In the Heart of Riverside: JaxbyJax V and the Martha Washington

This Saturday, 10/13, JaxbyJax V, the fifth annual JaxbyJax Literary Arts Festival, takes place in 12 intimate venues around Park and King Streets in Riverside. See the event schedule and this year’s writers at www.jaxbyjax.com.

Click below for the full Martha Washington Hotel story:

So the folks hard at work deep in the bowels of the JaxPsychoGeo Detective Agency (!) thought this week’s post should concern that geographic center of Jacksonville’s Riverside Avondale, the largest historic district in Florida. 

Here, then, is an archived JaxPsychoGeo story from 2016 about the Martha Washington Hotel. Demolition had begun. Wayne Wood called the saving of the Martha Washington the most dramatic victory in Riverside Avondale Preservation’s history. The old building has lived many lives–those of Southern aristocrats, World War II servicemen, indigent elderly women, and 21st century hipsters. It has much more living to do.

From the JaxPsychoGeo Archives: LaRose’s Shoes

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Big stained glass piano in the middle of the store. Some said Joseph John LaRose designed half a million pairs of shoes. What they found inside, after he died: the appraiser from Sotheby’s called it King Tut’s tomb. Jackie Kennedy had come. And Betty Grable. And Joan Crawford. And Brooke Shields. Jayne Mansfield was wearing his shoes when she died. He chastised me. I wanted to tell him how wrong he was. He wanted me to do the same.

How Mayor Hazouri Defeated Stink / History of the City’s Greatest Offender

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When Jacksonville’s air ranked most fatal, when parts of the documentary The Smell of Money aired nationally, when the city was best-known for its stink, Mayor Tommy Hazouri declared war on odor. The oldest chemical plant in the city still offends. It began more than a century ago. 

Unfinished Hauntings in Mandarin

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The Hood Road House, she says, is how a house can be haunted when it’s brand new. But aren’t all hauntings about what’s unfinished, by definition? Venturi and Brown wrote, “When circumstances defy order, order should bend or break: anomalies and uncertainties give validity to architecture.” Steve walks me about the house, says he’ll be done by Christmas, just doesn’t say what year.

New Story: The Cosmic Church of Truth

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In that little blue house in North Riverside, the spirits spoke through Ethel Tunks and told her she and Harold should found The Cosmic Church of Truth. A headline told readers, “Take a tour of the city’s nether world from séances to a visit to a haunted house.” Half a century later, though the Tunkses are gone, The Cosmic Church of Truth continues in its fourth location.

From the JaxPsychoGeo Archives: Dine with the Man in Green

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He lived in the tiny “cottage” on top of the Florida Life Building of the “Laura Street Trio.” For 35 years, he operated Berney’s Restaurant where Bark Downtown is now. As reported in Ripley’s Believe it or Not and Time magazine, Bernard Berney wore all green from head to toe. So did his Boston Terrier Peggy. In the restaurant, the chairs, booths, floor tiles, columns, menus and the bar itself were green. People called him a leprechaun. But he wasn’t Irish. He was Russian. In the 1990s, 30 years after closing, the bar, tables, chairs, and mirror were covered in dust like Miss Havisham’s Wedding.

Friday Musicale: Riverside’s Music of the Spheres, Channeled through Jax

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The firebomb lobbed into the Friday Musicale burnt down the old building, but couldn’t end the music. 

Claudia L’Engle Adams, singer and pianist, founded the Ladies’ Friday Musicale in her downtown home in 1890 and died there on East Monroe Street five years later, 29 years old. Newspapers listed no cause.

Across the next century, vampires with violins melted clocks, sopranos commanded, with voice alone, the worldwide night, and frog heartbeats replicated the Music of the Spheres.

Looking Back at Last Year’s Hurricanes

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It’s been a year. As Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas, and scientists prognosticate that Climate Change may bring about Category 6 hurricanes, I look back at the homage I wrote for those unsung heroes, the linemen, after Hurricane Irma.

Springfield Hospital: Part 3 of 3

Click below for the last story in the three-part series on Springfield Hospital. The story has never been fully told before now:

In this last installment, the newspaper-described “tall attractive blonde” speaks in court, an abortionist skips town, another abortionist dies in jail, police find a “little black book” with names of hundreds of possible patients throughout Florida and Georgia, and Dr. Weathers appeals to the Florida Supreme Court.

Springfield Hospital, Part Two

Click below for the second in a three-part series:

The story of Springfield Hospital has never been fully told before now. Part Two brings the disreputable Dr. Alvah Weathers suffering dizzy spells in court, bones found buried on East 27th Street, the testimony of a so-called “comely blonde,” contraception information labeled obscenity, and Celia Settle finding her birth father, 70 years after Dr. Weathers faked her birth certificate.