Tag Archives: Florida history

The Ernest & Catherine Ricker House & All Its Many Lives

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The Queen Anne-style Ricker House, with its third-story tower and draped gingerbread, looks like something from a fairy tale. After the Rickers raised their eight children, the house moved from Oak Street to Post Street and back again. Having housed deaths and births, fire and termites, restaurants and school principals, the Ricker House has collected at least 1,001 stories. 

The Old Fed; Or, How Henrietta Dozier Bent the Rules

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The Old Fed is as full of contradictions as was Henrietta Dozier, the Jax architect who sometimes went by “Mr. Dozier” and “Harry.” She didn’t break the rules but she bent them all. Recently I wandered with architect Brooke Robbins through Dozier’s Federal Reserve Bank Building, one of a dozen historic structures being restored within a couple blocks downtown. 

The Forgotten History of Snyder Memorial Methodist Church

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Last year would have been the church’s 150th anniversary. There was no one to celebrate its incredible history. Founded by Northern abolitionists, Snyder Memorial Methodist Church played an important role in Jacksonville’s Civil Rights struggle a century later. Whether Reverend Hinkle committed suicide nobody said. And whether police shipping the homeless man one-way to L.A. was really a good deed is doubtful. Now the church waits, abandoned, for its next chapter.

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.

The Armory

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Truly this story has it all. The old Armory has stories enough for a hundred cities. There’s no way to tease it adequately. Urban exploration. Thousands of concerts, from opera to Janis Joplin and the Allman Brothers. Political debates and politicians’ funerals and boxing bouts. Stories of integration (James Weldon Johnson, Duke Ellington, Marian Anderson) defiant against Jim Crow. And a call for a future.

The Mystery House at Atlantic/Neptune Beach

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Supposedly the hurricane tossed the house back up on the beach that way and rather than tearing it down, some smalltime Barnum charged admission. At the beginnings of a town called Neptune, the “Mysterious House” stood out beyond the dunes. Inside, gravity went askew. You felt like you were walking up the wall.

The Bodies Left Behind in Billy Goat Hill

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A hundred years after the bodies were moved, workers digging immediately north of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral found skeletons. Four decades later, other workers found skulls. Is anybody still down there? These are the kinds of things that can happen when you work in older parts of a city, he said.

New Story: St. Elmo “Chic” Acosta House

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When the old man fired his gun over the boy’s head for stealing oranges, the future city commissioner said one day Armstrong’s house would be his. He bought it in 1911. St. Elmo “Chic” Acosta was arrested in 1924 on “false charges” of keeping a “disorderly house” and indicted in 1933 for giving away the city’s “sack of potatoes” and a mule. He made enemies easily, but always fought for urban “beautification.” After the Acostas donated the house in 1966, it became the artistic heart of Episcopal School of Jacksonville.

The Strange Twisting Histories of Marabanong

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The history of the vast Victorian house called Marabanong includes women astronomers and suffragists, poets and painters, fictional pirates and peacocks, widow’s walks and underground passages. The 144 year old house has five levels, a corner tower, 121 windows and more stories than anyone can count.