Two Centuries of Creativity: William Morgan, McMurray Livery

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A complete architectural vision would seem to have assembled itself overnight. In William Morgan’s architectural offices, in the old livery and stables he’d renovated downtown, he drafted designs for homes and headquarters where Isaiah David Hart, the founder of the city, built his own first home.

There was a fire in 1850. There were fires in the Civil War. The Great Fire of 1901 was the third largest urban fire in United States history. In 2012, artist and photographer Tiffany Manning smelled smoke in her studio above where a blacksmith’s shop had stood 100 years before. Firefighters said if she hadn’t been there, the building would have burned down. She writes with light.

The final story of this Quartet: Paxon Lounge

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Nobody in 2019 remembers the serial killer who drank deeply and regularly here a quarter-century ago. A Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist called it “a redneck bar” with “a two-tooth minimum.” Patrick Allen Herald conned young girls at the bar and cashed stolen checks. A man at the bar named Hump says he “cain’t even remember this mornin’.”

 

The Pickettville Serial Killer: Patrick Allen Herald’s Old Stomping Grounds

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In 1990, she was tired of living in a West Beaver Street trailer park. Her father had given Pat Herald permission to drive her, a minor, home to New Jersey.

He probably hadn’t yet murdered prostitutes. One victim who survived him said, “He was real nice.” His former sister-in-law says, “Pat had mommy issues,” but was “a hard worker.” When he murdered the women he picked up for sex, he also posed them. Samantha got to know them first. She was one of the few cops they trusted.

Even Still, Pickettville

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Pickettville remains. It stands ghostly and longleaf up through Jacksonville. The oldest houses burnt down, or still stand, some of them both. The churches, the farms, the canning kitchens, the sawmills and dairies–what happened? And can’t they still be experienced beneath the new factories and roaring semi trucks?

Love and Loss in the Harrison Pickett House

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Great love and heinous crime have called this old house home. The Thompsons took care of old Mr. Pickett upstairs. Having butchered and farmed all his life, now the former Duval County Commissioner felt a sense of communal love and appreciation at the end of his years. When Patrick Allen Herald committed his first crimes in the house, he probably hadn’t begun murdering prostitutes yet. 

Terminal Hotel

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While I hate to add this endnote to a tragic story from a week ago, after just posting the celebratory story of Ethiopian Timkat in Jax, I must share how the stories of Jax writers Hamilton Jay and Sam Russ led to one more tragedy connected by an old Jax hotel. So here’s what happened at the Terminal Hotel in LaVilla in 1912 and the half century that followed. Thank you, Mitch Hemann of the Jacksonville Historical Society, for pushing this one forward.

Ethiopian Timkat / Baptism / Resurrection in Jacksonville

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Today, all four of Jacksonville’s Eritrean and Ethiopian churches come together to celebrate Jesus’s baptism in the River Jordan, his destruction of Satan’s letters of possession of humans as slaves, and the reunion of Eritreans and Ethiopians.

Big Jim, Mouthpiece of the City’s Wild Soul

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Rexall Drugs sold the Americanitis Elixir to salve the nerves of anxious city dwellers suffering from noises like Big Jim. The State Board of Health condemned the old steam whistle, said it brought strong, rugged men to the breaking point. 

John Einig, the same inventor who built Jacksonville’s first automobile, had designed Big Jim. The whistle sounded the end of world wars, the dawn of electric lighting, the Great Fire of 1901, and the death of its inventor. The 140 year old whistle still sounds four times a day over Springfield and Downtown.

Two Writers Dead on Bay Street

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When “Poor Sam Russ, one of the best, most brilliant and widely known newspapermen in Florida” drank himself to death “in a cheap lodging house” on Bay Street, newspapers said, “Dying alone, unwept and unsung,

[he] reminds us also of the death of Hamilton Jay, who, like Sam Russ, occupied a position on the Times-Union, was a brilliant writer of prose and poetry.” Hamilton Jay, the poet laureate of Florida, drank cyanide, leaving a note that said the voices would not stop calling; “I can hold back no longer.”

Remembering When Lightning Knocked Out CSX’s Rail Service

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One strike from the sky touches 200 trains across the Southeast and Midwest, reaching into Ontario and Quebec.

Callie remembers Y2K, how often lightning struck, and how the river below seemed hers from her vantage point at 3 a.m.