Tag Archives: Tim Gilmore

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?

New Story: Doty Apartments/Red Cannon’s Barbershop/Ted Pappas Associates

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Here was Red Cannon’s political hq. Here, that old jazz musician once lived. Here, indictments against city officials arrived. Here, the young architect Ted Pappas opened his first office. In the Doty Apartment Building were cigar packers and tax collectors, attorneys and physicians. It’s history is as full and diverse as that of a city. 

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. 

New Story: Round Marsh (by the Willie Browne Trail)

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People have theorized Round Marsh the result of a meteor, others that it’s the remains of a British rice paddy and a 4,000 year old cypress pond. Willie Browne led friends on hikes around the pond and archaeologists have combed its shores. The World War II airplane and its pilot, meanwhile, are still in the marshes to the north. Willie Browne often said he could hear “the thunder of horsemen racing by in the distance,” when no one was there.

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.