Category Archives: Uncategorized

Love and Loss in the Harrison Pickett House

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Great love and heinous crime have called this old house home. The Thompsons took care of old Mr. Pickett upstairs. Having butchered and farmed all his life, now the former Duval County Commissioner felt a sense of communal love and appreciation at the end of his years. When Patrick Allen Herald committed his first crimes in the house, he probably hadn’t begun murdering prostitutes yet. 

Terminal Hotel

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While I hate to add this endnote to a tragic story from a week ago, after just posting the celebratory story of Ethiopian Timkat in Jax, I must share how the stories of Jax writers Hamilton Jay and Sam Russ led to one more tragedy connected by an old Jax hotel. So here’s what happened at the Terminal Hotel in LaVilla in 1912 and the half century that followed. Thank you, Mitch Hemann of the Jacksonville Historical Society, for pushing this one forward.

Ethiopian Timkat / Baptism / Resurrection in Jacksonville

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Today, all four of Jacksonville’s Eritrean and Ethiopian churches come together to celebrate Jesus’s baptism in the River Jordan, his destruction of Satan’s letters of possession of humans as slaves, and the reunion of Eritreans and Ethiopians.

Big Jim, Mouthpiece of the City’s Wild Soul

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Rexall Drugs sold the Americanitis Elixir to salve the nerves of anxious city dwellers suffering from noises like Big Jim. The State Board of Health condemned the old steam whistle, said it brought strong, rugged men to the breaking point. 

John Einig, the same inventor who built Jacksonville’s first automobile, had designed Big Jim. The whistle sounded the end of world wars, the dawn of electric lighting, the Great Fire of 1901, and the death of its inventor. The 140 year old whistle still sounds four times a day over Springfield and Downtown.

Two Writers Dead on Bay Street

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When “Poor Sam Russ, one of the best, most brilliant and widely known newspapermen in Florida” drank himself to death “in a cheap lodging house” on Bay Street, newspapers said, “Dying alone, unwept and unsung,

[he] reminds us also of the death of Hamilton Jay, who, like Sam Russ, occupied a position on the Times-Union, was a brilliant writer of prose and poetry.” Hamilton Jay, the poet laureate of Florida, drank cyanide, leaving a note that said the voices would not stop calling; “I can hold back no longer.”

Remembering When Lightning Knocked Out CSX’s Rail Service

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One strike from the sky touches 200 trains across the Southeast and Midwest, reaching into Ontario and Quebec.

Callie remembers Y2K, how often lightning struck, and how the river below seemed hers from her vantage point at 3 a.m.

2 New Year’s Stories: Remembering Kyle Marshall, DJ Chef Rocc, and New Life at Gator Lodge

Click below for either (why not both?) of the two full stories. Happy New Year’s! Here’s where we’ve been. Here’s where we’re going.

1. You shouldn’t die of congestive heart failure at 38 years old. Jacksonville loved F. Kyle Marshall. Some say he personified the city. I first met Kyle, where Rain Dogs is now, at Five Points Barber Shop, in 1931.

2. Lisa King learned to love people, coming and going, learned to love Jax when she first learned to walk at Gator Lodge. Never mind Haydon Burns and Aileen Wuornos. At her birthday party at this crossroads thrums the great untapped strength of the city’s diversity.

The Merrill House: Merry Christmas from JaxPsychoGeo

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Before the house was electrified, candles shone at the ends of branches on the Christmas tree rounded in the bay window. 

Perhaps it’s true Merrill looked rapt from the square tower down at his ironworks on East Bay Street.  That’s Helen behind her mother Nell in the Ford Model T. When you crank the roller organ, “Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling” lurches up from the years. And of course, what every Christmas needs is an alligator foot purse.

Grand Park’s Rap Videos, Pseudo-Gangs and Lynch Mobs

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Grand Park has always been about passing through. The sheriff and state attorney talk of gangs. Desperate young men beg for attention with prop guns and get it, but what’s it mean to be a rapper from a big “kountry” town?

Was Grand Park more or less “kountry” when Sheriff R.E. Merritt forestalled a lynch mob in 1922, the second storming of the jail in three years? Remember when Grand Park fed the cops barbecue, when the police were part of the community, not some outside force?

Gravely Hill Plantation and Graveyard

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Why is the world’s oldest man buried here? Or wasn’t he 133 years old? Where are Jim Domingo, Cyrus and Francisco? And who burnt down the old house on the hill? The kids playing hide-and-seek? Or that ageless wanderer who’d lost count of his wars, trying to keep warm on a winter night?