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Walkable Commercial Districts: Ortega Village

Jacksonville's urban core is home to a number of historic walkable neighborhood commercial districts. Many are a direct result of the defunct Jacksonville Traction Company, which once operated a 60 mile streetcar system. Today, Metro Jacksonville highlights the terminal spot of a 1908 streetcar line extension into Ortega: Ortega Village

Published May 10, 2012 in Neighborhoods      10 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


Ortega Village History

The Ortega neighborhood we know today got its start in 1906, when John N.C. Stockton's Ortega Company purchased 5,000 acres of land from U.S. Senator Wilkinson Call.

To spur development, Stockton constructed a wooden bridge over the Ortega River to connect the project to Jacksonville.  As an incentive to purchase homesites, the Ortega Company promised no taxes and free water for a certain time period.

Between 1910 and 1930, Jacksonville's population exploded from 57,699 to 129,549.  This surge in growth would have a lasting impact on several sparsely development communities along the Ortega streetcar line, including Ortega.

During the mid-1920s, Ortega Village developed at the streetcar's Cortez Park turnaround, providing centralized neighborhood commercial uses to the growing community surrounding it.  

Ortega Village Today

Today, Ortega Village remains as small scale quaint shopping district.

Cortez Park is located just south of Ortega Village.  It served as the "end of the line" or turnaround for the 1906 streetcar line extension through Riverside and Avondale, connecting Ortega with Downtown Jacksonville.  Boy Scouts found it a popular ride to a good campsite and fisherman and crabbers enjoyed the day trips it afforded.

Cortez Park resides in the Ortega neighborhood of southwest Jacksonville. In 1909, the Ortega Company, founded by John N. C. Stockton and Charles C. Bettes, began development of Ortega, designed by the prominent architect Henry J. Klutho. It was one of four circular parks created along Park Avenue (now Baltic Street) and named for New World explorers, including Hernando Cortez (1485-1547), the Spanish conqueror of Mexico. An electric trolley traveled via the Grand Avenue Bridge to Cortez Park, where it turned around for the return trip to downtown. And a charming commercial area known as the The Village (which still exists) evolved near the park. Set amidst numerous oak trees, the quiet park becomes the site of merry-making during the annual Fall Festival at Old Ortega, which was designated a Historic District and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.

Oxford Place is one of only 25 flat iron-shaped buildings in the country.  It was built by Marsh and Saxelbye in 1924 and was designed to look like an English Village in the Tudor style.

When this structure was completed in 1924, it was known as Faulkners Grocery Company and its windows displayed produce, banana stalks and sides of meat.  Displays were changed on Sundays when cracker barrels and cookies were put in the windows to lure Sunday strollers.  At Christmas, red and green sawdust was spread on the floor in lieu of ordinary sawdust.

This building was completed in 1927 and housed a general store called Flamingos and a barber shop where haircuts were 10 cents.  Since 1955, the building has been occupied by Carter's Pharmacy.  Still operating inside the pharmacy is a 57-year-old lunch counter called the Fountain.

Ortega Village is located where Corinthian Avenue intersects with Oxford Avenue and Baltic Street in the heart of the Old Ortega Historic District.

Article by Ennis Davis



May 10, 2012, 07:22:03 AM
So many memories.  Used to ride bikes with friends to Carters all the time to eat at the fountain, buy candy (gum was $0.05, airheads were $0.10, and "larger" candy like a bag of skittles or a bubble yum pack were $0.64).  Used to buy Fruitopias and energy drinks there, too.  Got kicked out by Mr. Carter at least once.

I remember the neighborhood grocer that occupied the site that is now the First Guaranty (and I remember when that was built).  My mother used to take me to Village Salon to get my haircut, and I always felt like I was "going into the city".  Loved the free lollilops afterward.  Then she switched me to a salon in the triangle (hair was cut by Lisa...who later moved to Salon on the Boulevard near where the Blockbuster was on Roosevelt to the south).

Mrs. Macdade operated a garden store in the triangle at one point.  Short lived.

What lasted a couple years was the Village Store, which had to be one of the best restaurants in town.  It occupied the end cap of the triangle, and had the best tuna sandwiches for lunch and a prix fixe dinner.  It was just incredible, but the trio of ladies got tired of doing that and one is still behind the counter at Carters in addition to being one of the tennis pros at Timuquana.

And I'm glad you snapped the old Sheila's Cakes (now on Hamilton near Ortega Automotive).  Used to go there after St. Mark's if I didn't go to Carters.

Ah, biking around from essentially 4th grade through 9th grade.  Such a quiet place, though, now that I'm all grown up.  Like much of the area, it looks worn down.  Cortez Park never looked "good", though it's not like you care when you're a kid.  There's a house on the park that has been restored and added onto that was moved off its foundation to a different configuration...that was interesting.

Village Dance...my sister did that for many many years...watching the recital at Florida Theater then Moran Hall was always kind of fun and my friends and I would always sit in the back and act like we were so cool.  Seemed like a good dance troupe...Kirby Harrison (one of the best dancers in Jax and at Episcopal) was their star up until her senior year.


May 10, 2012, 07:51:43 AM
And the cultural diversity is simply mind boggling.


May 10, 2012, 07:58:27 AM
Well I feel truly embarrassed. I have lived in Jacksonville since 1987 and had no idea this even existed. I had to look it up on a map to see where the streets were. I think a sunday drive is in order this weekend to check it out for myself. Thanks for posting this.


