Tag Archives: jax psycho geo

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.

Remembering Craig Morris

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In praise of Craig Morris, who passed away on September 22nd. Craig spent his career here at the 46,000 acre Timucuan Preserve. This place had called him. He’d never forgotten the vision. When he was a child, having just moved into a Fort Caroline subdivision, he went for a walk and saw “human bones by the hundreds eroding out of the bluff.” He honored them his whole life.

New Story: Collins Road Christian Academy

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My desk stood against this wall. Now there’s no roof above it. How could I not have known about the fire? This is the school I attended near the ends of both my mother’s life and my innocence. Here, I fell for a Filipina and my classmate’s death rocked the school. Even as all our righteousness was nothing but “filthy rags,” wickedness, in the menacing form of popular culture, knocked at the doors. Oh, but there was Popcorn Day!

Vote, 2020, against the Terrorist Tactics of 1920

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It’s been 100 years. Since women got the right to vote. Since Eartha White ran that registration drive. Since the Ku Klux Klan marched in intimidation parades all over Florida. Tiny Eartha White stood up against a terrorist giant. Klan members hid behind patriotism and appeals to “law and order.” Local newspapers wrote of the Klan with reverence and mystery. Across Florida, people died for wanting to vote. Across the United States, people wrote of what happened in Jacksonville. If you find yourself intimidated this election year, think of Eartha White. This story ends on an up note. Click below for it.

The Oldest House at Atlantic Beach: The Christopher / Bull / Hionides House

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It’s the oldest house at Atlantic Beach, its original owner’s “party house,” home to the family of the town’s first mayor for seven decades, to the Hionides family for three. Here the fate of black Manhattan Beach played out and the mysterious Jax blues musician Sugar Underwood played at dances. Inside, bright sunlight coruscates across golden heartwood pine. Outside, grandchildren run up from the ocean.