The Strange Florida Gothic Epic of Kelnepa

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The original house exists beneath the house poured on top. Raymond Saleeba remembers his grandmother’s Lebanese cooking and playing with his siblings here as the happiest times in his life. The strangeness came later, with the house redubbed “Tuscan River Estate.” The sports car bought with worthless stock. Multi-million dollar con jobs. Brides who had to find other venues for their weddings.

New Story: Schools Named for Confederates and the Demise of Manhattan Beach

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Joseph Finegan Elementary School, named for a Confederate general, stands where segregated black Manhattan Beach once was. White developers said they wanted “Negroes removed from the oceanfront” and the one business whose family didn’t sell was destroyed in a “mysterious fire.” So, “what’s in a name?” Juliet asked. 

The Bass House and Its Ghost

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It’s the story of how two retired schoolteachers became friends, the one whose great-grandfather built the house a century ago and the one who lives there now. There’s the story of two great-uncles, stepbrothers who disliked each other and fought over the house. And there’s the story of the ghost who came down the stairs at night.

New Story: Epping Forest

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Epping Forest is the grandest historic estate in Jacksonville. Well known, the summits of world leaders here. Well known, its original owner’s personal manipulation of banking in the Great Depression. Why, however, did Alfred Dent believe his grandmother, Jessie Ball duPont, and her brother, Edward Ball, had murdered his grandfather, Alfred duPont? Also, what’s up with the pelicans and squirrels and vampire faces?

New Story: Doty Apartments/Red Cannon’s Barbershop/Ted Pappas Associates

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Here was Red Cannon’s political hq. Here, that old jazz musician once lived. Here, indictments against city officials arrived. Here, the young architect Ted Pappas opened his first office. In the Doty Apartment Building were cigar packers and tax collectors, attorneys and physicians. It’s history is as full and diverse as that of a city. 

Last Graduating Class of Jacksonville’s 1st High School, Full Lives of Last Students

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Revisiting this story, written nine years ago. School No. 1, Duval High School, stands because architect Ted Pappas saved it. Last graduating class was 1927. Last surviving student, Martha Wells, died at 102 in 2011. In 1980, some former graduates became residents. Stories of blackface, of long careers, years when students were artists yet to be “important,” all of life and the world ahead of them.

Against All Odds: The Survival of Edward Waters College

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It’s the oldest educational institution in Jacksonville. I wander Edward Waters College with Professor David Jamison. He points to buildings long ago destroyed by fire and we discuss R.L. Brown, Jacksonville’s first black architect. Against unbelievably great odds, what’s now the oldest historically black college in Florida survived. 

The Old Wooden Bowling Alley

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Charles Cummings built the old wooden bowling alley to anger his neighbor. He wanted Armstrong to hear the striking of pins and loud drunken card games echoing off the river deep into the night.

The Horrid Little History of the National Association for the Advancement of White People in Jax

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In the 1990s, the National Association for the Advancement of White People kept dragging Jax into national headlines. A school board member appointed a white supremacist to a task force on desegregation, a national racist hotline connected to a local elementary school and city officials apologized to the NAAWP when librarians defended black employees.

New Story: Round Marsh (by the Willie Browne Trail)

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People have theorized Round Marsh the result of a meteor, others that it’s the remains of a British rice paddy and a 4,000 year old cypress pond. Willie Browne led friends on hikes around the pond and archaeologists have combed its shores. The World War II airplane and its pilot, meanwhile, are still in the marshes to the north. Willie Browne often said he could hear “the thunder of horsemen racing by in the distance,” when no one was there.