San Marco’s Swisher House (John H.) and Villa Alexandria

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All big houses harbor the loneliness of unpeopled space. When Heather was a little girl, she didn’t understand the elevator went up and down. She thought it somehow “swapped the rooms around.”

Christina says, “I don’t think Mrs. Mitchell liked that they tore her house down.”

Carl Swisher always carried jokes in his pocket. Workers rolled 600 to 700 cigars a day.

Fire Department Drill Tower

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The fire maze. Rappelling from the fifth floor. Scaling the 70 foot tall building with a hook ladder. The mysterious stranger drivers see standing atop the tower late at night.

Randy speaks of the fire department with love and pride. His eyes beam. When he shakes my hand, he calls me “Brother.” He can name each fire station by number and location. He has stories about Major, the Dalmatian who once lived at station no. 9, at West 24th and Perry Streets.

Ending 2017 by Looking Back at the Crooms and Mahmoud Murals

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Most of the talk of Connell Crooms, standing 150 feet tall on one cement silo, and Sara Mahmoud, standing back to back with him on the silo adjoining, concerns unity and solidarity, but Connell mentions the “power of irony.”

Van Helten turned these concrete ciphers into pillars of unity and community. The mural festival that brought him to town, ArtRepublic, alienated and angered much of the city’s art community, but Van Helten successfully soaked up the city and gave it back.

Two Christmas Stories

Read one JaxPsychoGeo Christmas story, and get the other free.

Click below for the story of the James E. Merrill House.

And is the toy gun that lies on the child’s bed really Arthur’s? Was it too a Christmas present? And is it really Arthur’s bed? Did Arthur lie here looking through the window onto the sleeping-porch on the second-story back of the house in his last year, his eighth year, 1906?

And / Or … Click below… “Oh ho ho / Who wouldn’t go? / Up on the housetop, click, click, click, / Down through the chimney” to old St. Nick’s Lounge on Atlantic Boulevard?

“May we invite you to enjoy our hospitality?”

 

Gilmore Settlement and Homes Built into Burial Mounds

I try not to wince at the street sign that warns me this road’s a “dead end.” It dead-ends at Grant Mound.

When UNF archaeologists and students were able to scan the Petherbridge site after bulldozing, they “found thousands of pieces of pottery, and pieces of human remains”.

French colonial artist Jacques Le Moyne called them “hermaphrodites.” 

Gilmore Cemetery and Settlement

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Irish immigrant Archibald Gilmore founded this settlement in 1885. The Gilmore train station stopped somewhere along today’s Gilmore Heights Road North.

Bill Hawley trudged through the dark wooded night in fear of the escaped convict. The Timucuans were here five millennia before all that.

New Story: Kona Skatepark

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Local kids who felt bummed about their swamp-dreary working-class hometown in the late 1970s were surprised by the arrival of Kona, but skateboarding’s the blue-collar ballet of concrete Jax.

Rattlesnakes and the Murder House in Callahan

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Joseph’s daddy hoisted the seven foot long diamondback rattlesnake from his hip for the camera.

Pine trees were planted in rows like beans and corn.

Joseph’s family was the first to live in the old Johnson house after the murders.

The Buried Head Behind the Drew Mansion

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Something was down there. They knelt in the muck and bramble, peered closer, and finally one boy fished his fingers around in the hole and fell backward in fear.

Wire services reported that locals called it “the haunted house.” United Press International referred to it as “the Haunted House of Jacksonville.”

 

Hansontown Lies Beneath FSCJ’s Downtown Campus

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Hansontown lies beneath Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Downtown Campus, figuratively and, in part, literally.

When Florida Junior College consolidated its downtown locations into the new Downtown Campus in the late 1970s, it eliminated the last of Hansontown, a century-old neighborhood built for freed slaves and former U.S. Colored Troops.

Some FSCJ leaders now espouse views on urbanism much like those the college abandoned by building Downtown Campus.