Downtown: The ThunderLizard Years.

July 9, 2010 4 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The Thunderlizard Years. In previous articles we have discussed the rise of Jacksonville as a bustling metropolis whose heart and soul, like those of every city before the 20th Century, was located in its hot glowing center. Downtown. Big Shopping Conglomerates, glass enshrined temples of corporate industry, thousands of shops and merchants, tens of thousands of people in the streets day and night.

Bars restaurants, theaters, dance and lecture halls, parks, sundry  shops and soda bars packed and lively with the concentrated energy, artistic  expression, intellectual life, and sexual congress of a city of hundreds of  thousands.

We will not go into detail here the bright, exotic names and places of supperclubs like the celebrated Emerald Room at the Roosevelt Hotel, nor the  thousands of local and international celebrities who made their early years  performing in them.
We will not re-illuminate the questionable and boisterous antics of the  fancy dandies who peopled the movie sets and speakeasies of Jacksonville's  avante garde Motion Picture Industry.  We will not evoke the memories of Babe  Hardy and Fatty Arbuckle (who hated each other assiduously) in a town where  Billie Holiday once broke a finger running from Revenuers.
We will not talk about the vibrant African American district in the heart  of the city on Ashley Street, the "Great Black Way", nor the multiple theatres  and concert halls that covered the starlit city like a garland of warmly lit  party lanterns that hugged the murky St. Johns River.
We will not guess what conversations were passed in the cramped bedrooms of  a thousand something rooming houses that lined the streets from Duval Street and  Hemming Park to the uppercrust of Springfield and East to the old movie centers  and industrial neighborhoods of a downtown that extended to the foot of the Hart  Bridge.
Nor will we dwell on a high society which revolved with the grace of a  minuet around the Banquet Dining Rooms of the four star hotels that surrounded  Hemming Park.

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