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Lost Jacksonville: Milligan's Beefy Burgers

Metro Jacksonville looks back at a long lost Jacksonville institution: Milligan's Beefy Burgers

Published August 21, 2012 in History      22 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


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Some trace the modern history of fast food in America to July 7, 1912, with the opening of a fast food restaurant called the Automat in New York. Some historians and secondary school textbooks concur that A&W, which opened in 1919 and began franchising in 1921, was the first fast food restaurant. Others associate the term with the McDonald brothers, Richard and Maurice, who opened a barbecue drive-in in 1940 in San Bernardino, California.

After discovering that most of their profits came from hamburgers, the McDonald brothers closed their restaurant for three months and reopened it in 1948 as a walk-up stand offering a simple menu of hamburgers, french fries, shakes, coffee, and Coca-Cola, served in disposable paper wrapping. As a result, they could produce hamburgers and fries constantly, without waiting for customer orders, and could serve them immediately; hamburgers cost 15 cents, about half the price at a typical diner. Their streamlined production method, which they named the "Speedee Service System" was influenced by the production line innovations of Henry Ford.



Nevertheless, for burgers in Jacksonville, long before artery clogging fast food chains took over Blanding, Atlantic and Beach Boulevards, it was Milligan's Beefy Burgers. Many long time Jaxsons viewed Milligan's as our own home grown version of "Krystal" and "White Castle." Founded October 24, 1932, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Krystal was known as the first hamburger chain in the South.

The story of Florida's first fast food drive through hamburger chain was founded by Elmer B. and Dorothy Hair Milligan in Starke, FL in 1942.  During their first year of business, Milligan's served over 450,000 beefy burgers.


Milligan's Hamburger Hut at 207 West Forsyth Street in 1949.  This site is now the location of downtown's FedEx Office and BB&T parking garage.

While California's In-N-Out Burger was in the process of beginning drive-through service utilizing call-box technology in 1948, Elmer Milligan was bringing his beefy burgers to Duval County.  By 1950, he was operating two restaurants in town; Milligan's Grill at 18 East 8th Street in Springfield and Milligan's Hamburger Hut at 207 West Forsyth Street in downtown. Firmly established in Jacksonville, the Milligans settled into a Lake Shore residence at 1704 Lake Shore Boulevard with their children, Richard, John, Virginia, Elizabeth and JoAnn.

Inspired by the success of the original McDonald's restaurant, Jacksonville residents Keith Kramer and Matthew Burns started Insta-Burger King. By the time Insta-Burger King started churning out whoppers in 1954, Milligan's had already expanded with multiple Jacksonville locations serving their mouth watering cuisine. A sign of the times, Milligan's new locations took them into rapidly growing suburbs of Jacksonville's Westside.  There, Elmer Milligan opened restaurants at 2441 West Beaver Street and 1020 Cassat Avenue, in addition to three operating in downtown and Springfield.  By 1964, Milligan's Beefy Burgers had expanded to 16 location serving over five million burgers annually. At the time, a sackful (aka a dozen) of beefy burgers could be had for $1.00. At the chain's height, beefy burger restaurants were located in Jacksonville, Green Cove Springs, Fernandina Beach, Orlando and St. Petersburg.



Milligan's Inc. head offices were located in downtown Jacksonville at 331 West Ashley Street. In Jacksonville, there were a total of ten beefy burger locations by 1967.  

- 27 East 8th Street

- 2441 West Beaver Street

- 4974 Blanding Boulevard

- 700 North Main Street

- 5829 Norwood Avenue

- 1605 University Boulevard

- 1020 Cassat Avenue

- 3562 Broadway Avenue

- 9303 Lem Turner Road

- 1965 South Lane Avenue


The former Milligan's Beefy Burgers restaurant, which opened in 1972, at 4530 Brentwood Avenue still stands.  In an ironic twist of fate, this building will become the home of Warren Motors.  To make room for the urban core's newest McDonald's, Warren Motors is in the process of relocating from their downtown site to another site that once turned out beefy burgers of its own.

On July 16, 1971, Elmer Milligan passed at the age of 60. Elmer's son, Richard L. Milligan, then assumed the role of the president of Milligans, Inc. at the age of 35.  Richard had attended Robert E. Lee High School and graduated from Santa Fe College in Gainesville, before serving in the U.S Army from 1955 through 1957. As a charter member of the West Jacksonville Jaycees and past president, he held the 'Key Man' award in 1964, while serving as the vice president of Milligans. In 1974, he served as the president of the Jacksonville Restaurant Association.  

However, 1974 would be the last year beefy burgers would be available to Jaxons.  By the end of the year, Florida's first fast food chain had succumbed to heavy competition from rapidly growing McDonald's and Burger King. Since then, Jacksonville's Burger King has flourished, relocated its headquarters to Miami and grown to become the world's second largest hamburger chain, and the third largest fast food company in the industry. With well over 12,000 restaurants in 73 countries around the world that serve an average of 11 million hungry guests every day, Burger King is second only to McDonald's in the hamburger business.

