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Remembering Furchgott's Department Store

Metro Jacksonville takes a look into the past of one of downtown's most blighted sore spots: The former Furchgott's Department Store building.

Published January 6, 2011 in History      62 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


feature

A Jacksonville Retail Institution



Furchgott's Inc. was established by Leo Furchgott in 1868.  During the company's early years, it was known as Kohn-Furchgotts and was located at the intersection of Bay & Main Streets.  Under the leadership of company president Frederick Meyerheim, Furchgott's went through a period of growth that called for a major expansion of their upscale downtown department store, which was known for its designer departments.



The Post Office Building


The Post Office Building being demolished for Furchgott's in 1940.

To accommodate this growth, the impressive and towering marble post office building would be demolished to make way for a new 60,000 square foot, six level Art Deco department store designed by Marsh and Saxelbye Architects. Harold Meyerheim would take the place of his father as company president in 1945.  


Left: Basement; Right: First Floor (Street level)

Quote
First Floor

In 1941, Furchgott's opened a new mercantile building on the southeast corner of Adams & Hogan, one block south of Hemming Park.  It occupied the former spot of the wonderful old marble post office.  Floor by floor, a Furchgott brochure from the Forties furnished details about the "scientifically-designed" structure, specially created for your shopping pleasure & convenience.  The first story really didn't offer any radical surprises, though.  According to the brochure, "It's a floor that is as typically American as 'cheese and apple pie.'" Buyers there could examine such diverse items as tuxedos, topcoats, diamonds, silverware, costume jewelry, gloves, neckwear, lingerie, umbrellas, gifts, and pens & pencils.  Patrons could also frequent a "hat bar" and a rental library.
http://www.jaxhistory.com/Jacksonville Story/Picture of Furchgott's Page One.htm

Quote
Basement

When frugal Furchgott shoppers descended "far below the street level," they found a place where "the prices are low and bargains universal."  During the Forties, basement items included curtains, blankets, corsets, girdles, cotton goods, men's work clothes, and uniforms for nurses and maids.

An added attraction was the basement delivery room!  Explained the store brochure, "Here one may view the delivery chute. Packages for delivery or mail are sent from any of the five floors down the spiral chute where they empty into a tunnel that slightly resembles a dairy silo.  From this point they go to the delivery room, where merchandise for delivery or mailing purposes is held."

As thrilling as delivery rooms can be, the basement's excitement level probably increased a notch after Furchgott's closed.  In recent years, the basement housed a club, The Milk Bar, named after a drinking establishment in the shocking movie "A Clockwork Orange."  Jacksonville's The Milk Bar featured live bands playing alternative music, often with mosh pits.  The venue was credited with helping to launch Limp Bizkit, the mega-popular group from the River City.  The Milk Bar or Paradome Club eventually evolved into another nightspot called 618, located on Forsyth Street in La Villa.
http://www.jaxhistory.com/Jacksonville Story/Picture of Furchgott's Basement.htm



Left: Second Floor; Right: Third Floor

Quote
Second Floor

The thing that caught your eye in Furchgott's second floor was the round room.  Boasted the store,  "Basically the design of the women's ready-to-wear department might be said to resemble a historic Queen Ann's drawing room, for it is housed in a circular room.  Clothes of unusual quality, designed by renowned creators, are shown for discriminating women of taste."

Patrons could also browse through other 2nd floor merchandise, including shoes, sportswear, negligees, and junior clothing.  This level also contained a fur salon, a women's lounge, and an alteration department.  "Not to be forgotten either is the Brides Room, where complete trousseaux may be selected in quiet seclusion."
http://www.jaxhistory.com/Jacksonville Story/Picture of Furchgott's Second Level.htm

Quote
Third Floor

A variety of items drew shoppers to Furchgott's third level.  According to the store brochure from the late Forties, "The third floor should be of unusual interest to Jacksonville men and women with growing families.  Here special emphasis is laid on children's wardrobes -- from the tiny crawler to the football kicker age.  On this floor are boys furnishings, boys prep clothing, toys, luggage, radios, records, and sheet music.  Likewise of special significance is the large infants' department where clothes and furniture are found.  The direct east side of the floor may be termed as 'women's territory,' for here is a cotton dress department, budget dress department, teenage dress department, and children's dress department.  Needless to say, there are adequate dressing rooms throughout."
http://www.jaxhistory.com/Jacksonville Story/Picture of Furchgott's Third Floor.htm



Left: Third Floor; Right: Fifth Floor

Quote
Fourth Floor

"Where Shopping Is a Pleasure"?  Furchgott's Department Store pretty much claimed this during the Forties.  Listen to how it described its fourth level: "Characterized by the cumulation of affiliated departments, the fourth floor makes shopping almost as pleasant as a pastime to the Furchgott customer.  Here such necessities as bedding, rugs, lamps, linens, and notions are found in numerous assortments.  Directly in the northwest corner of the floor is an unusually imposing drapery department. Here at all times is a decorator inspired drapery show room, where the latest trends in home furnishings are displayed, and where expert advice is offered.  The woman who sews will find a complete department of rayons, acetates, and cotton fabrics from the foremost fabric mills."  The floor also offered pictures, mirrors, venetian blinds, a closet shop, and a shower shop.
http://www.jaxhistory.com/Jacksonville Story/Picture of Furchgott's Fourth Floor.htm

