Tag Archives: jax psycho geo

The Strange Florida Gothic Epic of Kelnepa

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The original house exists beneath the house poured on top. Raymond Saleeba remembers his grandmother’s Lebanese cooking and playing with his siblings here as the happiest times in his life. The strangeness came later, with the house redubbed “Tuscan River Estate.” The sports car bought with worthless stock. Multi-million dollar con jobs. Brides who had to find other venues for their weddings.

New Story: Schools Named for Confederates and the Demise of Manhattan Beach

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Joseph Finegan Elementary School, named for a Confederate general, stands where segregated black Manhattan Beach once was. White developers said they wanted “Negroes removed from the oceanfront” and the one business whose family didn’t sell was destroyed in a “mysterious fire.” So, “what’s in a name?” Juliet asked. 

New Story: Epping Forest

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Epping Forest is the grandest historic estate in Jacksonville. Well known, the summits of world leaders here. Well known, its original owner’s personal manipulation of banking in the Great Depression. Why, however, did Alfred Dent believe his grandmother, Jessie Ball duPont, and her brother, Edward Ball, had murdered his grandfather, Alfred duPont? Also, what’s up with the pelicans and squirrels and vampire faces?

Against All Odds: The Survival of Edward Waters College

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It’s the oldest educational institution in Jacksonville. I wander Edward Waters College with Professor David Jamison. He points to buildings long ago destroyed by fire and we discuss R.L. Brown, Jacksonville’s first black architect. Against unbelievably great odds, what’s now the oldest historically black college in Florida survived. 

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.

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.

New Story: Architect Ted Pappas’s Design for St. John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church

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The first solo design for architect Ted Pappas, son of Greek immigrants, was the new home of the city’s Greek Orthodox church. The history of St. John the Divine reflects the history of the Greek community in Jacksonville. The icon screen, built by George Doro a century ago, moved to Pappas’s postmodern design from the original church, a historic landmark demolished for a parking lot. Now, a new congregation has saved this sanctuary for another generation.

New Story: Poisoning Durkeeville: Fairfax Street Wood Treaters / Howard Feed Mills / American Motors Export Company

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It’s a story of an automobile empire that never was, of a “Mediterranean-style” town vetoed by the Great Depression, of a wood treatment facility that poisoned a black neighborhood for 30 years. The multiple lives of the old American Motors Export Building still haunt these 12 acres in the middle of Durkeeville.

New story: Normandy Motel

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At the shabby old motel where he grew up, where the Ku Klux Klan burnt a cross and moonshine soaked the pastures, the retired judge still practices law. Old family dairy buildings stand back in the woods, while the former “blood bucket of the Westside” is now an insurance office. The judge’s mother was a homecoming queen. No one remembers the puppy’s name in her earliest photos. 

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.