May 10, 2012, 08:36:10 AM
Well I feel truly embarrassed. I have lived in Jacksonville since 1987 and had no idea this even existed. I had to look it up on a map to see where the streets were. I think a sunday drive is in order this weekend to check it out for myself. Thanks for posting this.

You are in for a treat.  There are a whole slew of parks and mini-parks that add a really nice touch.  Ortega along with Riverside/Avondale, Springfield, San Marco, Murray Hill and a few other areas, many of which are somewhat downtrodden but have great renewal potential, make Jax a unique 'Deep South-Floridian' mixture that is unlike any city I have visited anywhere else. 

If only those areas were preserved, protected, maintained and APPRECIATED for their uniqueness, instead of trying to replicate Miami.  That is what a truly BOLD city would do.     


May 10, 2012, 08:56:32 AM
Thanks vicup. I live in Riverside so I'm pretty familiar with all those areas. I just did not even know that village even existed. I've gone around the area on Ortega Bv but didn't know there was anything in the middle.


May 10, 2012, 09:42:25 AM
"Old Ortega" is a great neighborhood - diverse architecture, demographics, culture, etc. - surrounded by water on 3 sides with several parks and great views of downtown and other parts of the city.  It's one of those hidden gems in Jacksonville.


May 10, 2012, 06:55:09 PM

What lasted a couple years was the Village Store, which had to be one of the best restaurants in town.  It occupied the end cap of the triangle, and had the best tuna sandwiches for lunch and a prix fixe dinner.  It was just incredible, but the trio of ladies got tired of doing that and one is still behind the counter at Carters in addition to being one of the tennis pros at Timuquana.

Angie from the Village Bakery no longer runs the Fountain @ Carters. She sold it and moved to Atlanta. The Fountain has been boycotted by the neighborhood for being inside the drug haven (not my words). The pharmacy caters to the out of state drug seekers so much so that it affected the lunch business. I'm not sure if it is still running at this time. Mr Carter bought the house behind the pharmacy just for those narcotic customers but that still didn't relieve the fear that these Ortega neighbors have towards the place. Not sure how much longer he can hang onto the business. If you listen to Mr Carters stories sometimes I think he is staying just out of spite :)  He is the best character!


May 10, 2012, 08:52:07 PM
The picture of that clock got me thinking, when are we getting the clock back on Adams and Laura? Shouldn't it be ready by now?


May 10, 2012, 10:08:06 PM
The streetcar route was down Herschel (double track) through Fairfax, left on the grassy side of San Juan/Grand, over the bridge  and into the landscaped median of Grand. The trolley turned right onto Baltic, running alongside the road to Cortez Park. The line was built by the Ortega Company as the 'Ortega Traction Company,' then sold to The Jacksonville Traction Company. In 1918, the Duval Traction Company extended the route from Cortez Park, running alongside Manitou to Ortega Boulevard/Allegheny then east alongside Albemarle to Black Point, site of the US Army's Camp Johnston. Car's to and from the camp ran nonstop from downtown for a .25 cent fare.

Note the walk-over seat handles on top of the seat backs, along the aisles. NOTE TO JTA: "trolley seats" in Jacksonville were not all glorified wooden park benches, we had two dominant varieties cane-back (which gave a soft rattan like comfort) and over stuffed velvet (the qualities of which we haven't seen since December 1936). We also operated 10 LOUNGE CARS! Try that one with a city bus today!

Note the little trolley wheel and pole has a small chain or cord attached which is used for lowering or raising the pole to or from the wire.

Here is the typical controller,( much more lovely then a plastic PCT steering wheel) which also serves as a type of key to the car.

At any time in the history of the routes, the streetcar's did NOT need to be turned around. Streetcars had 'walk-over seats,' the brass handles along the aisle allowed the motorman or conductor to walk through the car and flip the seat back's to face the other way. The car's themselves were double ended, and the operators controller served as a sort of 'key'. At the end of a route the operator stopped the car, pulled out his controller handle, opened the doors and got out. Walking to the rear of the car (based on the direction they were moving when they stopped) he would pull on a cord that lowered the trolley pole and locked it in the down position with a simple hook device. He then walked to the other end of the car, grabbed the cord, unhooked the pole on that end and raised it to the wire. Lastly, he rebounded and inserted the controller at the other end of the car, ready to roll. Total elapsed time? Maybe 2 minutes.

About the village? Having spent my early years toddling along the sidewalks in Ortega Village, I can recall what had to be the coolest toy store - window display I ever saw. I don't really recall if it WAS a toy store or a shop that carried a lot of unusual toys, but they had incredible displays of stamped tin, mechanical toys, roller coasters, Ferris wheels, and race tracks. The little wind up accessories zipped up, down and around for the benefit of potential customers! I just remember these toys, which I believe were mostly German imports, had lots of painted on detail and bright colors. Does anyone else recall this place?

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/WwwfF0ZJBWw?version=3&amp;amp;hl=en_US" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/WwwfF0ZJBWw?version=3&amp;amp;hl=en_US</a>
Here is the end of the line process on a car with a single pole, car's came in single or double pole versions usually dictated by the length of the car.




May 13, 2012, 09:35:39 AM
What a charming neighborhood. It shows that modest, people friendly design is all that is needed to create a livable city.
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