Jacksonville's Dennis Street Warehouse District

March 26, 2010 25 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

A short distance from Jacksonville Terminal and downtown, a unique urban neighborhood offers a glimpse of Jacksonville's industrial past.



About The District

For the first half of the 20th Century, the Dennis Street area mainly consisted of planing mills, unpaved streets, undeveloped land and small frame houses for the working class.  Over a period of twenty years, from the late 1940's to the mid 1960's, the Dennis Street area transformed into a major urban industrial district benefiting from the railyards and terminals in LaVilla.

Today, a change in technology, space requirements and distribution patterns has rendered many of the district's brick structures obsolete. Despite this change, much of the district's building fabric still remains standing, offering us the opportunity to view a rare urban landscape in today's Jacksonville.


District Images from 1948 - 1954

This collection of images show various sights and scenes from the district during it's heyday.


1. This aerial looking southeast over Stockton Street, was taken in 1950.


Railway Express Agency


2. A major factor for the industrial conversion of this neighborhood was the Railway Express Agency (REA) Terminal on Myrtle Street.  This image was taken inside the REA Terminal in 1948.

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In 1929 69 railroads created the Railway Express Agency. It was formed from famous companies such as the Wells Fargo Inc, American Express Co., and Southern Express Co. just to name a few. These latter companies were formed into the American Railway Express Co. during WWI while under federal government control. In 1920 its was deemed to split this company back to its original companies. It was then approved by the ICC to continue operation as the American Railway Express but urged the railroads to begin operating their own express business.

Railway Express was much like today’s UPS. Virtually everything was shipped by REA as “LCL” (less than car load) or a full carload. Fruit, fish, flowers, bicycles, coffins, zoo animals, pets, racehorse’s motion picture film, anything and everything.  Most all passenger trains carried same form of Express. Most all-secondary trains were for the purpose of express service while the 1st class trains ran through, and they too may have some express business.

Jacksonville had a big roll with Railway Express. It is believed that Jacksonville’s facility was the largest in the country with a capacity for 250 cars. Equipped with a modern covered loading / unloading platform with multiple tracks, office space and loading/ unloading docks for trucks in front. A large storage yard was needed with around the clock terminal crews pulling and spotting express baggage, express box and express reefers.

REA as it later became to be known, was not limited to railroads. Air Service and Trucks also played part in their service. In the early 1960’s Southern was the first railroad in our area to discontinue using REA. An attempt was made to replace Southern’s system wide traffic by using trucks. In 1962 REA opened its last but modern terminal in Savannah Georgia served by the Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Air Line Railroads.  REA also attempted using express containerized vans on flat cars. To compete with other modes of transportation REALCO was formed as a trailer leasing pool. Railway traffic had reduced system wide and by the early 1970’s terminals were closed, Jacksonville was no exception and by 1975 REA was history.
http://www.jacksonvilleterminal.com/railway_express_agency.htm


Honeymoon Yard


3. This 1954 aerial captures a piece of the Dennis Street district to the right of the Honeymoon railyard and REA Terminal.

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It's easy to spot the REA Terminal with it's 32 stub tracks (largest express station in the world) which sits square on top of JTA's facility of today.  To the left of the REA Station is the JTCO roundhouse, shops, offices, and the railroads tank farm.  The track between the REA station and the JTCO Roundhouse is the former "S" line, given to the city and abandoned. TTX sits where the JTCO facilities once stood. The ACL and the SOUTHERN ran up the West side of the JTCO facility, as today the NS and the CSX run on those same tracks today. The yard where JTCO allowed passenger cars to be stored, and cleaned was called Honeymoon Yard, perhaps for the sea of sleeping cars that once stood there.

It's easy to spot the REA Terminal with it's 32 stub tracks (largest express station in the world) which sits square on top of JTA's facility of today.  To the left of the REA Station is the JTCO roundhouse, shops, offices, and the railroads tank farm.  The track between the REA station and the JTCO Roundhouse is the former "S" line, given to the city and abandoned. TTX sits where the JTCO facilities once stood. The ACL and the SOUTHERN ran up the West side of the JTCO facility, as today the NS and the CSX run on those same tracks today. The yard where JTCO allowed passenger cars to be stored, and cleaned was called Honeymoon Yard, perhaps for the sea of sleeping cars that once stood there.
http://www.metrojacksonville.com/forum/index.php/topic,4647.msg139415.html#msg139415



4. With the historic Jacksonville's Farmer's Market nearby, this area has always had a relationship with the food, beverage and agriculture industries.  For many years, Southern Dairies, Inc. operated an ice cream plant just west of Stockton Street.



5. Fram Florida, Inc. was a canning manufacturer located on Stockton Street.  Many of the industrial buildings along Stockton Street, date back to the 1920s and 1930s.



6. A look at Fram Florida's production line in 1949.



7. Looking north along Stockton Street in 1948.  Today, PRAXAIR Distribution Southeast operates out of the buildings that were the home of Linde Air Products Company.  Linde manufactured Liquid Oxygen and Acetylene Acid Gas.



8. Looking north along Stockon Street near Corbett Street.  During the development of the area into an industrial district, many streets were renamed.  Renamed Streets include Harper (originally Pelican), Corbett (McCoy), Cantee (Osceola), Watts (Edward) and Copeland (Logan) Streets.


The Dennis Street District Today



Despite the development of larger, modern facilities in suburban areas of Jacksonville, the district is home to several small businesses that provide an employment center for nearby residential areas.  As redevelopment of the inner city grows in popularity, these businesses can one day serve as built-in anchors for new neighboring adaptive reuse opportunities.







