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The Avenue of Progress: Edgewood Avenue

Once called the 'Avenue of Progress', Edgewood Avenue serves as Historic Murray Hill's main pedestrian friendly commercial throughfare and is in the middle of a massive makeover.

Published February 6, 2008 in Neighborhoods      27 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


feature

Edgewood was originally called Murray Hill Avenue and was designed to be a boulevard with a wide landscaped median. As early as the 1930's, the strip was a popular commercial district with a large number of specialty shops and four grocery stores. Edgewood's peak years were between the late 1950's and mid 1970's. Despite the opening of several malls and shopping centers over the decades, several businesses along this corridor have managed to adapt and survive.

The First Block

The First Block, which is located where Edgewood crosses the CSX railroad tracks (A-Line) and Roosevelt Blvd, is the home to the Avenue's oldest remaining commercial buildings. Buildings here date back to 1915 and could be in danger of being negatively  impacted by a plan to construct a dedicated busway in the immediate vicinity. If commuter rail along the CSX A-line is proven feasible, Edgewood and the First Block could then become a popular location for an urban station that introduces local businesses to a larger customer base.

Thisbuildingonce housed the popular Woods Pharmacy. Today, it isbeing renovated intoan upscale billiards hall called Cues & Brews.

Moon River Pizza is known as one of the most successful local pizza establishments inthe First Coast. Moon River, whichhad originally intended toopen on Adams Street in downtown,chose this location on Edgewood instead and hasn't looked back since.

Since these images were taken, the corner building has become the home of an upscale eatery called "1171".

Edgewood & Post

The majority of Edgewood's pedestrian friendly business district is centered around the intersection of Edgewood and Post Street, in the heart of Murray Hill. This area is currently in the middle of a streetscaping project that will enhance the visual landscape of the Avenue with new wide sidewalks, lighting, diagonal parking, and landscaping.

The Edgewood Avenue Christian Church completed this building in 1951. It is located one block north of the old Florida Military Academy site. In 1971, the six story retirement center (seen in the background), was constructed on what was once one of Jacksonville's early campuses of higher learning.

The Edgewood Bakery is the longest continuously operated business on Edgewood Avenue. The popular bakery opened its doors in 1947.

The Murray Hill Theatre opened in 1949. It was designed by Architect William Marshall, who is also known for designing Jacksonville Beach's Red Cross Building. Today, the theater operates as an alcohol-free, smoke free, night club featuring live faith based music.
www.murrayhilltheatre.com

The Murray Hill Public Library branchhas been serving Murray Hill residents since 1968.

Once known as the "Avenue of Progress", Edgewood has managed to survive throughout the years despite repeated challenges from new shopping center openings, ranging from the Normandy Mall in the 1960's, Orange Park Mall in the 1970's, Avenues Mall in the 1990's and now the St. Johns Town Center this decade. As Murray Hill continues to grow in popularity as a walkable neighborhood that is more affordable than its well known neighbors to the east, Edgewood's fortunes will continue to improve.

For those looking to visit Edgewood Avenue, it can be easily reached from I-10 or I-295 by taking Roosevelt Blvd north (from I-295) or south from I-10 to its interchange with Roosevelt Blvd along the border of Murray Hill and Riverside/Avondale.








27 Comments

second_pancake

February 06, 2008, 09:04:04 AM
Murray Hill is one of those fortunate areas that already has prospering businesses, and just needs a good scrub and some paint.  The houses in the area are cute as a freakin button, and it's amazing the things you can find in the stores if you can just get past the unappealing aesthetic of many of them (first block excluded on the ugliness factor).

