Tag Archives: Jacksonville history

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 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.

Wesley Plott’s Downtown Bottlescape

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.” 

Ellenelle: An Architectural Tribute and Shrine to a Great Writer

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The house called Ellenelle is a tribute to the architecture of Henry John Klutho. It’s also a sacred space, a private literary and family temple. Ed had hoped that perhaps in his aunt’s last years, the great writer might come to live here. The bedroom to the side of the library is hers, even if she never inhabited it.

New Story: The Park Lane Apartment Building

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When Hurricane Irma assailed the building, all they could see from the 10th floor was the water. It had been a long time since Tim first decided, at 10 years old, he’d one day call the Park Lane home. It had been a long time since the president of Barnett Bank petitioned the church to “unclaim” his “daughter” so he could marry her, since the future author of “A Wrinkle in Time,” Madeleine L’Engle called the Park Lane home. Not so long since Ivey jetted to Newport with Brownie to meet Foxy and Mary. Nor since Evelyn Nehl, who called the penthouse suite home, brought the AIDS Quilt to Jacksonville.