Tag Archives: Florida history

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.” 

New Story: Geodesica

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Here, Charles died in Drew’s arms. Here in the rotunda, at the bottom of the ocean, though Santa Monica demolished this amusement park the year I was born, it thrives. Gilbert Spindel drew up his “Roundhouse” blueprints and promoted them in newspapers across the country in 1956. This particular Geodesica served as “exhibit house” three years later. All the rest comes forward like tides, historical patterns, ghosts. “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio…”

Story #509: Riverdale Inn / Brazile House / Kelly House

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Walter Brazile founded B & B Exterminating Co. in his rambling old boarding house. He nurtured the business and nurtured people, including Rufus King, Jr., brother of Virginia, author of that 8,448-page book about Jax. William Kelly, turpentine magnate, built the house 115 years ago. Albert O’Neall, though a Quaker, took a job here building bombing ranges. Now the former HQ of B & B has been restored as a bed-and-breakfast. One of my favorite writers stayed here just last week.

El Modelo: Sensational Murder Trials, Cuban Revolutionaries

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At El Modelo Cigar Factory, Cuban revolutionaries fomented insurrection. Marie Gato, daughter of El Modelo’s owner, died, bullets to her breast, subject of Jacksonville’s most sensational trial of the 19th century. El Modelo still stands. A practitioner of the law firm that calls the building home claims to have seen Marie’s ghost. Either way, this building’s story shifted history. Click below for the first story in a three-part series.