My house is just around the corner from Murray Hill and while living there, I enjoyed the walks to Edgewood Bakery for a coffee and a little cookie goodness, and sitting at Moon River for lunch.  Not to sound like a promotional piece paid for by the Murray Hill Preservation Society or anything, but there is so much more to historic Jacksonville than Avondale, 5-points and Springfield.  I'm glad to see the improvements taking place there.  I hope they include putting a sidewalk on the east side of Edgewood as well as adding some better looking signal posts.

hank

February 06, 2008, 09:05:44 AM
Is anyone aware of plans by the city to support this, from the sound of it, mostly private revitalization?  I noticed the newly planted areas and sidewalks closer to 17 but what about further along the strip to NW - the first photo seems to show an old lady about to get bowled-over by a PT Cruiser (What a way to go!)  It'd be great if the planted medians could be brought back.

fsujax

February 06, 2008, 09:27:49 AM
second-pancake, at this point Murray Hill far exceeds Springfield with the many retail, restaurant choices you have there. Not too mention you also have the Dreamette ice cream place.  We have nothing like that in Springfield. Sure our homes may be larger, bigger and older but that is all we have going for us Springfield adventurers.  I hope that someday we will have more choices like the residents of Murray Hill do.

second_pancake

February 06, 2008, 09:48:05 AM
second-pancake, at this point Murray Hill far exceeds Springfield with the many retail, restaurant choices you have there. Not too mention you also have the Dreamette ice cream place.  We have nothing like that in Springfield. Sure our homes may be larger, bigger and older but that is all we have going for us Springfield adventurers.  I hope that someday we will have more choices like the residents of Murray Hill do.

I agree and that was the point I was trying to make...guess it didn't translate from my head to my fingers ;)  What I meant is that there is a lot of talk and action that has taken place surrounding areas like Springfield.  San Marco is often touted as THE historic place to be because many city council members and our fair mayor live or spend time there.  Avondale is well-established and offers many fine-dining options, Ortega...well, Ortega is ~sniff,sniff~ where anyone who is anyone lives, and Riverside is the eclectic, fun and interesting hang-out.  But Murray Hill is overlooked...which is really sad because like you said, there are so many choices.  Aside from the makeover being done, it really should be promoted more.

James

February 06, 2008, 10:49:39 AM
I'm glad that Murray Hill was featured on here.  I've just recently come across this site and have enjoyed going back in the archives and am now a daily reader.  MH is definitely overlooked when people are referencing parts of Jacksonville.  I think that they were supposed to make all of Edgewood match the "First Block" but lost some funding from the city, maybe someone from MHPA could clarify that (?) but the updated area around Post and Edgewood looks really good.  The houses in MH are great starter houses or suitable for young families, plus with the influx of people renovating, the neighborhood has really started to pick up.  Dave's Diner is right on the Post/Edgewood corner, and the Dreamette completes any trip to MH.  I haven't been to 1171 yet, but it has gotten good reviews on the blogs.  What I wonder about MH is is it overlooked because of, or associated with, crime?  I don't think so, but I've heard people make reference to not wanting to be there after dark, or other things along those lines.  Do people see it as an unsafe area? 

second_pancake

February 06, 2008, 01:39:40 PM
As with anyplace going through a revitilization, they are hit-and-miss.  There are definitely areas within Murray Hill that I would think twice about exploring.  And as you drive down Edgewood and get closer to Lane Ave., it gets a bit dodgy, but there are places like that in Ortega too. It's mostly, and this is coming from someone who lived just on the other side of the tracks, an ability problem...an ability to keep up the properties, that contributes to the feeling of being in a "bad" part of town.  If you can look beyond junk cars in the drive, shingles falling off houses, and some unsightly metal awnings, then 'those' places won't bother you.  Murray Hill is still legs-up from Springfield in that regard though.  There are blocks in Springfield that are emmaculate, and then turn the corner and you'll see boarded up homes condemned by the city, and 50 people standing on the porch of another looking like they're up to no good, along with what can only be described as crack houses.  Not saying that Springfield is a bad place to be, just that it has a lot more work to do and Murray Hill is doing just fine, just needs some love ;)

You can find a heat-chart of crime statistics in Jacksonville, online.  They usually shade the highest crime areas in red.  I'll see if I can find one for you and post it.

second_pancake

February 06, 2008, 01:53:46 PM
http://www.coj.net/Departments/Sheriffs+Office/Uniform+Crime+Statistics++Mapped+Statistics.htm

Here's the city site with the police reports listed by a specified area.

Charles Hunter

February 06, 2008, 11:26:21 PM
I remember going to the Edgewood Theater (now Jones College) to watch Saturday matinées (cartoons, a movie, and contests) in the summer, and the Murray Hill for horror triple features.  And of course Toy Town - a large locally owned toy store - just down the block from the Edgewood Theater.

