Tag Archives: jaxpsychogeo

New Story: Sin City (the Urban Legends / the True Story)

Click below for this week’s story, the first of three in a series about that infamous Jacksonville neighborhood long known as “Sin City,” or navigate the city through the direction buttons at the top of the page:

Actor Darrell Zwerling hadn’t yet starred in Polanski’s Chinatown, when he stayed at Fox Meadows, saying, “This is the life. Swimming & Sunning all day and acting at night.” The apartments advertised, “Luxury Living at Reasonable Rates,” but “No Children” soon became “Adults Only.” By the time Fox Meadows became the Rivermont in the 1970s, drugs and prostitution branded the apartments “Sin City,” a moniker that soon spread to the surrounding neighborhood. The urban legends are legion; here’s the true story.

This Week’s Story: The Final Flooding of This Particular History–Marjenhoff Park

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In five years, this neighborhood will be flooded and returned to swamp. When Hurricane Irma turned Marjenhoff Park and its surrounding houses into a swirl of swill, long after the 25 year history of South Jacksonville as a city, long after those little boys chased an alligator through city pipes, almost a century after South Jax City Councilman and son blurred ages, still: once “haunt” and “home” meant the same thing. 

Halloween-week story: Spence Auto Sales and Ottis Toole Death Car

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It was November 1983, six months since Spence had last seen Ottis Toole, the great fake serial killer. Detectives thought they could pin the Ottis Toole death car and a rusty machete to Spence Auto Sales. Two months later, Spencer Bennett was dead. 

New Story: Baldwin: Everybody’s Restaurant

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The restaurant’s “been here forever,” they say, Minnie Bennett-Lynn “renamed it from Sunshine” and “wasn’t messin’ around.” Mr. Thigpen “supplied fresh horses for the stage and for its passengers he supplied food and shelter.” The town called Thigpen city fathers renamed for Dr. A.S. Baldwin. The fried okra’s better’n the fried squash.

Wesconnett: Pucketts and Gunnings

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No dogs inhabited the doghouse, just 10,000 fleas. The gazebo welcomed the alligator. Rodney’s memories of his mother and his father are radically different. His mother connected callers at the hospital. His father chased his mother through the Wesconnett house with a machete. He recalls the Gunnings, the hardware store, the bulldogs, the 15 year old girl, his baby, his first truck. 

 

New Story: Wesconnett: Turknett/Parnell House

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When the community congealed, three families merged their names to rename the village Wesconnett. Old Orange Park Road, sometimes called simply the Clay Road to Orange Park, became Wesconnett and Blanding Boulevards. The Turknett House became the Parnell House became the center of town. You came to its porches to get your mail, hear the news, receive a phone call or listen to weekend music. The town is gone, buried beneath this inner ring of suburbia, but the house at the center of town still stands.

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.

New Story: Sloan / McQueen House

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William has lived his whole life here on Spearing Street on the Eastside. Mable lived here almost half a century. Then tragedy struck. The letters on the pantry door spell, “Mable’s kitchen.” The Reverend McQueen took in boarders, but when a choir member couldn’t make rent, the pastor still paid the community’s mortgage.

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.