Eulogy for a “Heretic” at Collins Road Baptist Church

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It’s been 36 years since I’ve set foot in the church. I hadn’t expected a third of the congregation to be Mennonite. I hadn’t expected the eulogist to refer to the deceased as suspected heretic. I’d come to honor the memory of this smiling, wise, knowledgeable towering figure from my childhood who died from Covid-19. And for the memory of my childhood itself.

 

The Jax Gene Leedy House. It’s the story of an architectural mystery. And of ghosts and spirits. Happy Halloween.

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Robert Leedy never knew Jax held one of his father’s architectural designs. It’s laid out like the house Gene Leedy called home for half a century in Winter Haven, but inverted. The house has strange properties Better Homes and Gardens never mentioned. Mary Jane Williamson grew up in the house, her mother holding regular dinner table meetings to discuss the latest spirit activity. She says she saw her first ghost when she was three.

The Saga of the Heart of Jacksonville Motel

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It’s the saga of the Heart of Jacksonville Motel: pop bands and robberies, boxing promoters and unsolved murders. And those t-shirts the cops printed there after one of their own was a suspect. Fire after fire after fire. The motel’s gone, but people still come and stay.

The Carling / Hotel Roosevelt: Deadly Fire, Tongue Sandwiches and Saturday Night Dances

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It was the deadliest single-building fire in the city’s history, day after the Gator Bowl. Now the Hotel Roosevelt bears its original name again, the Carling, a beautiful place to live and one of five highrises remaining from Jacksonville’s “Year of the Skyscraper,” 1926. Once you could get a tongue sandwich here for a quarter and a whiskey cobbler for 35 cents. 

The Strange and Tortuous Tale of the Bolles School

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The story of the Bolles School, one of the most prestigious private schools in Florida, includes the failure of a hotel built like a Spanish castle, a businessman who sold underwater farmland sight unseen, the “grievous angel” of country rock, and soul-rocking existential questions of women’s studies and white privilege. It’s a world unto itself.

Willie Browne on the Lost Communities of Fulton and Lone Star

January 1967, Old Willie Browne, who will soon donate his hundreds of acres of forest and bluff to conservation, discusses lost communities with Father Frank Dearing. You’ll find the two stories below:

1) Here’s the lost town of Fulton, Willie’s friend Captain Hole, stories of moonshiners and buried treasure, the digging up of Fulton Cemetery.

2) And here’s the lost black community of Lone Star, one of many in the Arlington area. Here, at least the cemetery remains. Its oldest occupant was born before Jacksonville.

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?