This was back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

duster1

February 07, 2008, 04:38:09 AM
I remember when the Edgewood Theater showed those movies and cartoons on Saturdays during the summer. I also knew the people that owned the Murray Hill Theater and the coin shop next door. Those were always great places with a lot of cool junk. My Grandpa would take me over to Wood's Pharmacy when they had a lunch counter too! Murray Hill is a great place.

James

February 07, 2008, 10:15:02 AM
SP, that website was good, it is amazing to see the differences in the stats in different parts of MH.  You can definitely see the parts that have turned the corner and those that still have some work to do.  The coin shop still seems to be filled with cool junk.  I knew that MH Theatre used to show movies, but I didn't realize that Jones college had been a theater. 

Charles, where was the toy store located?  I'm always interested in finding where things used to be in MH and what is in its place or if it was torn down, etc...

anybody know a good jax history website (besides this one  :)) that might have stuff about neighborhoods?  I went back in the archives and read the stuff on MH in here already

second_pancake

February 07, 2008, 03:34:12 PM
The only one I know of is the Jacksonville Historical Society site, http://www.jaxhistory.com/.  There's a bunch of random things out on the net, but you really have to know what you're looking for first.  The historical society site has links to old photos and things. Unfortunately, there really isn't a whole lot though if you're looking for anything other than Bay Street.  I've only found about 5 photos of Murray Hill all from the 40's and 50's, and all of them were of the theatre.

stug

February 07, 2008, 03:54:43 PM
After resigning myself to the fact that unless some long-lost wealthy uncle left me his fortune I'd never afford a house in Avondale, I purchased a small home in Murray Hill last June. I LOVE it. I have an adorable house on Dellwood Ave., west of Nelson St., and the neighborhood has been nothing but nice and quite thus far (Sure, there's crime, but I've never felt unsafe in the area). We got very lucky, though — because Dellwood doesn't connect to Mc Duff, we have much less through-traffic than roads like Ernest St. and, becuase we're west of Nelson, we have to-the-door mail delivery and therefore no ugly mail boxes marring the street. Our neighborhood is a mix of young families and couples who bought recently, and older people who've lived in the neighborhood forever, both white and black. I'm pleased with what they've done so far as far as improvements along Edgewood, and can't wait until they finish improving the stretch of Mc Duff from 95 to Roosevelt, because right now it looks like total garbage.
Dave's Diner is great, the Dreamette is awesome, I hear 1171 has really good food ...
Murray Hill will never become another Avondale strictly because of the sizes of the homes ... and that's okay. Murray Hill is friendly, quaint and has its own brand of shabby charm. And you just can't beat it as far as proximity to everything goes. Murray Hill is already nice, and continues improving at an incredible pace.

Charles Hunter

February 07, 2008, 11:08:43 PM
James, I'll have to go look at the block again, but I  think Toy Town was in "first block" at, or near, the end away from the RR tracks.

JeffreyS

February 08, 2008, 08:57:40 AM
And who could forget the days of sneaking high school girls into 17 south.

James

February 08, 2008, 12:17:30 PM
charles, i assume it was on the woods pharmacy side of edgewood, since what I've read on comments already placed is that Jones College was a theater.  I think there is a chinese restaurant on the end, across from Jones College now.

JeffreyS, was 17 south a club? Bar?  Was that also on the first block? 

James

February 08, 2008, 12:25:30 PM
stug I totally agree, it will never be ritzy, but I love the community feeling that it has, I'm going to get a slice at Moon River this afternoon  ;D

RiversideGator

February 08, 2008, 12:26:57 PM
Edgewood Ave has some great potential for densification and infill development as well as gentrification.  I think its proximity (and that of MH) to Riverside/Avondale and downtown and the relative affordability will really make this area better and better as time goes by.  It would be even better if we can get a commuter rail/light rail station right there at Roosevelt and Edgewood.

JeffreyS

February 09, 2008, 08:47:09 AM
17 south was a club many moons ago on the first block. A few others have been there notably Phat cats. 

