Jeff Davis: Confederate Generals Hung on Jax Junior High Schools

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My father and I were the only white people on the basketball court. He was 40 years older, at least, than everybody else. I’m writing this story on his 96th. He died six months ago tomorrow. 

Of what beloved Jacksonville architect Taylor Hardwick thought of designing new schools with the names of Confederate leaders, there’s no record. The only black faces in 1960s Jeff Davis yearbooks are those of the custodial staff. And the school principal, Wilber C. Johnson, standing beside a Confederate flag and wearing blackface.

“We will hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree. / We will hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree. / We will hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree, / As we march along!”

New Story: Geodesica

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Here, Charles died in Drew’s arms. Here in the rotunda, at the bottom of the ocean, though Santa Monica demolished this amusement park the year I was born, it thrives. Gilbert Spindel drew up his “Roundhouse” blueprints and promoted them in newspapers across the country in 1956. This particular Geodesica served as “exhibit house” three years later. All the rest comes forward like tides, historical patterns, ghosts. “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio…”

New Story: Chaseville “Colored Settlement” / Fort Caroline Club Estates

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Little remains of the old “Chaseville Colored Settlement,” where the 1920 census placed America’s first black presidential candidate. Fortunately for his bones, George Edwin Taylor was buried elsewhere, because developers dug up the skeletons of the old black cemetery. Where former slaves of the region’s most prominent plantation families once came to live their lives free, real estate developers built “midcentury modern” Arlington. Poultry farms gave way to Geodesica. Click below for the full story.

Story #509: Riverdale Inn / Brazile House / Kelly House

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Walter Brazile founded B & B Exterminating Co. in his rambling old boarding house. He nurtured the business and nurtured people, including Rufus King, Jr., brother of Virginia, author of that 8,448-page book about Jax. William Kelly, turpentine magnate, built the house 115 years ago. Albert O’Neall, though a Quaker, took a job here building bombing ranges. Now the former HQ of B & B has been restored as a bed-and-breakfast. One of my favorite writers stayed here just last week.

How “Brooklyn” Killed Brooklyn

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To bring “urban living” to Brooklyn, developers demolished Reggie Bridges’s house and the homes of his neighbors. Reggie lived here for 56 years. On the site where he attended elementary school, a new public charter school affiliated with a conservative religious college will open this fall. Lifelong Brooklynites remember promises city leaders made them years ago and Les Paul Garner says his house might end up “the last house in Brooklyn.

photo by Obscura Lux

El Modelo, Part II

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Part Two of the three-part series on El Modelo Cigar Factory features the Dying Declaration of Marie Louise Gato, her possible romantic entanglements with  young Cuban revolutionaries, and the “Jacksonville Junta,” who organized both clandestinely and not so secretly for the war in Havana.

El Modelo: Sensational Murder Trials, Cuban Revolutionaries

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At El Modelo Cigar Factory, Cuban revolutionaries fomented insurrection. Marie Gato, daughter of El Modelo’s owner, died, bullets to her breast, subject of Jacksonville’s most sensational trial of the 19th century. El Modelo still stands. A practitioner of the law firm that calls the building home claims to have seen Marie’s ghost. Either way, this building’s story shifted history. Click below for the first story in a three-part series.

Remembering Jacksonville Mayor Jake Godbold, who passed away 1/23/2020

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Nobody else ever brought Jacksonville together like Jake Godbold did. After Godbold died earlier today, 1/23/2020, the T-U quoted Mike Tolbert saying, “Jacksonville just lost its best friend.” Indeed. Not quite three years ago, I wrote this story about Jake’s days at Fred Cotten’s Barbecue. It made me quite happy that he read it and liked it.

The Adams Building: from the Vice Wars to “Rehumanizing the Broken Man”

Ellenelle: An Architectural Tribute and Shrine to a Great Writer

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The house called Ellenelle is a tribute to the architecture of Henry John Klutho. It’s also a sacred space, a private literary and family temple. Ed had hoped that perhaps in his aunt’s last years, the great writer might come to live here. The bedroom to the side of the library is hers, even if she never inhabited it.