New Story: Three Oaks Plaza, FBI Headquarters, Offshore Power Systems

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New Story: Wandering the Ruins of the Thunderbird Motor Hotel

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The Thunderbird Motor Hotel lies in ruins on 19 acres. We wander through it. It was “one of the brightest jewels in the Florida Crown,” created to “give Jacksonville a Las Vegas, New York, big-city type of night club atmosphere.” It featured multiple lounges like The Zodiac Room and The Wonderfall, dinner theatre and convention space. The stars came. For a while. Few realized its full history of financial troubles. Now a hawk flies over the abandoned swimming pool. Click below for the story.

Revisiting Playtime Drive-In and Church

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Fire after fire after fire. Over the last seven decades, this place went from family theater to porno drive-in to church. One fire was an exorcism, the church burning old reels of pornographic films, the next fire, so said rumors, was a meth lab explosion. Frances the cat hung out above the projector before the burglary in which the theater owner was shot and lost a leg. But this was always holy ground.

Springfield’s Florence Court Apartments

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Cyara likes to imagine herself “Queen Florence.” More than a century before, the builder of the Florence Court named these apartments for his wife. On the sidewalk, you’d buy linen spats and a ham and beef tongue sandwich. So why was the architect’s name an open secret for 50 years? Mushrooms grow downward from ceilings. This building’s declined almost all its life. Who’s ready to step forward and save it? 

New Story: Resurrecting Hill Top, Black History on Forman Circle

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Cooking for Martin Luther King, Jr., Maude Burroughs Jackson says, was one of the greatest honors of her life. Two decades prior, her father built this house by hand. Maude entered first grade in 1947 in the one room schoolhouse she ended up saving from destruction in 1995. Because of repeated vandalism, she no longer ventures to the community cemetery by herself. It’s because of her love for those who loved her those early years that we know now of this community at all.

New Story: Tim Armstrong at Armstrong Farm Has a Message: “Eat Your Yard, Jax!”

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Tim Armstrong’s both Old Florida and new. He’s in the business of springing life from compost and earth, constant renewal, though his family’s been in Florida “since the last Indian war.” Three generations ran a steamboat on the Apalachicola River. He walked to his elementary school and high school in Jacksonville’s Woodstock Park neighborhood, but he’s no provincial. His farm, which works with special needs kids across the city, grows and sells native plants and plants from every continent but Antarctica. 

New Story: Confederate Memorial Removed from Hemming Park

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The Confederate monument is gone. Former City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche bravely began this process three years ago. She offers an official statement. Before the park was renamed for Charles Hemming, who donated the statue in 1898, it was called St. James Park. St. James is the patron saint of pilgrims. Let’s make our pilgrimages to the center.

2020 Protests Continue (Confessions, Consciousness, Change)

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For more than a week, the protests have flooded the streets, demanding police release body cam footage. This crowd does me good. In my depths, stories from decades before I was born churn a historical conscience. The Confederate monument has again been vandalized. I ask Donal Godfrey, whose house the KKK bombed when he was six years old, if this time really is different. 

Protests in the Summer of 2020, the spring of 1964

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This story compares the protests of 1964 to those of 2020. It demonstrates how current protests call out the murder of George Floyd, but also the long pattern of Jacksonville police abuses of authority. It shows how 1964 Jax protests were met with official racism and racist vigilantism and how 2020 protests were met with public bullying against organizers. It suggests how police, if they care, might start the process to make a systemic (not a “bad apples”) restructuring, and asks what we might do about the disintegration of America.