Today, it's pretty difficult to find information regarding the history of Milligan's Beefy Burgers. Like so many Jacksonville stories and businesses, the memory of Milligan's has faded away as time has moved on.  

Article by Ennis Davis. Contact Ennis at edavis@metrojacksonville.com







22 Comments

ronchamblin

August 21, 2012, 08:33:55 AM
Good history salvaging Ennis.  During the late sixties, I worked on Blanding Blvd about two blocks from the Milligan Burger, which was located about 1/4 mile north of 103rd street.  It's interesting how distinctly different those burgers were from Krystal or others.  The meat was cut in about 2.5" squares, placed on square buns, and all they put on them was a little sauce and pickles.  With fries and a coke, they were tasty, but much like the classic Krystal burgers, one couldn't eat them all day every day,  which I suppose is the case for most foods.  For lunch, I would occasionally eat about four.  They of course were beat out by the aggressive BK and Mc D's.   

 

danno

August 21, 2012, 09:23:08 AM
I can barely remember going to the big M on Lem Turner..

urbanlibertarian

August 21, 2012, 09:33:08 AM
As a child growing up on the Northside in the 60's I remember going to the Milligan's on Norwood Ave before or after a shopping trip to Gateway Shopping Center.  We would also go to the Burger King at 17th and Main.  It was the closest burger joint to home until they built the McDonalds at Tallulah and Main in the 70's.

Tacachale

August 21, 2012, 12:30:19 PM
Those buildings remind me of the old Skinners' Dairies. Are any other of the buildings still around?

Debbie Thompson

August 21, 2012, 12:41:40 PM
I hope Warren Motors keeps the building.  What a great design.

urbanlibertarian

August 21, 2012, 01:01:39 PM
I hope Warren Motors keeps the building.  What a great design.
It would be quite an engineering feat to turn the "M" into a "W". :-)

TheCat

August 21, 2012, 01:03:18 PM
History of Insta-Burger King via Wikipedia:


The predecessor to Burger King was founded in 1953 in Jacksonville, Florida, as Insta-Burger King. After visiting the McDonald brothers' original store location in San Bernardino, California, the founders and owners (Keith J. Kramer and his wife's uncle Matthew Burns) purchased the rights to two pieces of equipment called "Insta" machines and opened their first restaurants, based around a cooking device called an Insta-Broiler. The Insta-Broiler oven proved so successful at cooking burgers, they required all of their franchises to use the device.[6][7] After the company faltered in 1959, it was purchased by its Miami, Florida franchisees, James McLamore and David R. Edgerton. They initiated a corporate restructuring of the chain, first renaming the company Burger King. They ran the company as an independent entity for eight years (eventually expanding to over 250 locations in the United States), before selling it to the Pillsbury Company in 1967....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burger_King#History

urbanlibertarian

August 21, 2012, 01:08:56 PM
History of Insta-Burger King via Wikipedia:


The predecessor to Burger King was founded in 1953 in Jacksonville, Florida, as Insta-Burger King. After visiting the McDonald brothers' original store location in San Bernardino, California, the founders and owners (Keith J. Kramer and his wife's uncle Matthew Burns) purchased the rights to two pieces of equipment called "Insta" machines and opened their first restaurants, based around a cooking device called an Insta-Broiler. The Insta-Broiler oven proved so successful at cooking burgers, they required all of their franchises to use the device.[6][7] After the company faltered in 1959, it was purchased by its Miami, Florida franchisees, James McLamore and David R. Edgerton. They initiated a corporate restructuring of the chain, first renaming the company Burger King. They ran the company as an independent entity for eight years (eventually expanding to over 250 locations in the United States), before selling it to the Pillsbury Company in 1967....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burger_King#History



I wonder if the 17th and Main location was the original.

Non-RedNeck Westsider

August 21, 2012, 01:29:20 PM
...the McDonalds at Tallulah and Main in the 70's.

Recently closed down and reopened at 41st and Norwood.

Non-RedNeck Westsider

August 21, 2012, 01:30:59 PM
Those buildings remind me of the old Skinners' Dairies. Are any other of the buildings still around?

The one on Lem Turner is still being used as Jack's Sandwich Shop.

Timkin

August 21, 2012, 02:01:23 PM
Those buildings remind me of the old Skinners' Dairies. Are any other of the buildings still around?

Three locations that I am aware of, still exist.   This one,  One on Blanding in OP (Still recognizable by the M on the building), and the Green Cove Springs location (Now greatly modified and hardly recognizable ) .

Was a great little restaurant.    Thanks, Ennis for the article :)

Ocklawaha

August 21, 2012, 02:35:16 PM
Ah yes! Hamburgertopia!

