Tag Archives: jax psycho geo

New Story: Resurrecting Hill Top, Black History on Forman Circle

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Cooking for Martin Luther King, Jr., Maude Burroughs Jackson says, was one of the greatest honors of her life. Two decades prior, her father built this house by hand. Maude entered first grade in 1947 in the one room schoolhouse she ended up saving from destruction in 1995. Because of repeated vandalism, she no longer ventures to the community cemetery by herself. It’s because of her love for those who loved her those early years that we know now of this community at all.

New Story: Tim Armstrong at Armstrong Farm Has a Message: “Eat Your Yard, Jax!”

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Tim Armstrong’s both Old Florida and new. He’s in the business of springing life from compost and earth, constant renewal, though his family’s been in Florida “since the last Indian war.” Three generations ran a steamboat on the Apalachicola River. He walked to his elementary school and high school in Jacksonville’s Woodstock Park neighborhood, but he’s no provincial. His farm, which works with special needs kids across the city, grows and sells native plants and plants from every continent but Antarctica. 

Harry Crews’s Childhood Nightmare Northside

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The novelist Harry Crews chronicled how Jacksonville imported desperation from half the state of Georgia. It offered hope, but required human sacrifice. First coming to Jax when his stepfather-uncle aimed a rifle at his mother’s head, Harry lived in half a dozen houses across the Northside, all of which his family called “the Springfield Section.” When Harper Lee read Crews’s second novel, she said William Faulkner had come back to life.

McCormick Apartments and Mythos at Jax Beach

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“There are enough concrete blocks in the McCormick Apartments to build a solid wall eight feet high from Jacksonville Beach to Downtown Jacksonville.” So bragged J.T. McCormick at the 1948 Open House, five years before he was elected mayor of Jacksonville Beach. The mythos contains stories of horsewhippings and murders and the family who built up the beach.

Walking the Vanished Old Panama Road

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The Old Panama Road disappeared beneath the Northside of the city 120 years ago. This story tracks it. It heads north from the murder of Marie Gato, past Club Steppin’ Out, through the diary of a black Civil War soldier reading Lord Byron, a Spanish American War camp teeming with Typhoid Fever and the burning of a sawmill the size of a small town. 

Reposting the Story of the Plague Year

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New Story: St. Mary’s Liquors, Riverside Motel and the Boat Ramp Where They Pulled Nellie from the River

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Long abandoned, the Riverside Motel, by the Florida-Georgia state line at the St. Mary’s River, still takes lodgers. St. Mary’s Liquors serves up favors to legend trippers. Whether murder, whether suspicious prior divorce, Nellie and Knud lived most of their 60 year marriage here. Jill watched the car raised up from the river, six years after Nellie drowned. My sister and I find more than a dozen bird’s nests in motel rooms.

Jefferson Davis Junior High School

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My father and I were the only white people on the basketball court. He was 40 years older, at least, than everybody else. I’m writing this story on his 96th. He died six months ago tomorrow. 

Of what beloved Jacksonville architect Taylor Hardwick thought of designing new schools with the names of Confederate leaders, there’s no record. The only black faces in 1960s Jeff Davis yearbooks are those of the custodial staff. And the school principal, Wilber C. Johnson, standing beside a Confederate flag and wearing blackface.

“We will hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree. / We will hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree. / We will hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree, / As we march along!”

New Story: Geodesica

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Here, Charles died in Drew’s arms. Here in the rotunda, at the bottom of the ocean, though Santa Monica demolished this amusement park the year I was born, it thrives. Gilbert Spindel drew up his “Roundhouse” blueprints and promoted them in newspapers across the country in 1956. This particular Geodesica served as “exhibit house” three years later. All the rest comes forward like tides, historical patterns, ghosts. “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio…”

Story #509: Riverdale Inn / Brazile House / Kelly House

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Walter Brazile founded B & B Exterminating Co. in his rambling old boarding house. He nurtured the business and nurtured people, including Rufus King, Jr., brother of Virginia, author of that 8,448-page book about Jax. William Kelly, turpentine magnate, built the house 115 years ago. Albert O’Neall, though a Quaker, took a job here building bombing ranges. Now the former HQ of B & B has been restored as a bed-and-breakfast. One of my favorite writers stayed here just last week.