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UPP moved into an abandoned warehouse and renovated it. The componany manufactures paper and tissue for industrial use. Their two brands are Hi-Soft and Hi-Sorb.

Universal Paper Products is a privately owned paper converting company that produces toilet tissue and paper towels for the away-from-home market. Our customers are primarily distributors that service a wide variety of  facilities such as hotels, airports, office buildings, schools, colleges, hospitals and much more.  Our principle offerings are our exclusive brands of Hi-Soft for Toilet Tissue and Hi-Sorb for Paper Towels. However, because we are privately owned, we have the flexibility to tailor fit products to our customer needs based on the always changing market trends.

Our History – In 2003, a small group of businessmen with 50 plus combined years of experience in the tissue paper industry joined together to establish Universal Paper Products (UPP) in Jacksonville, Florida. In just a few short years, thanks to the hard work and dedication of the UPP team, the support of our suppliers and loyalty of our customers, UPP has grown to over 6 converting lines and more than 30 employees.  The future looks bright for this young company as we continue to enhance our products and services.

http://universalpaperproducts.com/










A reminder of the area's days as a rural residential community outside of Jacksonville.


The Linde Air Products Company building (historic image 7) on Stockton Street is now PRAXAIR Distribution Southeast.




The former Fram Florida, Inc plant (historic images 5 & 6).  The building next door was constructed in 1927 as a jelly factory called Vita Foods, Inc.




This abandoned warehouse was once the Sears Roebuck & Company's appliance warehouse.  With the increase in truck and trailer lengths over the last 50 years, this building's loading dock area, like many in the district, is obsolete for today's shipping needs.




Top Choice Poultry



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F.A.B., Inc. (Frosty Acres Brands), the national foodservice marketing and purchasing cooperative for independent distributors, announces Top Choice Poultry as the newest member.

Charles Kemp founded Top Choice Poultry in 1991. Based in Jacksonville, Florida, Top Choice Poultry’s customer base includes convenience stores, grocery stores, institutional accounts, and restaurants, and their service area spans Florida and Georgia.
“We are looking to expand our foodservice offerings with the Restaurant’s Pride brand as well as the foodservice segment of convenience stores with the Up for Grabs label.  With the expertise and resources available from F.A.B. and its members, we have a solid foundation for building these segments of our business,” relates Charles Kemp, President of Top Choice Poultry.

“Top Choice Poultry has progressive strategies in place to enhance their position in the foodservice and convenience markets.  Top Choice Poultry and F.A.B. share a commitment to growth by providing high quality brands and focus on success, which makes Top Choice Poultry an excellent addition to the F.A.B. Membership,” adds George T. Watson, President and CEO of F.A.B., Inc.
http://www.mymfn.com/?p=2647




Cash Building Materials


This building was constructed for National Biscuit Company in 1951.  The corporate offices of the National Biscuit Company were established in the world's first skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building in Chicago in 1898.  Today, the company is known as Nabisco and its products include Chips Ahoy!, Fig Newtons, Mallomars, Oreos, Ritz Crackers, Teddy Grahams, Triscuits and Wheat Thins.






Harper Street was originally known as Pelican Street.






Liberty Steel Inc.



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Liberty Steel is a Florida Corporation founded by Mack H. Crawford in 1978 to furnish the fabricated metals demand of the growing industrial sector in the Southeastern United States.  Our customer base was primarily paper mills, chemical plants, power plants, breweries and other industrial facilities, most of whom still rely on Liberty Steel today.

Over the years we have expanded operations to include all types of commercial construction which now represents roughly half our business.

• In addition to structural steel, our work is quite varied, including duct work, chutes, hoppers, platforms, stairways, ladders, handrails, tanks and more.

• We fabricate mild steel, hard plate, weathering steel, aluminum and several types of stainless steel.

• We offer finished material coatings from special paint systems, powder coating, to hot dip galvanizing.

Our shop manpower consists of skilled layout men, certified welders, experienced assistants, a quality control checker

and close supervision by Mikel A. Hudson, Superintendent. Our job sizes vary from a few hundred dollars to over one million dollars.

We have always taken pride in our slogan, "We service the industry," and look forward to your inquiries.
http://liberty-steel-inc.com/Home.html










Caribbean Cold Storage, Inc.

Caribbean Cold Storage was the site of the Atlantic Ice & Coal Company.  Today, business on this site has been modified to take advantage of JAXPORT.



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Caribbean Shipping, Inc. is your third party logistics partner in transporting both dry and temperature sensitive commodities. Strategically located in the port city of Jacksonville, Florida, Caribbean Shipping Services and Caribbean Cold Storage combines the latest technology and training to reduce cost and provide impeccable customer service.

Managing over one million pounds of product per day, Caribbean Shipping is the largest refrigerated transporter servicing the Caribbean market. We ship an average of 120 refrigerated and 30 dry containers per week and our fleet of 50 trucks currently travels over a half a million miles a month picking up and delivering product from 18 States .

Caribbean's trucking, ocean, and warehousing capabilities makes her a seamless "one-stop-shop" for her customers. Our warehouse is a RF facility with RFID capabilities and all our trucks are equipped with a Qualcomm GPS tracking system that updates our dispatchers with 24hrs day positioning information.
http://www.caribbeanshipping.com/aboutus.htm





Urban characteristics like gridded streets, limited building setbacks, and multimodal transportation corridors have become rare after decades of demolition for failed urban renewal projects. The fact the the majority of the urban landscape remains in this district makes it a rare find in today's Jacksonville.

Article by Ennis Davis