Milligan's in Fairfax was the scene of the great burger wars, between several of the local high schools. About the same time as the 'bean gun' fad, we'd all pile in somebodies car, go up and buy 100 burgers or so, then proceeds to throw them at cars of kids from the opposing high school. Sorry millennial kids, THERE WAS NO THIRD LEVEL! The darn things only cost a nickel or a dime each (way cheap even then) so most cars always had an ample supply of ammunition... well... unless they ate it.

I do miss this little chain, it was the real (hometown) deal.

thelakelander

August 21, 2012, 02:45:35 PM
Those buildings remind me of the old Skinners' Dairies. Are any other of the buildings still around?

Here is a list of what remains in Jacksonville of the old Milligan's buildings.

2441 West Beaver - Concrete slab remains at corner of Beaver and McDuff.

3562 Broadway Avenue - building constructed in 1958 remains at corner of Broadway and Edgewood.

9303 Lem Turner Road - building with trademark M still remains at corner of Lem Turner and Soutel.

1965 South Lane Avenue - building constructed in 1965 still remains near the intersection of Lane and San Juan.

4530 Brentwood Avenue - building with trademark M still remains just south of Gateway Mall.

Timkin

August 21, 2012, 04:51:28 PM
Revive Milligans!!    Seems to me, Krystal and White Castle is along the lines of the same product.

The Green Cove Springs location no longer has the trademark M  on the building and the building has a two-story addition added to the back of it .. It is on Orange Ave. Across from Ace Hardware in Green Cove Springs.

WmNussbaum

August 21, 2012, 08:00:55 PM
Okay, dammit, I love Krystals and loved the Pennyburgers and the Milligan burgers, but to put the words "cuisine" and "beefy" in a story about them is misguided to say the least. And, Ron, to say they were distinctively different, is like comparing Dolly Parton's left and right boobies. (Okay, calling Dolly's breasts "boobies" is like calling the Titanic a motorboat.)

peestandingup

August 21, 2012, 08:03:19 PM
Okay, dammit, I love Krystals and loved the Pennyburgers and the Milligan burgers, but to put the words "cuisine" and "beefy" in a story about them is misguided to say the least. And, Ron, to say they were distinctively different, is like comparing Dolly Parton's left and right boobies. (Okay, calling Dolly's breasts "boobies" is like calling the Titanic a motorboat.)

Motorboat? Boobies??

DDC

August 21, 2012, 09:13:27 PM
...the McDonalds at Tallulah and Main in the 70's.

Recently closed down and reopened at 41st and Norwood.

Actually, the McDonalds that recently closed and re-opened at Gateway was at 50th and Main. The original McDs close to Tallulah and Main is most recently known as Hip Hop Fish and Chicken.

Mike D

August 22, 2012, 08:43:51 PM
It is humiliating to admit that I remember this, but here's how Milligan's radio and TV commercials used to go.  Oddly enough, as you read it, think of it as a precursor to rap, because  the announcer didn't sing the words, but  recited them at a snappy pace to a kind of rhythm:  "Shakes and pies and golden fries and beefy burgers, buy 'em by the dozen, breakfast at any time!  Meet me at Milligans, it's always open.  Fa-a-an-tastic!" 

Ocklawaha

August 22, 2012, 09:58:07 PM
It is humiliating to admit that I remember this, but here's how Milligan's radio and TV commercials used to go.  Oddly enough, as you read it, think of it as a precursor to rap, because  the announcer didn't sing the words, but  recited them at a snappy pace to a kind of rhythm:  "Shakes and pies and golden fries and beefy burgers, buy 'em by the dozen, breakfast at any time!  Meet me at Milligans, it's always open.  Fa-a-an-tastic!"

No shame in this Mike, Milligan's was a class act, I'm sorry they vanished. Of course I also miss 'Stand-N-Snack,' 'W.T. Grants,' and 'The House of Bargains.'

uga_jax

August 24, 2012, 11:44:55 PM
Maybe M Shack could revive the existing locations while simultaneously expanding their brand.  I doubt it would happen, but it's food for thought!

Sandyfeets

May 17, 2013, 08:30:07 AM
I recall my grandfather telling me that he and "Bob" Milligan were in the Army (or the Florida National  Guard) before and during WW2.  My grandfather said Milligan was always saying he was going to go "home" and start a burger restaurant.  My grandfather would rather have a Milligan's burger over Krystal any day.   Oddly enough, I grew up on LakeShore Blvd...just 3 blocks from the Milligan's on the banks of Cedar River. I still drive by their old home to get to my parents.

HisBuffPVB

June 23, 2013, 08:09:30 PM
The First Burger King was on Beach, where Dan's sandwich shop now stands. The owners lived just south of Baptist Towers in a Duplex on the River.
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