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Remembering The East Bay Street District

In the first half of the 20th century, the area that is known as East Bay Street today, was almost wholly industrial- and maritime- related. With the railroad and wharves paralleling a block south, along the riverfront, many firms took advantage of Bay Street's easy access to the St. Johns River. The most important industry during this era was shipbuilding and repair. With the rise of free trade, deindustrialization, and a movement to clean up the downtown waterfront, many industries began to leave the area in the mid-20th century. Although a number of historic warehouses, factories and wharves were left and available for other uses, the majority have been demolished in the later half of the 20th century. With the push to cluster entertainment uses in this section of downtown and the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission's (JEDC) desire to brand the corridor "The E-Town zone," Metro Jacksonville takes a look into the district's past.

Published June 13, 2011 in History      16 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

feature

East Bay Street During The 1920s



During the Summer of 1969, the following editorial by Malcolm Johnson was printed in the Tallahassee Democrat. Mr. Johnson grew up in Jacksonville before moving to Tallahassee in 1937. Forty-two years later, it offers us an incredible glimpse into the character of our downtown entertainment district's past.

Quote
The ferry slip at the foot of Main Street was an entryway to a clean breathe of fresh air on the Southside, but first you had to clear the fetid stench of fish and floating oil from the shoreline flushed with the sewage of a thriving city.

That odor was stronger as you went eastward on the waterfront past the Red Star market where, for a nickel, you could get a couple of cold wieners to munch out behind where Negroes caught catfish from a rickety dock.

Nearby was Martin's seed and feed store, with puppies always in the window, and a stock of merchandise that put a country boy in mind of the prairie far away.  Seeds smell the same everywhere.

There was the National Lunch, all white and clean, and through the open door drifted the savory fragrance of the specialty - a big bowl of beef stew, 20 cents.

More fish and oil fumes arose through the shanty warehouse (Trenary Fish Company) at the foot of Newnan Street where we used to pick up our quotas of Saturday Evening Post to peddle, and farther along at the dock where the polished fireboat - the John C. Calhoun - was berthed near the venerable Three Friends on which Napoleon B. Broward rode to the governorship with intrepid running of guns for the Cuban revolution.

To the big, cleaner docks of the Clyde Line, merchants, miners and P&O passenger ships then, where few cargoes overpowered the rank emanation from stevedores slapping cards down incessantly in a mystifying game of "skin" played atop a stack of cross-ties.

There, if the wind blew from the land, though, the air would be filled with the aroma of roasting coffee at the Maxwell House plant a few blocks north (and it's still there).

Full "Sniffing Along The Jacksonville Waterfront" article: http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2009-jul-sniffing-along-the-waterfront


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16 Comments

Miss Fixit

June 13, 2011, 05:55:58 AM
Another great article, Lakelander. 

"Theatre District" would get my vote for the East Bay area entertainment zone.

comncense

June 13, 2011, 08:50:25 AM
I like how in NYC there's the DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge) neighborhood. Is there a cool acronym that we can come up with our area of Downtown.

urbanlibertarian

June 13, 2011, 09:34:56 AM
Puburbia.

wsansewjs

June 13, 2011, 09:40:05 AM
Great article! Blew my mind away!

Please make the correction to the name "Electrifying District" to "Electrifying 7 District"

Electric 7 trolley line goes up from Downtown through Springfield. That's the origin of the name.

-Josh

duvaldude08

June 13, 2011, 09:56:36 AM
Wow. Its seem to me that Haydon Burns began the era of demolision and the creation of parking lots and we havent stopped since. LOL!! IMO things really went downhill during his adminstration (in regard to DT) and it just continued to sprial. Anyways, as usual great article.

Kinda of off subject, I have an older friend who made a good point. She pointed who back in those Amercia's downtown were retail mecca's. But now with the new generation of young people, DT's are all about partying and the nightlife. If you pay attention, that is where our DT is heading as well. It will probably never be the retail mecca it once was, but we can make it vibrant again.

billy

June 13, 2011, 10:26:17 AM
I remember going with my mom to buy my patrol boy uniform at some outfitters on Bay.   
 

Dapperdan

June 13, 2011, 10:40:45 AM
Another great article, Lakelander. 

