Prudential Plaza One, the Original Prudential Life Insurance Building, the Tallest Building in the City over a Half Century Ago, the Aetna Building, the Wrong Road

by Tim Gilmore, 6/17/2012

Standing 22 stories tall and built of Alabama limestone, North Carolina granite, and Georgia marble, it was the tallest building in the city when it was built in 1955. It was the tallest building in Florida until 1965. It remained the tallest building in Jacksonville until the 28-story Riverplace Tower was built as the Gulf Life Insurance Company Building in 1968.

“During high school I had only a few friends. I was serious minded. I never smoked a cigarette in my life and I never drank. I don’t even know what it tastes like. I took the business course in high school. I made A’s in shorthand and typing. In my senior year at Robert E. Lee High School, the Dean of Girls called me and another girl into her office. We were told Prudential Life Insurance Co. was building a big building in town and wanted to hire girls just out of high school. They would send them to New York for three months, all expenses paid, to train them. We were to go back to class and spread the word

around. I was excited! I wanted this opportunity! In just a few days my boyfriend called me from California and asked me to marry him. I told him I would think about it. I was only 17. I knew in my heart I wanted to wait a few years. A few days later I received a pitiful letter saying he would not blame me for not wanting to marry someone as low as him. Out of pity, I wrote back and said I would marry him.”

“I was looking forward to graduation in June. My husband was assigned to a ship that was going to Honolulu, Hawaii for three months’ overhaul. The wives were allowed to go, but it was leaving two weeks before graduation. I got special permission to take my exams early and left to go to Hawaii. I missed my graduation. My friends wrote to me from New York where they had gone to train for the Prudential Co. That was really what I had wanted to do. Of course, everyone envied me for going to Hawaii. It was as if I had two roads to pick from in my life. I knew I had picked the wrong one. There was no turning back.”