The Beerbower House: Prehistoric Avondale

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The house will ever be imbued with the story of its strange genesis. Casper and Ida ferried coquina to the woods where Riverside ended. When the president called Elsie “predestined to be a star and kissed [her] on the brow,” she told her mother, “You kiss me too. I may never be kissed in the White House again.” Then Tilly had occasion to chat with Lynn Beerbower, to find out “how small boys used to earn their pleasures.”

Emerson Kennels, Centering Love for Animals and People

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For more than half a century, Emerson Kennels has sheltered dogs and helped people. From Dr. Angus Gaskin’s veterinary clinic to “Mac” Macdowell’s German Shepherds, the traveling salesman who boarded his hyena to Dorie Sparkman’s bringing puppies into her elementary school classrooms, this hidden sanctuary folded into the city has meant courage and love and rescue since its beginning. 

Mrs. Martha, in Planting a Living Fence in Floral Bluff Manor, Chose the Right Dildo

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Julia Morton recommended several dildos, including a gliricidia that erupted in “pale-pink flowers in the spring.” Older words related to “diddling” with “diligence.” No dildo fence rises behind the Wash-O-Rama, so what has Jesus to teach us?

Wild Bill of Jax and His Leprosy

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“Will Bill of Jacksonville” had come back home, but outside a small circle of family and friends, he kept his diagnosis a secret. Not only did the disease frighten people, but in this Bible Belt town, it resonated as the plague of the Old Testament.

The Board of Health moved to quarantine his mother’s home on Rural Route 5 in the small western Duval County community of Hart Haven. “In closing,” he wrote, “let me give your readers, each and every one, a personal invitation. I assure you that when you leave, your outlook and perspective on life will be different.”

The Growing Problem of Little Boys and Airsoft Guns

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Chris Webster stands before a wall display of toy replicas of Glock semi-automatic pistols, AR-15s, and grenade launchers that look startlingly similar to real weapons, and says, “My main objective in starting this business was to bring young men to Christ.”

Airsoft weapons, including assault rifles and grenade launchers, so closely resemble real guns that police officers often can’t tell the difference. In the last few years, inevitably, Airsoft guns have dramatized headlines. The boys are little. The guns are big. Their vulnerability and susceptibility to any performative semblance of manhood should break all our hearts.

The Barnett National Bank Building, Its Deep Roots and Tendrils through Time

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It was “the Year of the Skyscraper.” The 10 story building next door began to tilt. Alfred duPont raised Florida from the Great Depression, merely from infusions of his personal wealth. When Barnett began the Bank of Jacksonville in 1877, he couldn’t have known it would grow into one of the largest banks in the South. After Herbert Hoover, Alfred’s wife, Jessie Ball duPont, changed direction. Her hair was graying, but her eyes still sparkled.

Barnett’s personification of its first Automatic Teller Machine frightened Southern working class families. Charles Rice said he’d never sell “Bion Barnett’s bank.” Then he checked into rehab. Then he sold. Then he drowned in his own swimming pool. Now UNF is making the Barnett “the front door to the startup community in Jacksonville.”

Here he is, the original Chopstick Charley.

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I did not know, when I first published my story about Chopstick Charley’s, the oldest Chinese restaurant in the city, that it was his birthday. On August 18, 2017, John Ming “Chopstick Charley” Cheung would’ve turned 99.

Mai Hoo Cheung emailed me on Wednesday, February 27, 2019, solving mysteries and saying, “I knew the original Chopstick Charley. He was my father.”

New Story: Old St. Johns River Lighthouse

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When I climbed the lighthouse in the year 2000, we found, in place of the light, the nest of a great night bird of prey. The Old St. Johns Lighthouse should stand for hundreds of years, perhaps a thousand, says Herschel Shepard, the architect who restored it. The door’s long buried in the risen ground. Wanton S. Webb called it a “pretty romance,” the story of a retired maritime sergeant who locked his daughter in the lighthouse a century and a half ago.

Curry-Thomas: A taxidermied specimen for every year of business

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70 years from the founding of Curry-Thomas Hardware and Gun Shop, two men in their 70s stare at each other. They’re both retired cops. Roger’s father Everett Curry worried about the death of the hardware trade, but Charles Thomas’s son Steve says gun sales have kept the store thriving. Big-game trophies of physicians and philanthropists take starring roles in the hardware store menagerie.

Two Centuries of Creativity: William Morgan, McMurray Livery

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A complete architectural vision would seem to have assembled itself overnight. In William Morgan’s architectural offices, in the old livery and stables he’d renovated downtown, he drafted designs for homes and headquarters where Isaiah David Hart, the founder of the city, built his own first home.

There was a fire in 1850. There were fires in the Civil War. The Great Fire of 1901 was the third largest urban fire in United States history. In 2012, artist and photographer Tiffany Manning smelled smoke in her studio above where a blacksmith’s shop had stood 100 years before. Firefighters said if she hadn’t been there, the building would have burned down. She writes with light.