Quote
Fifth Floor

During the Forties, the top level of Furchgott's proved to be "the mainspring of the entire store." As the Furchgott brochure explained, "On this floor you'll find behind-the-scene specialists whose job is to make the entire organization function smoothly and efficiently."  The floor's occupants included the layaway department, an upholstery workroom, and a display workroom, along with offices for credit, employment, advertising, and the store's executives.  Other features included a "hospital room," an employee's recreation terrace, and the staff restrooms.
Source: http://www.jaxhistory.com/Jacksonville Story/Picture of Furchgott's Page One.htm



For a while, Furchgott's also occupied the street level storefronts of the Professional Building.  Today, the matching storefront elements that visually tied the buildings together still remains.

Still squeezed for space, the store would expand to include the street level frontage of the historic Professional Office Building next door in 1957.  Following the suburbanation of Jacksonville, Furchgott's would go on to open additional stores in Roosevelt Square Mall (1961), Regency Square Mall (1967) and Orange Park Mall (1975).



The Fall of Furchgott's



It can be said that the 1970s and 1980s were downtown Jacksonville's darkest period of the 20th century.  During the 1980s, Furchgott's became a financially troubled chain of department stores.  After 43 years of anchoring what was once downtown's most prominent retail intersection, Furchgott's would permanently shut down their 70,000 square foot flagship department store at 130 Adams Street in Spring 1984.  Furchgott's would then file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in mid-January 1985.  Initially, Jacksonville based Stein Mart agreed to buy the company.  However this deal would fall apart when the managers of Regency Square Mall would refuse to allow Stein Mart into the mall (oh how times have changed).

Stein Mart then formed a joint venture with Body Shops of America to buy the company but were outbid by Dallas based real estate company owned by Dean Hoover on April 30, 1985.  To make that purchase, Hoover borrowed money from Regency Square's owners, Schroder Center Management, Inc. of Dallas.  One week later, on May 8, 1985, the three remaining Furchgott's stores in Regency, Roosevelt Square and Orange Park Malls would abruptly close their doors for good, putting the final nail in the coffin of Jacksonville's oldest department store after 116 years of continuous operation.


130 Adams Street Today



26 years have passed since the flagship downtown store shut down.  Since that time, the basement of the store has been used for a variety of things including a fitness center (1986), the Milk Bar (19??) and currently De Real Ting Cafe.  In recent years, the street level spaces include Pizza Italiano, Redd Cafe, Zodiac Grill and Natasha's Tailoring.  

"It will be nice to have a bookstore, I think people will enjoy that and I think everybody will be excited," - Natasha Zaulyanov owner of Natasha's Tailoring - FTU 3/4/2005

In 2005, the Furchgott's Building was purchased the Hudson Book Company for $2 million.  Primarily an Internet and wholesale book business, at the time, Hudson announced plans to open a first floor retail book shop and use the remaining floors as a warehouse to store books.  Last year, the building was available for purchase for the sum of $3.2 million.




It doesn't appear that this building has been painted since the store closed in 1984 (26 years).


Quote
At the entrance, notice the stripes on the sidewalk, along with a fanciful "F" (inside a circle) for "Furchgott's."  It's nice that the stripes and the "F" are still visible today and that the marble still surrounds the entranceway.  The doors in the alcove lead to other businesses, though.  Through the left entrance is the Zodiac Grill (recently relocated to the Shultz Building), while through a door to the right is De Real Ting Caribbean Restaurant.  The former Zodiac Grill location occupied the former area for jewelry, silverware, cosmetics, hosiery, and "specials."  De Real Ting is where handbags and lingerie used to be purchased.
http://www.jaxhistory.com/Jacksonville Story/Picture of Furchgott's Entrance.htm


Former Zodiac Grill location



Article by Ennis Davis







62 Comments

I-10east

January 06, 2011, 04:28:43 AM
Thanks Lake for the great info as always. I didn't even know about this old department store. This was closed before I got here in 86'. I do remember some of the last DT department stores to go like Mc Cory's & Woolworth.

riverside planner

January 06, 2011, 06:20:37 AM
I remember going to Furchgott's as a little girl with my grandmother.  It was the "fancy" department store where she bought her perfume.

copperfiend

January 06, 2011, 08:14:21 AM
The demolition of the Post Office Building has to go down as one of the biggest mistakes in the history of this city. What a beautiful building.

blandman

January 06, 2011, 08:24:36 AM
Great info!  Anyone have current pictures of the interior?

fsujax

January 06, 2011, 08:27:23 AM
i actually had a chance to tour the inside of that building a few years back. It still has the department store look. Mirrored columns, etc. It is sad. Could you imagine if Stein Mart put a store in there? oh the possibilities.

acme54321

January 06, 2011, 08:44:33 AM
The worst thing about this is the post office that was torn down to build this mundane building.

jcjohnpaint

January 06, 2011, 09:37:21 AM
yeah that post office looked so beautiful

Jumpinjack

January 06, 2011, 10:20:55 AM
Furchgotts was a fancy store. They carried the best of everything. When you entered the store, the street level floor was always decorated elaborately, up to the ceilings, with the seasonal decorations.  They didn't have to rely on Sunday advertising inserts to get customers. Just walking by their store on the sidewalk, you looked in their windows and saw wonderful displays of merchandise that encouraged you go in and shop.

