Hemming Plaza: Exact Center Point

by Tim Gilmore, 6/17/2012

This you must understand. The exact center of Jacksonville, Florida, (ax handles) the precise middle, the geographic gravitational core is as follows:

To begin with, it was simply Square No. 39. One year after the Civil War ended, plantation owner and city founder Isaiah D. Hart deeded Square No. 39 to the city. In 1873, one serious suggestion for this square in front of the city’s grandest hotel, the St. James, was to turn it into a cemetery. In 1898, the United Confederate Veterans unveiled the monument in the center of the square. The next year, the name of the square was changed to Hemming Park, to honor Charles C. Hemming, who had donated the monument to the city and who had fought against the United States for the creation of the Confederate States of America and in defense of slavery (ax handles).

You must understand the exact central point of Jacksonville, Florida.

The monument in the center of Hemming Plaza, originally Hemming Park, is a bronze Confederate soldier standing high up on a concrete pedestal that overlooks the bricks, the fountains, the children going into the Main Library, the politicians walking into City Hall, the homeless men playing checkers on the tables. (more than 200 white men)

(ax handles and baseball bats) In 1968, a very strange arrangement was made between the City of Jacksonville and Duval County. Black people in the inner city wanted more political inclusion and were defeated repeatedly in elections by a network of white redneck politicians that kept outsiders out of power. White people who had fled the inner city in a textbook example of “white flight” wanted to ensure that black politicians could not increase political power in the near future. The two demographics both supported consolidation of city and county governments. In a referendum, the majority of voters agreed to stretch the city limits of Jacksonville out to the limits of Duval County, giving the city jurisdiction an enormous 874.3 square miles, though most of the city would be the opposite of city—farmlands, woods, swamp. More than 13 percent of the surface of the city is water.

Maybe the fact that more than 13 percent of the surface of the city is water saves this city from itself.

So Jacksonville became the largest city, in terms of square mileage, in the United States, with the exception of Juneau, Alaska. The headline in the local newspaper, The Florida Times-Union, was “Biggest City in the World!” a strange headline for a city that contained so many country people who lived in the woods and thought little of cities.

Even in the early 21st century, driving toward the city on the interstate, you encounter a sign that announces the city limits of Jacksonville several miles before you see signs that tell you how many miles Jacksonville still lies ahead of you.

(baseball bats) In the middle of its 874.3 square miles, which in 2010 includes sizeable Indian, Chinese, Eastern European, and Central American populations—not even 60 percent of the city is white and more than 30 percent is black—in the very middle, the exact center, the middlemost point of the consolidated government, stands the statue of a soldier who fought to deny the United States this land, who fought for a new country where slavery of ethnic minorities would remain not only legal, but a primary and defining institution. (beating black teenagers)

You can have Pad Thai at Sala Thai Restaurant on Beach Boulevard, or Boti Saag at India’s Restaurant on Baymeadows Road, or gyros and dolmades at Hovan Mediterranean Restaurant in Five Points Riverside, or ropa vieja and tostones at Puerto Plata Dominican Restaurant on Bayview Road in Lakeshore, or the YeBeg Wot at the Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant on the Southside, or tapas at 13 Gypsies in Riverside, and still the statue that stands in the very middle of you will be that of a Confederate soldier. (more than 200 white men)

The Confederate soldier stood backward when Jacksonville was mostly white and black, but now scores of other ethnicities intercede, and the Confederate soldier has not caught up with his original backwardness, 150 years ago. Someone should walk into the middle of Jacksonville and tell him there is no CSA, that he still stands as he always has in the USA, and that the United States has a black president. Someone should tell him.

You must understand what stands at the heart of Jacksonville, Florida, though Jacksonville, Florida comes as close as possible to proving that a body can live without a heart. (more than 200)

1960. More than 200 hundred white men come down to the heart of the city. Underneath the Confederate soldier, they pass out ax handles. Other white men have come with baseball bats. They have come to Hemming Park, then called, to respond to the sit-ins, the black students sitting in at the segregated downtown lunch counters, the way other black students have in South Carolina and Georgia and elsewhere. More than 200 white men come upon the center of the city with baseball bats and ax handles and use them against any black body they see. More than 200 white men beating black teenagers with baseball bats and ax handles. White men in Confederate uniforms at the heart of the city. Beneath the statue of the Confederate soldier. Beating black teenagers who sought to sit with whites at a lunch counter. Confederate uniforms. Confederate soldier. Baseball bats. Ax handles.

Photograph, Courtesy The Florida Times-Union

They would remember it as “Ax Handle Saturday.”

In 1901, an enormous fire swept across much of what then constituted Jacksonville, one of the largest conflagrations in United States history. Almost all of what is now downtown was incinerated. Hundreds of Jacksonville residents piled household belongings at the base of the Confederate Monument in Hemming Park. Their goods burnt, but the monument didn’t. (beating black teenagers)

Photograph, Courtesy The Florida Times-Union

One of the only pieces of construction to survive Jacksonville’s Great Fire of 1901 was the Confederate soldier at the heart of the city. At the base of the column on which stands the soldier, the concrete glowed red. Like a hero defending the Confederacy and the institution of human slavery, the Confederate soldier stood above the flames and surveyed the holocaust unscathed. (baseball bats)

The bronze Confederate soldier stood at the center of the fire and watched the city burn. The city’s residents had piled their household goods at his base as though offering a sacrifice to the Confederacy. They had offered the Confederate soldier their belongings as though in obeisance to a foreign country that almost existed.

At the heart of Jacksonville stands a Confederate soldier, but who needs a heart in a postmodern city-state?

(white men in Confederate uniforms in the heart of the city)

(since Jacksonville is not only white and black)   The meteorologist predicts cool temperatures tomorrow afternoon for walking down to the Park and King District in Riverside for sushi and sake.

The world is bigger than the Confederate States of America with its stupid statue staked in your heart. (glowed red and surveyed the holocaust)

(a sacrifice to the Confederacy)

But 13 percent of the city’s geography is water.

Stupid statue staked in your heart.

But 13 percent is water.