This Week’s Story: The Final Flooding of This Particular History–Marjenhoff Park

Click below for this week’s story, or navigate the city through the direction buttons at the top of the page:

In five years, this neighborhood will be flooded and returned to swamp. When Hurricane Irma turned Marjenhoff Park and its surrounding houses into a swirl of swill, long after the 25 year history of South Jacksonville as a city, long after those little boys chased an alligator through city pipes, almost a century after South Jax City Councilman and son blurred ages, still: once “haunt” and “home” meant the same thing. 

This Week’s Story: Tip Top Tavern / Randall’s Ranch House Restaurant

Click below for this week’s story, or navigate the city through the direction buttons at the top of the page:

Before that night the Ku Klux Klan wore their hoods in for dinner, before somebody assaulted Randall Fleiss and stole his ivory, before Ron Pate initiated his “If you want to fight, you have to fight me” policy, Darryl Swearingen asked his mother if he could take a job washing dishes. The story of the Tip Top Tavern / Randall’s Ranch House Restaurant dates back almost a century.

New Story: Dix Ellis Trail

Click below for this week’s story, or navigate the city through the direction buttons at the top of the page:

The ghetto’s relocated to the suburbs. The cheap hotel by the interstate interchange is the port city of 500 years ago. Drugs and sex slaves do brisk business. Jacksonville murders black transwomen. I B-my-OB at suburban hotel truck stops and transcribe the “marketplace of ideas.” Get your kicks on Dix Ellis Trail!

Halloween-week story: Spence Auto Sales and Ottis Toole Death Car

Click below for Halloween-week’s story, or navigate the city through the direction buttons at the top of the page:

It was November 1983, six months since Spence had last seen Ottis Toole, the great fake serial killer. Detectives thought they could pin the Ottis Toole death car and a rusty machete to Spence Auto Sales. Two months later, Spencer Bennett was dead. 

New Story: Baldwin: Everybody’s Restaurant

Click below for this week’s story, or navigate the city through the direction buttons at the top of the page:

The restaurant’s “been here forever,” they say, Minnie Bennett-Lynn “renamed it from Sunshine” and “wasn’t messin’ around.” Mr. Thigpen “supplied fresh horses for the stage and for its passengers he supplied food and shelter.” The town called Thigpen city fathers renamed for Dr. A.S. Baldwin. The fried okra’s better’n the fried squash.

Wesconnett: Pucketts and Gunnings

Click below for this week’s story, or navigate the city through the direction buttons at the top of the page:

No dogs inhabited the doghouse, just 10,000 fleas. The gazebo welcomed the alligator. Rodney’s memories of his mother and his father are radically different. His mother connected callers at the hospital. His father chased his mother through the Wesconnett house with a machete. He recalls the Gunnings, the hardware store, the bulldogs, the 15 year old girl, his baby, his first truck. 

 

New Story: Wesconnett: Turknett/Parnell House

Click below for this week’s story, or navigate the city through the direction buttons at the top of the page:

When the community congealed, three families merged their names to rename the village Wesconnett. Old Orange Park Road, sometimes called simply the Clay Road to Orange Park, became Wesconnett and Blanding Boulevards. The Turknett House became the Parnell House became the center of town. You came to its porches to get your mail, hear the news, receive a phone call or listen to weekend music. The town is gone, buried beneath this inner ring of suburbia, but the house at the center of town still stands.

New Story: My Father’s Grave

Click below for this week’s story, or navigate the city through the direction buttons at the top of the page:

I never expected my father to move back to the city, but he was contrarian enough that he’d be dead before he did. So here he is. I’ll never forget the sight of my father, 90 years old, trying to lasso a goat. He wouldn’t have minded the Golden Corral in the midst of the cemetery, but I doubt he could eat “the Whole Buffet!” Click below for the story. He’d have liked it.

New Story: First Baptist Church

Click below for this week’s story, or navigate the city through the direction buttons at the top of the page:

First Baptist Church has perhaps received more love and more hate than any other entity in Jacksonville. It dates to a ca.-Civil War split with black church members who retained the original name, Bethel Baptist. In 1923, Pastor W.A. Hobson welcomed 200 Klansmen in full regalia into his farewell sermon. In the 1980s, Pastors Homer Lindsay and Jerry Vines ignited a showdown with more “liberal” members of the Southern Baptist Convention. In 2019, what once seemed unthinkable occurs: the church plans to sell 90 percent of its downtown campus.

New Story: Thomas Porter House

Click below for this week’s story, or navigate the city through the direction buttons at the top of the page:

Last week’s JaxPsychoGeo story was about a crossroads once the most prestigious in the city. This week’s story centers on the one house that remains. Its future is uncertain. Half a century ago, Bess Porter Keely remembered what it was like, half a century before, to get married in her childhood home.