The elevators were run by ladies who sat on a little wooden seat and told you which floor carried the items you wanted. The clerks knew their departments and were very helpful getting you just the right items. If you needed clothes, they helped you size them and try them on. Real customer service.

Downtown had inexpensive merchandise stores, and then they had Cohens, Rosenblums, and Furchgotts.

comncense

January 06, 2011, 10:31:37 AM
Yeah the original post office building definitely was a beautiful building. Looks like Jacksonville has a long history with making bad decisions with downtown. Sad thing is, there's no real change in sight...

simms3

January 06, 2011, 10:44:49 AM
Marsh and Saxelbye designed so many intricately beautiful buildings/houses, and then they put up this work?  The least they could have done was to pay homage to the absolutely gorgeous building they were replacing.  If I was a cash rich developer, I would build an exact replica of the old post office in Jacksonville.  The Post Office was the worst building to demolish and still to me stands out as Jacksonville's prettiest old building.

simms3

January 06, 2011, 10:46:39 AM
Downtown had inexpensive merchandise stores, and then they had Cohens, Rosenblums, and Furchgotts.

I believe Rosenblum's is still around, no?  One at the beach and one on San Jose?

Jumpinjack

January 06, 2011, 10:49:34 AM
There is/was? a really small store in San Jose.

Shwaz

January 06, 2011, 10:51:21 AM
I'm glad they down the marble towers of the old post office... considering how nice our current downtown post office is  :-\

cline

January 06, 2011, 11:15:15 AM
Downtown had inexpensive merchandise stores, and then they had Cohens, Rosenblums, and Furchgotts.

I believe Rosenblum's is still around, no?  One at the beach and one on San Jose?

It is.  They have two stores, one on San Jose near University and one at the Beach.

Wacca Pilatka

January 06, 2011, 12:04:22 PM
Thanks for posting this.  I love reading about the old downtown stores.  I wish I had seen them while they were still open.

Luveenyah

January 06, 2011, 12:54:25 PM
Wow, the Milk Bar.  That's a name I haven't heard in some time.  And that post office looked really nice!

urbaknight

January 06, 2011, 12:57:37 PM
I hope a bookstore does move into the Zodiac"s former location. However, I have a big problem with the next four floors not being converted to residential units. That would be a good opportunity to try out that density and urban infill concept. There are some apartments just across the street. Screw the storage space, the building will still look dead above the first floor if that happens! I'm sure with a little bit of planning, there's plenty of room for book storage.

fieldafm

January 06, 2011, 01:59:02 PM
Furchgott's was more my father's day...

but I popped in this thread b/c of this:

Quote
Wow, the Milk Bar.  That's a name I haven't heard in some time.

Oh Milk Bar, what a wonderful time to be alive!

Rosenblum's is still alive and kickin.  One in Mandarin, one at the beach.  Going to use my Teal Deals/Rosenblums coupon to get flossed up for Best of Jax party at the end of the month.

I did give a brief history lesson last night on Lerner Shop.

Isn't there a sports bar opening on this(Furchgotti/Chew/Zodiac) block soon?

Ocklawaha

January 06, 2011, 04:41:04 PM
As one that enjoyed Jacksonville's downtown in the 50's and 60's I'm here to tell y'all there was NOTHING mundane about Furchgott's... EVER. Whatever their building might have lacked on the outside, they more then made up for it on the inside.

Furchgott's was top shelf all the way through, every bit the equal of Sak's or Macy's, maybe even better. The interior of the "new" 1980's Regency Mall store was done in rose marble, and they had robot's that wandered around, introduced themselves and made suggestions on gifts based on what you told them. TRUE.

Rosenblums in that same era was the creme de la creme of the starched collar nabob set, and something of a fad for students at area high schools. "Psst... Sally got that at Rosenblums!" was a higher compliment then "She went to Jarreds." I haven't been back in one of the surviving Rosenblums stores, but if they are anything like the in the past, you can't go wrong for appearance and style, you most certainly WILL impress the boss.


OCKLAWAHA

simms3

January 06, 2011, 05:03:19 PM
Well if you say it was every bit the equal of Macy's or Saks, then I have questions.  Macy's is a mid-level store (most being lower scale than the Dillards at Town Center, and none being higher scale).  Saks and Macy's can't really be in the same sentence.  That being said, Rosenblum's certainly has some nice product.

Wacca Pilatka

January 06, 2011, 05:15:49 PM
Does anyone have any memories to share on Levy-Wolf or Purcell's?  Those seem to be the downtown department stores I don't hear much about amidst reflections on Cohen's, Furchgott's, Rosenblum's, and Sears.  Possibly because of their being mid-level or less dramatic stores?

thelakelander

January 06, 2011, 05:49:42 PM
I'll be making the rounds in JPL's special collections department over the next few weeks.  Ivey's is up next on my hit list.  My research has just started but I do know that Purcell's last location was built as a part of Downtown Center (the initial name of the complex where Ivey's was and what is now the JEA Tower).

