Tag Archives: Florida history

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.

Whether the Beacon Motel Haunts the Waterford Condos

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Where Condo Row marches along Jax Beach, yesterday’s motel dreams occasionally trickle to the surface. Where the Waterford stands, once stood the Beacon Motel. It was here a Toledo carnie named Billy Elledge, “Willie the Kid,” tied up the proprietors and committed his third murder in 36 hours. Few Waterford residents have heard the rumors the building is haunted. Bob Kelsey dreamt a big bird picked up the Beacon and dropped it in the ocean.

Wesley Plott’s Downtown Bottlescape

Reposting the Story of the Plague Year

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Prissy’s Forgotten Arborteum

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I’d ask Prissy Bowers, were she still here. Jessie Lynn-Kerr wrote her obituary. On January 12, 2002, The Florida Times-Union headlined it, “Cheerful Clown Bowers Dies at 76.” She’d fought cancer for 16 years, one year fewer than she’d worked on her book. Dozens of clowns attended her funeral at Avondale United Methodist Church in full costume. The sign that once identified Wildling Arboretum has vanished, but these trees rise still. And a few of their broken markers.

New Story: Polio in Florida, Ann Adams, the Artist Who Painted with her Teeth

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The caption said, “This card was drawn by mouth by Ann Adams, a polio patient in Jacksonville, Florida.” Ann was paralyzed from the neck down. She slept in an iron lung. For most of her life, she never drew a breath on her own. “Through perseverance, she trained herself to draw by holding a pencil between her teeth. Each original drawing takes up to two months to complete.”

The Double Hauntings of Gateway Mall on Yellow Fever Burials at Sand Hills Hospital

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“We found so many bones. I had two bags full of them,” John says. Then Lorene wore her hula outfit for Montgomery Ward’s “Hawaiian Days” sale and Pat and Donna both played Easter Bunny. Where Smallpox and Yellow Fever victims died at Sand Hills Hospital, Gateway Shopping Center and Mall suffered cycles of suburban flight and decline. “We found a skull out there,” Linda says, “and took it to school.”