"Theatre District" would get my vote for the East Bay area entertainment zone.

No offense, but I do not think this is a good nickname. It would be very misleading. There is only one theatre there now.

duvaldude08

June 13, 2011, 10:44:21 AM
There is going to a big concert there very soon. I was shocked to hear it was going to be at the Florida Thearte. Its good to see we are utilizing it more. The Times Union and Arena are not the only venues in the city.

mbstout

June 13, 2011, 10:46:43 AM
Don't name it anything, let it be what it is.  East Bay Street.  E-Town Zone sounds like some Disney Family friendly crap, which this 'district' is not.   I would seriously laugh if anyone actually ever said to me, "We're going to the E-Town Zone!"  Bwaaahaaa!!! 



 

stephendare

June 13, 2011, 10:52:11 AM
Wow. Its seem to me that Haydon Burns began the era of demolision and the creation of parking lots and we havent stopped since. LOL!! IMO things really went downhill during his adminstration (in regard to DT) and it just continued to sprial. Anyways, as usual great article.

Kinda of off subject, I have an older friend who made a good point. She pointed who back in those Amercia's downtown were retail mecca's. But now with the new generation of young people, DT's are all about partying and the nightlife. If you pay attention, that is where our DT is heading as well. It will probably never be the retail mecca it once was, but we can make it vibrant again.

Great points Duval Dude!

Id actually like to add something to your thoughts.

You are one hundred percent correct that the downtowns are becoming entertainment meccas.  But that has an evolving process as well.  The entertainment businesses draw street traffic, and the street traffic draws retail.

Street traffic is the one magic ingredient.

If a city did nothing but generate street traffic, they would have more success than the billions of dollars that we have spent, because street traffic is the universal growth medium for all business.

All of the Ted Pappas/Jack Diamond/DDA/JEDC projects to date have been supported by policies that kill street traffic, and thus they have helped to destroy the downtown.

The greatest mistake of the 20th Century experience of downtown was pulling the passenger rail and the passenger ships out of the downtown---where they connected was like a nuclear explosion of street traffic and money:  Once you decoupled them from the urban core it began dying.

Haydon Burns destroyed the organic street traffic that was created by (literally) a thousand shops along Bay Street and the Wharf areas.  But he did at least have the presence of mind to replace what he took out with a new type of economic activity:  Corporate Buildings.

He helped plant little economic seeds by bringing Insurance companies to Jacksonville.  By the time Jake Godbold came along, all he had to do was reap that field and watch the skyscrapers go up in the air (they were ALL banks and Insurance Companies with the exception of one Tcomm:  Before Jake--Gulf Life, Prudential, Independent Life  After Jake  American Heritage Life, Barnett, Florida National ---aka First Union-- , and of course Southern Bell).  Jake harvested a development crop that was successfully husbanded by Tanzler and Ritter with the participation of an especially bright and surprisingly progressive slate of Chamber of Commerce leadership.  Unfortunately the visions of men like Verlander, Swisher and Brest gave way to the children of lesser gods like Diamond/Pappas and Koger.

It was a reasonable gamble.  Unfortunately computerization and downsizing made the model unsustainable as a stand alone.

Jacksonville's second largest mistake lay in demolishing the organic economic structure in favor of the new model of development.  There was room enough for both---obviously.  Other cities have made an easier adjustment to the decline of the Corporate Skyscraper model because they had so much of the old organic economies intact.

This is something that is still in process and visible throughout the core.

Sure, we have luminaries like Wayne Wood and Kay Ehas and a very small handful of others who have been able to embrace thoughtful progress while absolutely remaining firm that nothing gets destroyed in the process.  But for every Wayne or Kay, there is a Louise DeSpain and a Ted Pappas who not only want things in a pristine state, but refuse to look at the damage created by thoughtless demolition and destroying economic systems that took generations to build.

Everywhere you go in Jacksonville's Urban neighborhoods, the idea of development is always coupled with demolishing what was already there.

Take for example this Everbank deal.  Everbank will only come to downtown if the city gets rid of the Greyhound Bus Station.  In this extreme case, not only is the 'development' asking to come downtown at the expense of a long standing merchant or service that has survived through a Depression, a couple of wars, multiple recessions, and the general dynamiting of the area that it originally located, but there isnt even a corresponding trade by way of a new building.

