by Tim Gilmore, 4/2/2021
Red Cannon operated other barbershops, but this one served as his political headquarters. Men of power stopped by for a trim and a shave and the scuttlebutt. Transactions happened, official and otherwise. Some folks needed a reservation. Others had a standing appointment. When Ted met Red, the architect was a young man, quickly discovering the efficacy of a well placed introduction.
This three story building was, after all, Ted’s Uncle John’s. It was crumbling. Then again, in 1968, everything in the center of the city was falling apart. If Jacksonville didn’t implode in the next 10 years, surely the earth would open up and suck the city down.
Clyde “Red” Cannon was twice City Council president, three terms chair of budget and finance. He cut hair and talked and listened and let things happen and made things happen. Certain things needed to happen for the city to go on functioning, but few folks needed to know the deals, the details, the details of the deals. It was Red Cannon arranged to dredge Hogan’s Creek, long a garbage dump for bottles and incinerator ash and factory offal and once in a while a body, so important municipal buildings, like the Duval County Armory, would not flood. It was quite a leverage. Red could lift a finger and let Mother Nature come back on the city.
In 1968, Ted Pappas was ready to strike out on his own. Having graduated from architectural school at Clemson and started out with the city’s most prestigious and visionary architects, including Robert Broward and Taylor Hardwick, Pappas found himself in a position with vision for his hometown. With its arabesque railings on balconies on the second and third floors, the Doty Apartment Building at Adams and Washington Streets had always reminded him of New Orleans.
In the building’s present state of disrepair, you might stare up through the balcony struts and railings from underneath and think of Tennessee Williams’s stage notes for A Streetcar Named Desire, how “the section is poor, but unlike corresponding sections in other American cities, it has a raffish charm,” how the blue sky “invests the scene with a kind of lyricism and gracefully attenuates the atmosphere of decay.”
John and Alexandra Louros, Ted’s uncle and aunt, had owned the building since the mid 1940s. Ted was in grade school during World War II when his Uncle John operated the Stratford Restaurant downtown. Ted was 11 when his father died and as much as he could, his Uncle John stepped into the void. When Ted started his own firm, he came to his Uncle John to open his first offices in this building.
By then, Red Cannon had resigned from City Council, having served, other than his time in the Navy in World War II, from 1939 to ’66. Cannon made a living and lots of relations cutting hair, and his nickname came from the color of his own. Lest anyone think it pertained to his political persuasion, he’d authored legislation in 1950 to make it illegal for a member of the Communist Party “to be at large in the City of Jacksonville.” While the bill failed to say how authorities could prove membership, it specified that suspected Communists “at large” in the city, whatever that meant, could be jailed for up to 90 days.
Red Cannon resigned when a grand jury probing city corruption recommended indicting him and seven other city officials for charging fake financial accounts, bribery and fraud, including Cannon’s acceptance of “unauthorized compensation.” Meanwhile, cronies and colleagues came by for haircuts and a young architect shook hands with politicos and bigshots. In 1971, Cannon was acquitted and a St. Petersburg judge with the improbable name of Victor O. Wehle (Despite the jokes about “Judge Oh Well,” the name has two syllables.) said, “Becoming a little more familiar with the atmosphere of city politics in Jacksonville, I see nothing to be gained by putting them in jail.”
When Pappas took over the building, one boarder remained upstairs, an old white man nobody seemed to know, though in recent years, a black jazz musician, a trumpeter and sometime bassist who’d backed up white band leaders, when segregationist authorities blinked, in the Teagarden and Glenn Miller days, with Johnny Entenza at the Hotel George Washington, and at the Mayflower and Roosevelt Hotels, had stood outside his third floor room where he blew, on warm wet purple nights, occasional sad complicated tunes across the river.
Uncle John Aristedes Louros had come from Greece in 1907, made money serving Greek food on picnic tables by the St. Johns River, returned to Greece and married Ted’s Aunt Alexandra, brought her back pregnant to Jacksonville, returned again to Greece and picked up Ted’s mother Fifika from the family’s island home on Samos, where the philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras was born in 570 B.C.
It’s like that, speaking to Ted Pappas. He tells you about buildings he designed a few decades ago, discussing cantilevers, Brutalism and the continuous flow of a 30-60 grid, then cuts to philosophers and poets who inhabited certain islands and towns in Greece millennia ago. The present runs deep, while always the deep past is at hand. So it’s not surprising he’d spend his career alternating between avant-garde architecture and historic preservation.
In its early years, this three story masonry vernacular structure, first opened in 1911, housed Harris and Harris Grocers, Leonard Gill, Druggist, and Diedrich Rumph, Drugs and Sundries on the ground floor and two stories of apartments upstairs, where lived a tax collector (Edward Branch and his wife Nellie), a carpenter (William Abraham and his wife Clara), a cigar packer (Pedro Garcia and his wife Hazel) and a travel agent (Glenn Smith and his wife Lula), also various widows. The Doty blent into the neighborhood of two story houses, apartment buildings and independently owned businesses. In later years, it housed a Banner Food Store, DeLuxe Laundry and Dry Cleaners and the offices of dozens of attorneys and physicians. The Doty was a community all by itself. In 2021, 120 year old houses still stand nearby on random streets, though the Doty stands alone in its immediate context, a reminder of the densely populated, ethnically diverse and thriving neighborhood that once surrounded it.
By 1968, the city had condemned Uncle John’s building. Says Ted Pappas: “So I told my uncle and my aunt, I said, ‘Look, I need to open an office and if you’ll let me, I’ll run the building and collect the rents for you and have my office here too.’” Because of that agreement, the building still stands half a century later.
The Florida Times-Union published stories about and photos of Ted Pappas “in his restored Washington Street office” in 1977. In those images, Ted plants a strong forearm on piles of architectural plans and renderings. He wears a short-sleeved white button down shirt and polka dot tie, looks up past heavy Greek eyebrows at someone out of frame. Houseplants hang in pots or grow up from floor pots before the brick wall and dark blinds in the window.
In 1978, Red Cannon died when a horse fell on top of him as he tried to mount it for a Civil War reenactment near the Olustee Battlefield, site of a rare late Confederate victory against United States forces advancing from Jacksonville near the end of the Civil War.
Now, once again, the Doty Building deteriorates. Pappas had painted it white, removed a balcony from the second floor. Today, the top two floors are brick red and the floorboards in the third floor balcony have rotten away, leaving only the balcony struts. As is so often the case, it’s painful for Ted to revisit buildings he’s either designed or restored. Today, with the Duval County Jail and the Police Administration Building just a couple blocks away, the Doty and much of the surrounding district house bail bond companies and attorneys’ offices.
Teddy Redding has blown his trumpet this year and that in Jax, for a while at Juice ’n Java, again at Breezy’s, and remembers various old timers like that ancient musician who once occupied the top floor of the Doty. Teddy’s sure of it, can’t remember his name, mind slips him often these days, but he remembers the old man knew Charlie Edd, that he played with Ray Charles and Lionel Hampton both, middle of the city and out north of town, said his most favored place on all the earth was Avenue B, said you had to find where a city most happened, that the preachers always marked it. Strange the city, with so many people, could feel so lonely. Strange the city that could feel so lonely could feel like your only friend.
Meanwhile, the Doty was another place where the city had most happened, again and again. (And a city was full of places where the city had most happened.) Ancient Greece washed ashore here. Dirty politics enacted Southern white privilege here. And countless moments of heartbreak and epiphany, now lost to memory forever, occupied upstairs corners, acute angles and shadows. Meantime, meanplace, maybe yet, Teddy Redding, friends call him T. Redd, will remember that old man’s name.