Jaxson

January 06, 2011, 05:59:44 PM
Where was Furchgott's at the Orange Park Mall?  What department store or retail took its place? 

Overstreet

January 06, 2011, 06:07:29 PM
Maybe if they sold fishing gear, guns, hardware, and camping stuff . But fancy perfume............naw wouldn't go there.

Jaxson

January 06, 2011, 06:31:25 PM
Speaking of the old post office building, here is a picture from shorpy.com that dates back to 1910.  You can see the post office building on the left hand side of the photo.
http://www.shorpy.com/node/9648


Singejoufflue

January 06, 2011, 06:56:37 PM
^^That is one delicious photo.  Look at all the lighting and signage...a drug store, pool hall, haberdashery, buffet.  At least we got rid of all those power lines.

stephendare

January 06, 2011, 07:00:33 PM
^^That is one delicious photo.  Look at all the lighting and signage...a drug store, pool hall, haberdashery, buffet.  At least we got rid of all those power lines.

stephendare

January 06, 2011, 07:09:49 PM


this is the Shamrock Hotel.  If you look in the black and white photo, its the third building from the right.  You can see the old neon sign.

http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2010-jul-lost-jacksonville-downtown-hotels-the-grande-dames

stephendare

January 07, 2011, 11:10:13 AM


love the detail in this 1910 photo of forsythe street.

Notice the bike.

The brick streets.

The liquor store

Haberdashery

Seminole Buffet.

There is a cigar dispensing machine on the sidewalk, and I love those industrial wrought iron support columns.

Also check out the vehicle in front of the bike.  There are serious mudflaps.  the car behind the bike doesnt posess them.

duvaldude08

January 07, 2011, 11:38:30 AM
Well atleast we have not done what we are imfamous for doing... That is demolition. It is great to see the building is there. It would be nice if the exterior was taking care of better though

Jaxson

January 07, 2011, 11:46:21 AM
Well atleast we have not done what we are imfamous for doing... That is demolition. It is great to see the building is there. It would be nice if the exterior was taking care of better though

So true!  The exterior could use some TLC...

stephendare

January 07, 2011, 12:24:22 PM

Jaxson

January 07, 2011, 01:00:59 PM
Wow, the Milk Bar.  That's a name I haven't heard in some time.  And that post office looked really nice!

I miss the Milk Bar!

Keith-N-Jax

January 07, 2011, 01:40:17 PM
What a pitty that Post office building is not still around. What a gem that was.

stjr

January 10, 2011, 12:10:53 AM
Furchgott's was top drawer.  My grandmother's favorite store.  And, all the help not only knew her, they knew her shopping preferences.  You could call them and they had your order ready before you arrived.  Alas, those brass elevators run by many of the same lady operators for decades - everyone knew them as well.  Ahhhh.... the days of personal service by help that never turned over, just retired from a job.  Gone forever.

Add to your list of venerable downtown stores that mostly survived into the 70's to mid-80's: the Luggage Shop, F. W. Woolworths, JC Penneys, Sears Roebuck, Gus's Shoe Repair, Jake's Newstand, that orange juice stand (name escapes me at the moment), Sunshine Stamp & Coin, Paulus (?) Music, Underwoods and Jacobs Jewelers, May Cohens, even the Downtown post office (old Federal courthouse's ground floor).  One of the oldest remaining businesses often overlooked is Pete's Pawn Shop, now known as Fox Jewelry and Loan, on Bay Street near the Federal Building.

mtraininjax

January 10, 2011, 01:03:58 AM
Quote
What a pitty that Post office building is not still around. What a gem that was.

+1

Timkin

February 12, 2011, 10:25:30 PM
It is imperative that we hang on to what remains.  And in future building designs, possibly incorporate some of the beautiful examples that have been destroyed.

urbaknight

February 15, 2011, 10:49:13 AM
It is imperative that we hang on to what remains.  And in future building designs, possibly incorporate some of the beautiful examples that have been destroyed.


I hope so too.

MajorCordite

April 28, 2011, 05:13:30 PM
Ocklawaha, you are so right about the "fads" of the times.   I was at Ft. Caroline Junior High School in the mid 1960's and it was a big deal if you got something from Furchgotts or Rosenblums.   We had to have Gant shirts with a loop on the back and scotch grain saddle loafers with a matching belt and Gold Cup socks that were either bright green, yellow or blue.   I guess you would call it the preppy look today.   Is Gus's Shoe Repair still around?  I remember going into this shop in 1978 as a college student and standing in line to pick up my shoes.  When I got to the counter I think it was Gus who asked me for my "pickup ticket."   I told him I left my ticket in my car.  He peers over his glasses, turns and points to a wall of several hundred pair of shoes and says; "Young man I have been in business 40 years and I have never had a car come in here and pickup a pair of shoes before.   Next you'll be telling me that your shoes are brown and they lace up.  Do I have time to look for them?  No!  Next!"   The whole placed erupted in laughter.   

jecjax@gmail.com

July 26, 2011, 09:37:45 AM
I would love to tour the old Furchgotts department store.  I remember going there as a child and even as a young adult to shop.  It was always upscale and such a nice place to shop.  A few years ago I worked on the downtown loft tour.  I'd love to see that again so people can get reaquainted with our downtown historical buildings and their possibilities.

