Category Archives: Uncategorized

By Request: The Leon Cheek House

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Since a few people have asked me about this one lately, here’s the story of the Leon Cheek “Castle,” one of the most distinctive houses in Riverside. Cheek-Neal Coffee eventually became Maxwell House. In all its years, this old mansion has belonged only to two families.

Remembering Roseland House and Kalem Film Studios

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Miriam Cooper came to Jax for stardom, starring in weekly movies for the Kalem Company. She stayed at the tall boarding house, the Roseland, on Clarkson Street between Tallyrand and the river, and played heroic roles dynamiting bridges. The Moving Picture World of 1912 said she had “large dreamy eyes” and was “expert in the use of boxing gloves.” 

Perhaps the only building designed solely by David Kosvich

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It may be the only building designed solely by David Kosvich. He left Chicago for Jax for two years, then went back home. He was only 29 years old when he died. What he left Jax is this magnificent three-story yellow brick apartment building a block from Willowbranch Park.

Trailer of Horrors: What Missing Girls Might Yet Be Identified?

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What does the culture do with its anonymous broken girls? Russell Tillis said he buried them all over Jacksonville. He said he made up a story to get the death penalty, then changed his mind. He was innocent after all. Until police found parts of the girl buried under his Trailer of Horrors, where Tillis’s supposed fabrication said they’d be. What happened in his rural plot behind suburban office parks? What missing girls might yet be identified? 

The Autobiography of the San Juline

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The story of the San Juline Apartments includes artists, historians and Congressmen; social introductions, deaths and secret loves. A great old building has a dense life story. The speaking tubes are still in the walls and on certain nights, perhaps the spectral tour buses from a century ago still make stops from the grand downtown hotels. 

The Story of the Mermaid Beached in a Strip Mall

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The multi-ton marble mermaid hangs out in a half-abandoned strip mall. She seems lonely, castaway, out of place. She’s only here because St. Augustine sculptor Thomas Glover W. offended Beaufort, South Carolina. Strange things can happen when towns commission public art. 

N.B. Forrest High School and the Other Pandemic: Opioid Addiction

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There’s a desperate addiction problem in every corner of the American landscape. This story is personal. It looks back 30 years to high school, to friendship, to youth, to what strange turns time takes with our lives, to how addiction can turn someone into a completely different person.

The Sudden Discovery of My Mother’s First Apartment, 70 Years Ago

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I never knew she’d lived here. Never noticed this side address. Until the old pack of photos surfaced, 1954. And here is my mother, who died when I was 12. Here she is, 20 years before I was born. I’m 30 years her elder. And I meet her on that cold February night when she was young and the present promised the future was bright.

New Story: Fletcher Building (Ghosts of “The Row” and the May Street School of Architecture)

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What strange forces of history and city coalesce at every corner! From the rooftop lounge on architect Taylor Harwick’s Fletcher Building come echoes of “The Row,” the vanished line of Riverside Avenue mansions, the “May Street School of Architecture,” and that strange little woman who wrote the 8,448 page book about Jax.

The Story of Woodlawn Baptist Church & My Mother’s First Wedding

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Two decades before I was born, my mother married her first husband here, Woodlawn Baptist Church. She knew it was a mistake, she said, but she was “lonesome” and her parents were always fighting. Church was an alternate world to school, where she felt shy and awkward. Now Woodlawn Baptist stands abandoned. The firefighters’ union is considering tearing it down. It almost made its 100th birthday before it closed.