Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

The Strange Story of Slappey’s Town of Ghent Motel

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Here’s the strange story of Slappey’s Town of Ghent Motel. The sailor claimed to have built it for his “war bride” to remind her of her hometown. He had the wrong town. A naked man, fleeing Slappey’s, once disrupted church services next door. Police activity at Slappey’s ranged from gambling raids to murder.

LaVilla’s Progress Furniture Company

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Climb the stairs and see there’s more missing than remains of 318 Broad Street. Bernie would tell you, at Progress Furniture Company, 80 years ago, “Buy or Sell…We Treat You Well.” His father was one of two Romanian Jewish immigrants in Jacksonville named Isador Moskovitz. This collapsing commercial building provides a microcosm of decimated and mostly vanished LaVilla. A thistle blooms in bricks near the roof.

Revisiting Jacksonville’s Trisect, Public Art Milestone

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It was the first piece of public art in Jacksonville in 50 years. The city seemed hostile. It stood before public housing, not in a public park in a tony neighborhood. Jax roasted it, but the elderly residents in architect Ted Pappas’s new tower behind it loved it. Almost 50 years later, sculptor Carl Andree Davidt’s Trisect sculpture still interrogates the city.

Spiritual Lighthouse Church

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It was home, in the old days, to Southern preaching, bluegrass mandolin, and séances. Bluegrass gospel musicians Billie and Gordon Hamrick were staunch  Southern Baptists, but Billie had “psychic visions.” The line of Spiritualist pastors here, almost all women, dates back to training by the famous psychic Edgar Cayce. In one of Jill Cook Richards’s first séances at the church, she says, her guardian angel came to her.