MajorCordite

May 11, 2012, 07:45:47 PM
I remember this store when I lived in Jacksonville in the 1960's.   I also went to the grand opening of Furchgotts in the mid-1960's at Regency Square Mall.   Gant shirts were the rage, penny loafers and funky color Gold Cup socks.   

However, there was a dark side to this department store which never made the local news.  Covered up rather quickly.  A dear friend of mine's father was accidentally killed in the downtown store.  My friend's father was a long time employee and left a family to care for.  The Furchgott family never came forward nor offered any assistance.  Not right.  A shameful act committed on this poor family. 

thelakelander

May 11, 2012, 07:50:35 PM
Do you remember how your father's friend was accidentally killed?  We've been asked by History Press, a Charleston, SC-based publisher, to develop a book on a Jacksonville department store.  While Cohen Brothers will be the central store covered, I'd like for the book to give a comprehensive overview of retail in Jacksonville from the Civil War up to 2012, so Furchgott's will be included.

Ernest Street

May 12, 2012, 04:00:20 PM
Is the spiral merchandise chute still in the building?

WmNussbaum

May 12, 2012, 04:52:42 PM
During the Christmas shopping season, the corner window of Furchgott's had an animated display in it that changed each year. You know, toy trains, elves wrapping presents, flying reindeer and so on. The one in Cohen Bros. was much bigger, but both were customer draws during the season. The Cohen Bros. window was on the Duval/Hogan corner.

Levy-Wolf was the men's store successor to one of the departments in Levy's which occupied the entire building - now offices - across Adams Street from Furchgott's. It was as nice a men's store as the city had - quite comparable to the Rosenblum's store across Hogan Streeet from Furchgott's. (Neither store carried the very pricy kind of men's clothing that the present Rosenblum's does.) Even in the early 60's one could have a store account at Rosenblum's. That ended when a strange thing called BankAmericard came along. Rosenblum's was owned by three brothers, Herman, John and Sheldon, and sons of Sheldon are the owners of the two stores still around.

In Levy's, the ladies could purchase fur coats - mink, sable, etc. I'll bet you can't find such a coat for sale within 100 miles of here today. But then such fur coats are not nearly as unobjectionable today as they once were. PETA wasn't around back then.

I also can't remember the name of the OJ bar, but I'm pretty sure it was in the FT&G Building on the corner of Laura and Forsyth. FT&G = Florida Title & Guaranty. When it was torn down, the entry columns were left standing, presiding over the parking lot it became until Barnett Bank built what is now the B of A Building.

Stein Mart entered the local scene billing itself as a discounter, and that's why it was unwelcome at Regency Square. It changed for the better with the times. Not so Regency Square.

Gus & Co. still has a location downtown - on Monroe Street across from the library. The library, of course, occupies former retail spaces that once housed the Luggage Shop, LaRose Shoes, and others.

I disagree about the old post office. Today it simply would look just too out of place. The non-functional steeple (or whatever it is called) with the clock makes as much sense as the FBC lighthouse.

What I find odd is how almost all of the locally owned or controlled very large businesses have either totally disappeared or have been taken over by even larger businesses from other parts. Among them: Atlantic National Bank (the Lane family); Florida National Bank (Ed Ball, DuPonts, and Florida East Coast RR); Barnett Bank; Independent Life; Gulf Life; Peninsular Insurance Co. (And I wonder why we still have streets named after some of them - seems an outdated and no longer deserved tribute.)

And speaking of disappearing acts, does anyone understand how downtown was able to support The George Washington, Mayflower, Seminole and Robert Meyer hotels?

Back to Furchgott's: Wasn't the health club in the basement owned by Kim Alexis, former super model? Does anyone remember the distinctive bell that would sound when an elevator reached each floor?

All of that activity existed in another age I don't think we will ever see again there. It was the only place - certainly the main place in town where business was conducted and shopping took place. Restaurants thrived - Leb's, Berney's (the man in green), Morrisons - home of the sizzling' steak, Nicola's Italian (on Main Street, believe it or not).

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

MajorCordite

May 21, 2012, 10:09:11 PM
@WM Nussbaum.  You say:  "And speaking of disappearing acts, does anyone understand how downtown was able to support The George Washington, Mayflower, Seminole and Robert Meyer hotels?"

What exactly do you mean by your question?   Are you familiar with the time frame of Jacksonville during the late 1960's and 1970's? 

Let me know and I may be able to shed some light on it for you.

MajorC

Jaxson

May 21, 2012, 11:12:23 PM
@WM Nussbaum.  You say:  "And speaking of disappearing acts, does anyone understand how downtown was able to support The George Washington, Mayflower, Seminole and Robert Meyer hotels?"

