious and visually delightful link to the economic and social history of the region. As of December 2007, 16 of the original 21 stores still exist in one form or another, most with their distinctive roofs intact. They have been adapted to a variety of businesses. Current tenants include several drive-thru restaurants and sandwich shops, a florist, a dry-cleaner, a coffee shop, golf instruction, and a truck bed liner installation business. Some adaptations required additions that did not preserve the original aesthetics. Five are presently in an original state or close to it.
In March 2008 the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens hosted a symposium titled Mid Century Modern Architecture in Jacksonville. The Hardwick & Lee Skinners Dairies were featured in the accompanying catalogue, which sampled the most significant architecture in Jacksonville, that has endured from that period.
Store locations and present condition
All locations are in Jacksonville, FL, except for #8, #17, and #18. Locations for all second wave stores are individually cited.
- 1958 Edgewood Ave.
- 1958 Cassat Ave.
- 1958 Arlington Blvd.
- 1958 Spring Park Rd.
- 1959 Ortega Blvd. (moved in 1980) (Torn down c. 1992. Presently used for car wash parking lot)
- 1959 St. Johns Ave.
- 1960 Pearl St.
- 1962 Jacksonville Beach
- 1962 McDuff Ave. (Torn down c. 1990. Bought by high school for parking lot.)
- 1962 Dunn Ave.
- 1963 Shirley Ave.
- 1963 Bowden Rd.
- 1965 San Juan Ave.
- 1965 Pearl St. (moved in 1983 to Old St. Augustine Rd.) (Gutted and rebuilt c. 2000. While some elements remain deep within the interior, exterior is completely unrecognizable.)
- 1968 Melson Ave.
- 1968 Arlington Ave. (Torn down July 2007. Presently used for parking yachts and a mobile billboard.)
- 1970 St. Augustine
- 1970 St. Augustine (Anastasia Island)
- 1972 Merrill Rd.
- 1972 Ricker Rd. (Abandoned. Roof missing.)
- 1984 Pall Mall Dr. (Torn down c. 1992. Presently a parking lot behind a restaurant.)
- 1987 270 College Drive, Orange Park (Snack & Gas)
- 1987 8 Cinnamon St. Middleburg (Cinnamon Street Food Mart)
- 1987 1691 Russell Rd. Middleburg (Mr. B's Home Fries)
- 1987 764 College St. Jacksonville
- Patton, Charlie (2000-11-23). "Piney woods miracle". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
- "Significant Work". TaylorHardwick.com. Archived from the original on 2007-07-26. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
- "Suiza Foods Corporation". Answers.com. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
- Barton, Susanna (2000-11-17). "Got Land?". Jacksonville Business Journal. Retrieved 2007-12-20.