Tag Archives: Jacksonville history

The Crossroads: One House Still Stands

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It was the most prestigious crossroads in the city. Two senators lived here. Anna Fletcher said her house was haunted, that a grandfather clock had thrown itself upon a young woman. She wrote about it in her 1929 book Death Unveiled. Now only the Porter House remains. Click below for the full story.

Jax Zoo (For Harry Crews, Jiggs and Gandai)

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In Harry Crews’s 1992 novel Scar Lover, the Jax Zoo becomes the scene of Southern Gothic anti-epiphany. For years, descriptions of the zoo in the news sounded hardly more pathetic than in Crews. If what happened to Jiggs seems unforgiveable, maybe, hopefully, the baby gorilla named Gandai can offer us all redemption.

Conflicting Tales of the Burdette/Clarke House

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This week’s story, as Hurricane Dorian bears down on Florida, proves suitable for stormy weather. The 1887 riverfront house in Floral Bluff isn’t as well known as it should be. It is, however, for sale. Its story involves moonlight shrimping, an “abandoned sanitarium,” and a frustrated artist. 

New Story: Jacksonville Velodrome

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Finally, Wallace McGregor was ready for business. He’d spent more than a million dollars on the facility and bought ads in the newspaper. But they’d come to call it “Wally’s Folly.”

It’s still out here, like a mysterious sign from a buried and lost civilization. It’s not too late. Cast your dreams in concrete.

This Week’s Story: Coca-Cola Bottling Co.

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Helen’s mother could take a sip and tell which city had bottled the Coke. When the Coca-Cola Bottling Plant opened in New Springfield, Charles Guth–“ruthless rascal,” murderer, future president of Pepsi–opened a bottling plant across the street. In later years, William played hide-and-seek amidst abandoned equipment while his parents cleaned at night. 

New Story: Ottis Toole’s Mother’s House (Until He Burnt It Down)

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The first time Ottis Toole burnt down his mother’s house, he was 10 or 11 years old. When he burnt down his mother’s house on Day Avenue in 1981, his name wasn’t yet famous as either one of the worst serial killers in history, or one of the biggest fakes. 

New Story: Bexley House / Plaza Hotel

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For trial attorney Glenn Allen, it was love at first sight. He called the old house, the old hotel, his “castle.” It’s because of Glenn it still exists at all.

The Plaza Hotel had stayed in the Bexley family for a century. Though Glenn’s bid wasn’t the highest, Dr. Bexley’s granddaughter Sara accepted it because other bidders wanted to tear down her childhood home and lifelong abode and replace it with a parking lot. Sara was dying and she wanted the house brought back to life.

 

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.