Instead, we are asking to remove perhaps another thousand or so people in street traffic a week as a negotiation tool for an industry (banking) whose clear future of downsizing and demise is already written on the national wall of our technology and economic models.

While the everbank deal is good in the short run, it will only be good for another five years or so, in terms of economic impact, but only at the cost of losing Greyhound.  Only because the relocation of a bus terminal to the transportation center makes more sense does metrojacksonville support the everbank deal, but none of the people negotiating this move have made any attempt to consider the long term effect of removing that much street traffic from the area.

So Duval Dude, you are right on the money in your comments, but I think you may be surprised what will happen as a result of returning the downtown to its earlier nightlife entertainment economic model.

urbanlibertarian

June 13, 2011, 10:54:32 AM
I remember going with my mom to buy my patrol boy uniform at some outfitters on Bay.   
 

Me, too.

Captain Zissou

June 13, 2011, 11:03:23 AM
I vote for Alabama Hot Pocket.

duvaldude08

June 13, 2011, 11:11:29 AM
Wow. Its seem to me that Haydon Burns began the era of demolision and the creation of parking lots and we havent stopped since. LOL!! IMO things really went downhill during his adminstration (in regard to DT) and it just continued to sprial. Anyways, as usual great article.

Kinda of off subject, I have an older friend who made a good point. She pointed who back in those Amercia's downtown were retail mecca's. But now with the new generation of young people, DT's are all about partying and the nightlife. If you pay attention, that is where our DT is heading as well. It will probably never be the retail mecca it once was, but we can make it vibrant again.

Great points Duval Dude!

Id actually like to add something to your thoughts.

You are one hundred percent correct that the downtowns are becoming entertainment meccas.  But that has an evolving process as well.  The entertainment businesses draw street traffic, and the street traffic draws retail.

Street traffic is the one magic ingredient.

If a city did nothing but generate street traffic, they would have more success than the billions of dollars that we have spent, because street traffic is the universal growth medium for all business.

All of the Ted Pappas/Jack Diamond/DDA/JEDC projects to date have been supported by policies that kill street traffic, and thus they have helped to destroy the downtown.

The greatest mistake of the 20th Century experience of downtown was pulling the passenger rail and the passenger ships out of the downtown---where they connected was like a nuclear explosion of street traffic and money:  Once you decoupled them from the urban core it began dying.

Haydon Burns destroyed the organic street traffic that was created by (literally) a thousand shops along Bay Street and the Wharf areas.  But he did at least have the presence of mind to replace what he took out with a new type of economic activity:  Corporate Buildings.

He helped plant little economic seeds by bringing Insurance companies to Jacksonville.  By the time Jake Godbold came along, all he had to do was reap that field and watch the skyscrapers go up in the air (they were ALL banks and Insurance Companies with the exception of one Tcomm:  Before Jake--Gulf Life, Prudential, Independent Life  After Jake  American Heritage Life, Barnett, Florida National ---aka First Union-- , and of course Southern Bell).  Jake harvested a development crop that was successfully husbanded by Tanzler and Ritter with the participation of an especially bright and surprisingly progressive slate of Chamber of Commerce leadership.  Unfortunately the visions of men like Verlander, Swisher and Brest gave way to the children of lesser gods like Diamond/Pappas and Koger.

It was a reasonable gamble.  Unfortunately computerization and downsizing made the model unsustainable as a stand alone.

Jacksonville's second largest mistake lay in demolishing the organic economic structure in favor of the new model of development.  There was room enough for both---obviously.  Other cities have made an easier adjustment to the decline of the Corporate Skyscraper model because they had so much of the old organic economies intact.

This is something that is still in process and visible throughout the core.

Sure, we have luminaries like Wayne Wood and Kay Ehas and a very small handful of others who have been able to embrace thoughtful progress while absolutely remaining firm that nothing gets destroyed in the process.  But for every Wayne or Kay, there is a Louise DeSpain and a Ted Pappas who not only want things in a pristine state, but refuse to look at the damage created by thoughtless demolition and destroying economic systems that took generations to build.

Everywhere you go in Jacksonville's Urban neighborhoods, the idea of development is always coupled with demolishing what was already there.