What exactly do you mean by your question?   Are you familiar with the time frame of Jacksonville during the late 1960's and 1970's? 

Let me know and I may be able to shed some light on it for you.

MajorC

I agree with MajorC that understanding the success of the downtown hotels requires an understanding of the context in which they thrived and later declined.  As a major railroad hub, Jacksonville had a great number of travelers who chose to stay downtown.  Furthermore, business at these hotels was helped by the fact that downtown density afforded it with an abundance of events, conventions and nightlife.  Of course, as the railroads declined and highways expanded, lodging shifted to what was more convenient for motorists.  All of this, of course, is strictly my conjecture and could be either validated or debunked...

WmNussbaum

June 02, 2012, 09:57:20 AM
Major C and Jaxon, you are right, of course. The flight to the suburbs explains so much. Downtown was the business hub until that happened, and what it would take to make downtown vibrant again is a real riddle - though doing something to attract folks to live there is certainly a big part of the equation.

Back in the day - say the late '60s and earlier - downtown was not a long distance destination, and most everyone knew how to get there. That is not true today. A lot of folks don't really know where it is and when they get there profess to being frustrated by one-way streets that I find quite easy to navigate. But parking was a problem; not only patrons, but many employees of the stores had to park somewhere, and there wasn't much available other that on the street. And that is why the suburban mall met with such success.

Once upon a time there were movie theaters - and some quite decent ones downtown,  and the only ones in the 'burbs were mostly rink-dink or drive-ins. (Does anyone here remember drive-ins? and what you could do during a show?) Oh, those good old days really were good old days.




stephendare

June 02, 2012, 10:11:12 AM
Major C and Jaxon, you are right, of course. The flight to the suburbs explains so much. Downtown was the business hub until that happened, and what it would take to make downtown vibrant again is a real riddle - though doing something to attract folks to live there is certainly a big part of the equation.

Back in the day - say the late '60s and earlier - downtown was not a long distance destination, and most everyone knew how to get there. That is not true today. A lot of folks don't really know where it is and when they get there profess to being frustrated by one-way streets that I find quite easy to navigate. But parking was a problem; not only patrons, but many employees of the stores had to park somewhere, and there wasn't much available other that on the street. And that is why the suburban mall met with such success.

Once upon a time there were movie theaters - and some quite decent ones downtown,  and the only ones in the 'burbs were mostly rink-dink or drive-ins. (Does anyone here remember drive-ins? and what you could do during a show?) Oh, those good old days really were good old days.

Once they pulled the trolley circulator system out of downtown with no real plan to replace the capacity provided by the trusty old transit system this was bound to happen. 

Using the 1 trolley car = 1000 parking spaces equation, even enforcing the most draconian parking laws available to create a capacity of six cars per parking space throughout the day, there was no other possibility than demolishing the buildings to make space for car storage.

The suburbs were a pain in the ass to get to, but they destroyed acres of forestland to create parking tundras and completely unwalkable development models outside of the ad valorem tax boundaries of City of Jacksonville that made downtown unable to compete with for local shoppers.

Its no accident that Burns Administration was essentially a Transportation Administration.  He ran on improving the bus service, which was already buckling under the demands left behind by the extensive trolley car system, ended up paving over the river in order to avoid demolishing the 'good' economic fabric (he didn't consider the merchant marines or the sailors or workmen from the wharves very highly) for parking, and finally converted the city over to Robert Moses style planning paradigms.

It took less than ten years after the trolley removals for the city to reach a critical point over parking and retail

stephendare

June 02, 2012, 10:32:27 AM
SHORE SIDE PARKING -- During the mid Fifties, the new Northbank parking lots were the pride of the city.  An interesting explanation comes from the 1955/56 Jacksonville Municipal Yearbook:

"After several years of planning, Jacksonville's new waterfront parking project, situated along a four-block area on the north side of the St. Johns River, was in full operation shortly after the beginning of 1956.  Unique among a number of publicly-owned parking enterprises throughout the United States, Jacksonville's project was developed from an unattractive riverfront of warehouse and shipping facilities that have been replaced by a well laid-out parking pattern capable of taking care of nearly 1,900 cars at one time.  Fringing the parking plot on the river is palm-lined sidewalk, with grass parkway and a concrete balustrade.  Envisioned in the original City Plan in 1929 by George W. Simons, Jr., and expanded to a broader scale in a project proposed in 1950, the parking area lies between the east side of Hogan Street and the west side of Newnan Street... In addition to the parking stalls, the development also includes a new four-lane street, now known as Water Street, which is the north boundary of the project, and two-lane ramps leading on to and off of the Main Street Bridge..."



FROM WORK TO PLAY -- Where concerts & theater productions now take place, lumber & fertilizer used to be handled.  During the early half of the 1900s, the Seaboard Railroad Company utilized the docks that lay at the spot pictured above.  The biggest export through the facilities was lumber, while the largest import proved to be fertilizer.  This info came from the late, long-time Jax resident Jack McGiffin, author of the fascinating book "It Ain't Like It Was in the Good Old Days..."