James

February 09, 2008, 11:19:53 AM
Yeah I remember Phat Cats, but I guess 17 south preceded it

Timkin

February 09, 2008, 11:26:06 AM


Phat Cats,  17 South, The Continent at 17 south, College Station.  Different names ... all the same location. It is vacant now.  I remember when the Edgewood Theatre was open :) thats been a while.

James

February 16, 2008, 11:46:06 AM
The billiard hall is due to open Wed!

Ocklawaha

February 17, 2008, 10:12:58 AM


THAT INCREDIBLE THEATER!

I don't know when Jones College got it but my heart sunk... Even though I attended Jones, long enough to get on the deans list... and everybody else's list as well... EDGEWOOD IS A THEATER DAMN IT! I remember my big sister, (I'm talking about a 20 year difference big sister) taking us kids there to see Jungle Book when it first came out. Oh So Cool. But not cool enough, Just as the Monkeys kidnapped the kid, the Atlantic Coast Lines, West Coast Champion blew the horn for the crossing outside! I suddenly had to go to the bathroom, vanished like a flash, then discovered they don't let you back in without tickets! I finally talked my way back, and all was well. Somehow the kid was back with the Bear, and my Purple, Silver and Gold lover was streaking across Flemming Island at 90+ MPH. Times were good.

BTW, the streetcar line came over the ACL at a grade crossing about College and the Ice Cream Plant, then turned along the railroad in that large grassy area... About 2 blocks North of the Theater it turned West to a cross street then back south. It ended at the center of Edgewood, right at the west end of the central parking lot.

Just up the street from the theater, was THE HOBBY SHOP. Fields? Anyway, it was also there for about 1,000 years and had every manner of specialty train or RC plane known to man. Looks like today all that we have is the one in Orange Park, hidden in a corner, South of the mall in a mini plaza off Blanding. Oh shoot! @*(#&$*(@# Hang on fella's I forgot your holding on to my Trolley Car for me!


Ocklawaha

mtraininjax

February 29, 2008, 01:27:15 AM
Ock - Only 1 Hobby shop in Orange Park, Hobby World, has 2 stores, the one in OP, and then the other on 103rd street. Don is the owner and he is at the 103rd street location. Great guy!

James - If you want to know more about the MHPA, come to a meeting. We meet the 4th Thursday of every month at the Murray Hill Presbyterian Church. We had COJ Property Enforement there tonight and they were great. We have all the history about the area and we love seeing new people, old people, people who remembered when Jones College was a theatre. There is a new Merchants Association and the President of it is also the owner of Edgewood Bakery.

I live in Avondale, but we own 10 properties in Murray Hill, and yes there are boarded up homes in Murray Hill as well. Even on the "good" side, but crime is everywhere that you see more people per square mile. Sure we have more incidents per 100 people, but we have a lot more people living closer to each other than there are people doing the same thing in Mandarin.

The Town Center project had almost 700,000 allocated for the work. It was clear that we could not fund all of the blocks from the "First Block" to Post Street, so we chose to do as many blocks as we could with what we had from the City. Murray Hill has over 5,000 homes in its boundaries and we have a great and proud heritage. Come to a meeting sometime and get involved. You will be glad you did. :-*

stug

March 07, 2008, 01:27:53 PM
"James - If you want to know more about the MHPA, come to a meeting. We meet the 4th Thursday of every month at the Murray Hill Presbyterian Church. We had COJ Property Enforement there tonight and they were great. We have all the history about the area and we love seeing new people, old people, people who remembered when Jones College was a theatre. There is a new Merchants Association and the President of it is also the owner of Edgewood Bakery."


Mtrain ... what time are the meetings?

James

March 09, 2008, 07:58:59 PM
stug - they're at 7

sandyshoes

October 17, 2009, 03:27:38 PM
Here are more blasts from the past...yup, I remember Edgewood Theatre, and those cool Wednesday morning double features in the summertime, with prizes, etc...got my first pair of glasses from Dr. Knight's, Optician on Edgewood, close to Trask...had my first job at Dr. Koosed's on 1118 Edgewood (who owns that? nobody's ever turned it into anything and I can just imagine all his old dental equipment still in there?  Ate at the lunch counter at the old Woods Pharmacy, before that young whippersnapper (Glaros) took over in 1979...ah, nostalgia. 
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