Tag Archives: Florida Gothic

New Story: Wandering the Ruins of the Thunderbird Motor Hotel

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The Thunderbird Motor Hotel lies in ruins on 19 acres. We wander through it. It was “one of the brightest jewels in the Florida Crown,” created to “give Jacksonville a Las Vegas, New York, big-city type of night club atmosphere.” It featured multiple lounges like The Zodiac Room and The Wonderfall, dinner theatre and convention space. The stars came. For a while. Few realized its full history of financial troubles. Now a hawk flies over the abandoned swimming pool. Click below for the story.

Harry Crews’s Childhood Nightmare Northside

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The novelist Harry Crews chronicled how Jacksonville imported desperation from half the state of Georgia. It offered hope, but required human sacrifice. First coming to Jax when his stepfather-uncle aimed a rifle at his mother’s head, Harry lived in half a dozen houses across the Northside, all of which his family called “the Springfield Section.” When Harper Lee read Crews’s second novel, she said William Faulkner had come back to life.

The Independent Life Building / Wells Fargo Center

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From lightning strikes to the locomotive buried in its foundation, from loyalty to President Nixon to overtures to the National Football League, from the architectural sketches of Wah Yo Eng to the immigrant family of Bulgarians, Haitians and Jamaicans, the Independent Life Building (now the Wells Fargo Center) has reflected Jacksonville back to itself since 1974.

McCormick Apartments and Mythos at Jax Beach

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“There are enough concrete blocks in the McCormick Apartments to build a solid wall eight feet high from Jacksonville Beach to Downtown Jacksonville.” So bragged J.T. McCormick at the 1948 Open House, five years before he was elected mayor of Jacksonville Beach. The mythos contains stories of horsewhippings and murders and the family who built up the beach.

New Story: Sloan / McQueen House

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William has lived his whole life here on Spearing Street on the Eastside. Mable lived here almost half a century. Then tragedy struck. The letters on the pantry door spell, “Mable’s kitchen.” The Reverend McQueen took in boarders, but when a choir member couldn’t make rent, the pastor still paid the community’s mortgage.