The Seaboard docks ranked as the most efficient in town, according to Mr. McGiffin.  Six railroad tracks ended at the riverfront there, and narrow warehouses stood between the tracks and also terminated at the water.  Dock workers could often load 150 railroad cars a week with fertilizer from the warehouses.  In addition, the cars could be filled directly from ships, and the cars could be switched without interrupting the task.  A vessel with four hatches could load ten cars each workday (which were ten hours long).  The docks became a part of local history, however, when they were demolished on December 7, 1957, to make way for the auditorium.

Timkin

June 02, 2012, 06:24:09 PM
Major C and Jaxon, you are right, of course. The flight to the suburbs explains so much. Downtown was the business hub until that happened, and what it would take to make downtown vibrant again is a real riddle - though doing something to attract folks to live there is certainly a big part of the equation.

Back in the day - say the late '60s and earlier - downtown was not a long distance destination, and most everyone knew how to get there. That is not true today. A lot of folks don't really know where it is and when they get there profess to being frustrated by one-way streets that I find quite easy to navigate. But parking was a problem; not only patrons, but many employees of the stores had to park somewhere, and there wasn't much available other that on the street. And that is why the suburban mall met with such success.

Once upon a time there were movie theaters - and some quite decent ones downtown,  and the only ones in the 'burbs were mostly rink-dink or drive-ins. (Does anyone here remember drive-ins? and what you could do during a show?) Oh, those good old days really were good old days.







Drive -Ins ..... Lets see... the Fox ,, The Midway, Playtime,  Airbase ( closed about the time I came along)  ..

thelakelander

June 02, 2012, 07:29:59 PM
Great overview of the docks. Considering loading was done by hand, thousands must have been employed at the docks. Nobody mentions the results of replacing thousands of downtown jobs with parking, on its economy.

BackinJax05

June 02, 2012, 08:53:07 PM
Major C and Jaxon, you are right, of course. The flight to the suburbs explains so much. Downtown was the business hub until that happened, and what it would take to make downtown vibrant again is a real riddle - though doing something to attract folks to live there is certainly a big part of the equation.

Back in the day - say the late '60s and earlier - downtown was not a long distance destination, and most everyone knew how to get there. That is not true today. A lot of folks don't really know where it is and when they get there profess to being frustrated by one-way streets that I find quite easy to navigate. But parking was a problem; not only patrons, but many employees of the stores had to park somewhere, and there wasn't much available other that on the street. And that is why the suburban mall met with such success.

Once upon a time there were movie theaters - and some quite decent ones downtown,  and the only ones in the 'burbs were mostly rink-dink or drive-ins. (Does anyone here remember drive-ins? and what you could do during a show?) Oh, those good old days really were good old days.







Drive -Ins ..... Lets see... the Fox ,, The Midway, Playtime,  Airbase ( closed about the time I came along)  ..

Dont remember their names, but I remember drive ins at 48th & Main, Atlantic & Bartram (now a Publix), & University Blvd. N. & Jack Rd. (became a KMart, now a library) The one on University was $5 a carload on Saturday nights back in the early 70s.

Timkin

June 02, 2012, 09:42:39 PM
If only we had a couple drive-ins.   There is something to do with a large piece of property.  :) I would still go to them.

BackinJax05

June 03, 2012, 10:11:12 PM
Anyone else remember when the Playtime showed adult films?

An X-rated drive in. ONLY IN JACKSONVILLE.

Timkin

June 03, 2012, 11:14:56 PM
Anyone else remember when the Playtime showed adult films?

An X-rated drive in. ONLY IN JACKSONVILLE.

I thought that was all that Playtime showed.   A church bought the property a few years ago. Now I believe it sits unused.   Perfect spot to re-create a drive in , since it is still a vacant property.

If_I_Loved_you

June 04, 2012, 08:07:46 AM
Major C and Jaxon, you are right, of course. The flight to the suburbs explains so much. Downtown was the business hub until that happened, and what it would take to make downtown vibrant again is a real riddle - though doing something to attract folks to live there is certainly a big part of the equation.

Back in the day - say the late '60s and earlier - downtown was not a long distance destination, and most everyone knew how to get there. That is not true today. A lot of folks don't really know where it is and when they get there profess to being frustrated by one-way streets that I find quite easy to navigate. But parking was a problem; not only patrons, but many employees of the stores had to park somewhere, and there wasn't much available other that on the street. And that is why the suburban mall met with such success.

Once upon a time there were movie theaters - and some quite decent ones downtown,  and the only ones in the 'burbs were mostly rink-dink or drive-ins. (Does anyone here remember drive-ins? and what you could do during a show?) Oh, those good old days really were good old days.







Drive -Ins ..... Lets see... the Fox ,, The Midway, Playtime,  Airbase ( closed about the time I came along)  ..

