When the City Dumped Sewage Sludge on the Regency Dunes

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National headlines announced fecal matter raining across the city. Sewage lines collapsed without being replaced. Treatment facilities were overwhelmed. Tankers dumped sewage sludge on the sand dunes behind Regency Square Mall where kids had jumped their dune buggies and dads shot World War II rifles. The mayor jumped into the sludge wars.

The Bizarre Misogynistic Acquittal of Gary Lynn Webster

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Nobody questioned the fact that Gary Lynn Webster, a former gospel choir director and high school music teacher, had murdered and dismembered his teenage bride on Jacksonville’s Westside. The jury still found him innocent. One female juror regretted the verdict.

The Rise and Fall of Regency Square Mall

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“All roads lead to Regency Square,” they said, “the largest shopping center in the Southeast,” a “city within a city.” The shopping mall seemed to replace the heart of the city itself. All spectacles converged there — dancing bears, the Easter Bunny, art shows, wax figures of English monarchs. Then came the fall and the era of the “dead mall.” 

The Fisherwoman, Poet and Preacher in the Lost Black Community Called Hogan

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The 92 year old black preacher woman recalls Bishop Noah Nothing and on back to Sister Savannah, who ate nothing but the fish she caught, recited poetry, preached and carried her shotgun everywhere. She lived in the lost settlement called Hogan. Here’s what story still echoes in the landscape.

Updating the Mysteries of the Burdette / Clarke House

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A significant part of the story is chasing dead ends and phantom leads, balancing contradictory evidence, demanding ghosts stand still and be more present. So here’s the story of the Burdette / Clarke House updated, with its frustrated artist, abandoned sanitarium and moonlight shrimping.

Lost Smiles on Moving Day, 1973

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The moment would have vanished entirely, but for these few photos Lon King took in 1973. The Housing Department was demolishing the house and the duplex where the five kids lived next door. Fifty years later, the land is still empty. He’d moved downtown for work, grown his hair, rode his bikes through the empty streets. He still wonders what happened to those kids.

The Tortuous Tale of Tarzan and Darlyn on Trout River

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When Darlyn Finch Kuhn was eight years old, her brother spotted the monkey on a fencepost by the side of the road. Bringing Tarzan into the family for two years was a wild experience. Where did he come from? (And where did he go?) How do we contextualize Tarzan amongst urban legends of the Riverside monkeys and Monkey Farm and Silver Springs escapees or the thousands of monkeys who’ve called Florida home?

Exploring the Mysteries of Cosmo and Gullah Geechee North Florida

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Nobody knows how Cosmo got its name. White folks live here, they just don’t know they live in Cosmo. Forged from Emancipation, this historic community of former slaves spoke its own dialects more African than African American. Oh but the buckruh knew how to get their land. Now but vestiges of Cosmo remain.

Remembering O.Z. Tyler, Epic Poet on Willow Branch Canal

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A quarter century ago, the ancient epic poet, “the Colonel,” opened his Tudor style home on Willow Branch Canal to a poet in his 20s. Orville Zelotes Tyler, Jr. wanted to be to America, to the South, to Jacksonville what Homer was to Ancient Greece, and his subject was Osceola, the Seminole leader who’d resisted the U.S. Army and was only captured under truce. 

Hogans Creek, Barometer for the Health of the City

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Hogans Creek, part of Jacksonville’s “Emerald Necklace,” reflects the level of care the city takes of itself. It always has. It’s been both garbage dump and pseudo-Venetian “Grand Canal.” It’s taken lives. It’s provided a getaway route for the city’s most famous alligator. Now it’s part of Groundwork Jacksonville’s plan for an Emerald Trail. Hogans Creek is a barometer of the health of the city.