Tag Archives: Tim Gilmore

The Strange Story of Slappey’s Town of Ghent Motel

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Here’s the strange story of Slappey’s Town of Ghent Motel. The sailor claimed to have built it for his “war bride” to remind her of her hometown. He had the wrong town. A naked man, fleeing Slappey’s, once disrupted church services next door. Police activity at Slappey’s ranged from gambling raids to murder.

LaVilla’s Progress Furniture Company

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Climb the stairs and see there’s more missing than remains of 318 Broad Street. Bernie would tell you, at Progress Furniture Company, 80 years ago, “Buy or Sell…We Treat You Well.” His father was one of two Romanian Jewish immigrants in Jacksonville named Isador Moskovitz. This collapsing commercial building provides a microcosm of decimated and mostly vanished LaVilla. A thistle blooms in bricks near the roof.

Spiritual Lighthouse Church

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It was home, in the old days, to Southern preaching, bluegrass mandolin, and séances. Bluegrass gospel musicians Billie and Gordon Hamrick were staunch  Southern Baptists, but Billie had “psychic visions.” The line of Spiritualist pastors here, almost all women, dates back to training by the famous psychic Edgar Cayce. In one of Jill Cook Richards’s first séances at the church, she says, her guardian angel came to her.

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.

The Mystery House at Atlantic/Neptune Beach

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Supposedly the hurricane tossed the house back up on the beach that way and rather than tearing it down, some smalltime Barnum charged admission. At the beginnings of a town called Neptune, the “Mysterious House” stood out beyond the dunes. Inside, gravity went askew. You felt like you were walking up the wall.

The Bodies Left Behind in Billy Goat Hill

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A hundred years after the bodies were moved, workers digging immediately north of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral found skeletons. Four decades later, other workers found skulls. Is anybody still down there? These are the kinds of things that can happen when you work in older parts of a city, he said.

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.

The Strange Twisting Histories of Marabanong

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The history of the vast Victorian house called Marabanong includes women astronomers and suffragists, poets and painters, fictional pirates and peacocks, widow’s walks and underground passages. The 144 year old house has five levels, a corner tower, 121 windows and more stories than anyone can count.

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.