Dont remember their names, but I remember drive ins at 48th & Main, Atlantic & Bartram (now a Publix), & University Blvd. N. & Jack Rd. (became a KMart, now a library) The one on University was $5 a carload on Saturday nights back in the early 70s.
Don't forget "Normandy (Loew's) Drive -IN" off of 228 Normandy Blvd a Publix shopping center is there now.

avonjax

June 04, 2012, 08:20:12 AM
From an old timer who may have been to every drive-in in Jax history.I will probably get a couple of names wrong and forget on3 or two, but here goes. The Fox which I think was the drive in on the north side of Normandy where Publix is a few feet west of 295. I think it was called the Soutel Drive-in (I may be wrong) on Soutel on the Northside. There was the Midway, which I think was either on the site of the WalMart on Beach near Southside Blvd, or the corner of University and Atlantic. I think the one on U & A was the Atlantic Drive-in though. I can't remember the name but there was a drive-in at the corner of University and Phillips. There was the University on University Blvd on the site that is now the Library. If I'm not mistaken they tore down the drive-in to build a short lived KMart on that site. There was a drive in on Beach, on the Beach side of Beach Blvd. I never went but the Airbase was on 17. The Normandy Drive-in was on the site of what was the Normandy Mall. There was the Blanding where the Vystar Bank now lives. And of course the Playtime. There was a drive-in on Amelia Island on  A1A. The Main Street was on the site that is now the former Food Lion strip center. The Oceanway was on North Main passed Oceanway middle school and before the entrance to RCMP. The Pinecrest was on Howard Road right off Main Street. I think I remember the Airbase name, I just don't remember where it was. There was the Lake Forest Drive-in but I can't remember the street, but I went there a few times. I don't think I ever went to the Beach, The Airbase, the Normandy or the Blanding, but I have gone to all the others.

Timkin

June 04, 2012, 12:39:56 PM
Airbase Drive in was on the site of where 84 ( I think this is right ) Lumber company.  Just south of the Navy Surplus Facility on the West Side of Hwy 17 and just North of  Collins Road. In fact you could turn to go on to Collins or directly into Airbase drive in.   It closed in the early 60s

finehoe

June 04, 2012, 03:31:29 PM
There was the Lake Forest Drive-in but I can't remember the street

Does anyone remember where this might have been?

BackinJax05

June 05, 2012, 02:12:24 AM
How did an article about Furchgott's evolve into a discussion about drive ins? :)

Oh well, drive ins are another thing kids of today will never experience. Or maybe even their parents. Drive ins have been gone for a LONG time now.  :'(

Timkin

June 05, 2012, 10:52:27 PM
How did an article about Furchgott's evolve into a discussion about drive ins? :)

Oh well, drive ins are another thing kids of today will never experience. Or maybe even their parents. Drive ins have been gone for a LONG time now.  :'(

It happens , BIJ 05.  Didn't really mean to .   

I definitely Miss the drive-ins .. Most notably the Midway, which was just blocks from where I lived at the time.  Funny.. At least two drive-in sites  are now occupied by Wal-marts.  I have to wonder why  Theaters still exist, but no drive-ins? what a great era that was.

MajorCordite

June 09, 2012, 08:38:19 PM
I have a couple of comments about the development of the waterfront between CSX and the Independent Life/Modis Tower.  During Haydon Burns tenure this piece of waterfront was seen as a blight area.  Even before Burns all of the waterfront to the shipyards was considered an "industrial blight zone."  Jacksonville, at that time, never considered anything as having historical value.  Jacksonville was the Bold New City of the South and that meant everything old must go in the name of  progress.

Jacksonville lacked a historical culture like those found in the older cities of Charleston and/or Savannah.  Perhaps if things were different then this maritime district could have been preserved.  I went to the grand opening of the new and modern Haydon Burns Library when I was in grammar school.  This was Jacksonville on the cutting edge of modernity.   Now look at it.  How long did the new last?  Not Long.

Even as late as 1970 we were still going downtown to shop, going to movies and visiting older eating establishments.  Looking back, I now see this time being much like visiting your elder grandparents in their final days.   You could since the demise.   And how quickly did it all happen.  I worked with the Auchter Company when they began demolishing the buildings to build the Independent Life Tower.  Even during the  construction years of 1971 - 1972 we would walk up the street and have lunch in the older buildings that still had lunch counters.

From 1968 through 1971, as a student of Terry Parker High School, we always took our dates to the Atlantic Drive-In on Atlantic Blvd and Bartram. (Publix is there now).    Saturdays were spent at the beach and come nightfall we headed to the movies.  Money was short and it was chore to find money for gas, dinner, and a movie.  I had a Volkswagen Van Camper and sometimes we snuck in a couple of people by hiding them under the back fold-out seat.

I remember one time we came straight from the beach and we had no shoes with us, not even a pair of flip flops.  Our dates insisted that we buy them a box of popcorn and a couple of Cokes.  My friend and I attempted to get out of the van but the ground was covered with sharp rocks and gravel and we couldn't walk.   The girls whined and we gave up our man cards.  I found a couple of used butter popcorn boxes on the ground, under the van, and I proceeded to take my pocket knife and cut out sections for my feet to fit into.  I walked to the concession stand with butter and yellow oil oozing between my toes.   Needless to say everybody at the concession stand was laughing at my red and white, hot butter square pop corn shoes.

It wasn't a bad night after all.  Next week I celebrate my 40th wedding anniversary with this young girl who was my date.  I'm going to surprise her with a box of popcorn.  NO and not on the feet!   

     
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