Metro Jacksonville takes a look at Allendale, an overlooked section of the urban core on Jacksonville's Westside.
Allendale is a neighborhood where heavy industry still flourishes with residential homes in close proximity. A time before zoning regulations were implemented to increase the distance between these land uses. The Westside neighborhood dates back to the early 20th century when Jacksonville underwent a rebuilding boom after the tragic destruction of the Great Fire of 1901. Before the construction of New Kings Road, it was a gateway to the Jacksonville area for those arriving from northwest.
It's proximity to Grand Crossing was a significant reason for the establishment of the early 20th century suburb along Old Kings Road. Grand Crossing was so named in 1899 when two railroads crossed the Waycross-Jacksonville line of the Savannah, Florida & Western (Plant System) at almost the same location. One was the Atlantic, Valdosta & Western and the other the Jacksonville & Southwestern Railroad. This dense network of rail lines and adjacent yards created an environment that attracted heavy industry in an area where Jacksonville's streetcar network was not readily available. The platting and development of Allendale allowed workers to live in modest homes within short distance of their places of employment. Edgewood Park lies at the center of the neighborhood. A unique setting in Jacksonville, the wide linear park sits in the median of 12th Street and extends the length of the entire community.
Betsy Coleman and her plane in 1922. Courtesy of Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bessie_Coleman_and_her_plane_(1922).jpg
During the 1920's, Allendale was the site of one of Jacksonville's earliest airfields. Paxon Field was owned by Lily Fay Melson Paxon who married Edward Paxon. Tragedy struck on April 30, 1926 when Bessie Coleman (the world's first licensed black pilot) was killed in a plane crash while on the barn-storming circuit. During a test flight, Bessie's Jenny (airplane) went into a nose dive and Bessie was thrown from the plane to her death. During World War II, the airfield was used by the Navy as an outlying airfield for Jacksonville NAS & the training command. After the war, the airfield was sold to a developer who set aside the property for future schools. In 1954, Paxon Field Junior-Senior High School opened to serve the rapidly growing neighborhoods of Allendale and adjacent Woodstock.
Melson Avenue, near Paxon High School in 1958. Courtesy of State Archives of Florida.
In 1925, the neighborhood was annexed by Jacksonville and remained the city's western border until consolidation in 1968. Despite dating back to the early 20th century, the area's greatest period of growth came as the automobile increased in popularity. Today, Allendale is no longer a gateway to Jacksonville. The roadway network that funneled people through the area has been replaced by highways that bypass the community. However, the crossing of railroads that attracted early industry in the area still remain. These lines are now owned by Norfolk Southern and CSX, both of which still operate large railyards in close proximity of Allendale. Throughout the neighborhood's past, it has remained a working class community complementing nearby industrial facilities and railroad yards.