Tag Archives: Jacksonville history

New Story: Lawton Pratt Funeral Home

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Even today, architectural historians often fail to give Joseph Blodgett his due. Architecture, like everything else in the South, was segregated.

Anyone ready to make a joke about conflicts of interest in funeral homes running ambulance services should also know that Lawton Pratt operated a life insurance office in the building while workers built caskets upstairs in the back.

Bebe Deluxe, Storybook Pride Prom, and the History of Gay Pride at Willowbranch Park and Library

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It’s the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, and at Willowbranch Library, an epicenter of gay rights history in Jacksonville, hundreds of supporters of gender and sexual minority young people rally in their defense after Jacksonville Public Libraries Director Tim Rogers canceled their sold-out Pride Prom.

Now there are two teen pride events, instead of one. The prom still takes place, at a now undisclosed location, a local church, and hundreds of supporters rally at Willowbranch Library to express their solidarity and love.

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum

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David Karpeles understands what Mary Baker Eddy knew: that one sheet of paper can move a planet. A decade after the founding of the Mother Church in Boston, Jax had its own Christian Science congregation. It was supposed to be a “rational approach to spirituality,” but so was Spiritualism. Now this building’s spiritual acoustics soak up the city’s art and music. And that’s appropriate. 

The Saturday night before the GMAC Shooting, How Things Could Have Been Different

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Chris Shorter and Lynette Johnson were shot Saturday night. Monday morning, the same man committed the GMAC Mass Shooting, the worst in Florida for 16 years. Chris has always wondered why the police didn’t arrest the shooter before Monday morning. So have the mother and sister-in-law of Cyndi Perry, a GMAC employee who died that Monday morning. 

Beat Writers in Historic Springfield: William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Lewis Marker in Jax

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In 1952, while the Beat novelist William S. Burroughs awaited trial for killing his “common law” wife, Joan Vollmer, in Mexico City, he wrote most of the novel Queer, in which a fictionalized Burroughs named William Lee pursues a fictionalized Adelbert Lewis Marker of Jacksonville named Eugene Allerton with undisguised lustful aggression through Mexico City.

When Marker sought refuge back home in Jacksonville’s Victorian Springfield, Burroughs came to call, as did Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg wrote novelist Jack Kerouac about drinking rum with Marker on East 4th Street or East 6th Street. Burroughs wrote his first two novels for Marker, said if Marker didn’t like them, he’d never write again, though he seems to have forgotten the wife he’d just shot in the forehead and killed.

Mediterranean Southern Gothic

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It’s a Mediterranean yet Southern Gothic masterpiece set beside Little Pottsburg Creek. Drivers on Atlantic Boulevard have wondered at the house for decades. The legends proliferate.

It was Harry Moyer who made this 1920s architectural gem a true work of art. He drenched the original design in his masterful tilework. The house has survived decline before, but it needs you now more than ever.

The Barnett National Bank Building, Its Deep Roots and Tendrils through Time

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It was “the Year of the Skyscraper.” The 10 story building next door began to tilt. Alfred duPont raised Florida from the Great Depression, merely from infusions of his personal wealth. When Barnett began the Bank of Jacksonville in 1877, he couldn’t have known it would grow into one of the largest banks in the South. After Herbert Hoover, Alfred’s wife, Jessie Ball duPont, changed direction. Her hair was graying, but her eyes still sparkled.

Barnett’s personification of its first Automatic Teller Machine frightened Southern working class families. Charles Rice said he’d never sell “Bion Barnett’s bank.” Then he checked into rehab. Then he sold. Then he drowned in his own swimming pool. Now UNF is making the Barnett “the front door to the startup community in Jacksonville.”

Gravely Hill Plantation and Graveyard

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Why is the world’s oldest man buried here? Or wasn’t he 133 years old? Where are Jim Domingo, Cyrus and Francisco? And who burnt down the old house on the hill? The kids playing hide-and-seek? Or that ageless wanderer who’d lost count of his wars, trying to keep warm on a winter night?

 

Someone Save the Heston House

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The bachelors were born in this house and died in this house, at either end of a century. The old boathouse fell into the creek. Linden’s boat, the Rapid Rabbit, became an artificial reef.

Charlie fished the whole world, but Sam Skinner drowned off the dinghy. Paul won tennis championships. Their mother watched St. Paul’s Episcopal Church float away on the creek. The beds are made, typewriter fossilized, and the house still waits.

In the Heart of Riverside: JaxbyJax V and the Martha Washington

This Saturday, 10/13, JaxbyJax V, the fifth annual JaxbyJax Literary Arts Festival, takes place in 12 intimate venues around Park and King Streets in Riverside. See the event schedule and this year’s writers at www.jaxbyjax.com.

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So the folks hard at work deep in the bowels of the JaxPsychoGeo Detective Agency (!) thought this week’s post should concern that geographic center of Jacksonville’s Riverside Avondale, the largest historic district in Florida. 

Here, then, is an archived JaxPsychoGeo story from 2016 about the Martha Washington Hotel. Demolition had begun. Wayne Wood called the saving of the Martha Washington the most dramatic victory in Riverside Avondale Preservation’s history. The old building has lived many lives–those of Southern aristocrats, World War II servicemen, indigent elderly women, and 21st century hipsters. It has much more living to do.