Take for example this Everbank deal.  Everbank will only come to downtown if the city gets rid of the Greyhound Bus Station.  In this extreme case, not only is the 'development' asking to come downtown at the expense of a long standing merchant or service that has survived through a Depression, a couple of wars, multiple recessions, and the general dynamiting of the area that it originally located, but there isnt even a corresponding trade by way of a new building.

Instead, we are asking to remove perhaps another thousand or so people in street traffic a week as a negotiation tool for an industry (banking) whose clear future of downsizing and demise is already written on the national wall of our technology and economic models.

While the everbank deal is good in the short run, it will only be good for another five years or so, in terms of economic impact, but only at the cost of losing Greyhound.  Only because the relocation of a bus terminal to the transportation center makes more sense does metrojacksonville support the everbank deal, but none of the people negotiating this move have made any attempt to consider the long term effect of removing that much street traffic from the area.

So Duval Dude, you are right on the money in your comments, but I think you may be surprised what will happen as a result of returning the downtown to its earlier nightlife entertainment economic model.

Great explaination as usual Stephen!

Miss Fixit

June 13, 2011, 12:16:40 PM
Another great article, Lakelander. 

"Theatre District" would get my vote for the East Bay area entertainment zone.

No offense, but I do not think this is a good nickname. It would be very misleading. There is only one theatre there now.

No offense taken.  I just can't get excited about any of the other nicknames that have circulated (really, my preference would just be to call it "Downtown" - imagine that!).  The Florida Theatre anchors the area, which was at one time full of the old palace style theatres.  It is also a visual marker for the area - that huge "Florida Theatre" lettering is the first thing you see driving into downtown from San Marco

Ocklawaha

June 14, 2011, 10:00:34 PM
Great article! Blew my mind away!

Please make the correction to the name "Electrifying District" to "Electrifying 7 District"

Electric 7 trolley line goes up from Downtown through Springfield. That's the origin of the name.

-Josh


The Electric 7 Route is in purple, it is 100% private right-of-way railroad track = no street running


Between 2Nd and 4Th streets.

Standing east of King Edward, looking north under the MLK facing 21St street, standing in one of two vacant spaces through the railroad yard, the trolley would curve left under the bridge and cross the railroad on the left. The alternate route runs up against King Edward and passes on the extreme left of this photo. 


No, no Josh, the Electric-7 is a complete urban makeover line that I cooked up, bounced off the other MJ officers and now am working on an article. Your partly right though that it is an old railroad (as a matter of fact 2 railroads) used that corridor and much track is still in the woods behind the church at 2Nd Street crossing. This was the old St. Johns River Terminal Railroad (Norfolk Southern today) and the old Seaboard Air Line Railroad. Since they were both steam to diesel freight railroads (The SAL line was once the Fernandina and Jacksonville and it did indeed carry passengers, it's station being just west of Maxwell House) I hung the 'electric' in the name. Because it is shaped like the number ' 7' I gave it that fictitious route number. The Electric 7 would be a virtual lineal park and parkway with nothing visible but the top of the rails and wire, the rest of the track being back filled and planted in lawn grass. The full width of the old right-of-way becoming a beautiful urban trail, parkway and trolley line between the East Side and Springfield and connecting them with Gateway and the Stadium district. When I first took this idea to the city 30 years ago one of the councilmen quipped "What will we call it? 38 Special?"

OCKLAWAHA

HisBuffPVB

July 13, 2013, 06:17:02 PM
Bay Street in the mid to late 50s was the gathering place of off duty sailors, was patrolled by the police along with the Shore Patrol, there were lots of clothing stores, selling off duty clothes for sailors, there was on theatre that played semi strip movies, and pool halls , and places to drink for the older sailors. At the old bus station, the greyhound, a list of off limits places for sailors was posted. JC Penny and Woolworths built new stores alongside Hemming Park. The theatre district ran one block up, starting with the Florida, the Palace, the Imperial, then on to the Arcade, late called the Center theatre and the St. Johns. And of course, there was Rosensteins, Iveys, furchgotts, Pennys , May
Cohen, the Lugguage shop, La Rose shoes for women.  But even by the early 60s, relocation had begun to the suburbs.
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