Here's five more additions to the Concrete Slabs of Jacksonville series.
1. Manuel's Tap Room
Manuel's Tap Room was located at 626 W. Ashley Street. Manuel's was described in the January 1942 issue of The Crisis, the magazine of the NAACP, as "the finest of its kind in the South."
Courtesy of The Crisis, January 1942
Owned by Manuel Rivera, the lounge and grill was a popular place for drinking, dining and dancing. Manuel's was open 24 hours a day, something that's hard to find anywhere in downtown today.
Inside Hayes Luncheonette in 1938.
Manuel's was just one of several popular establishments where one could grab a meal on Ashley Street. Hayes Luncheonette was located next door at at 634 West Ashley Street. After a failed attempt to revitalize LaVilla during the 1990s, not much is left of the once vibrant Ashley Street strip. In 2015, there are no meals being served up by restaurants on this history block of black entertainment. Instead, the foundations and floor tiles of restaurants, like Manuel's and Hayes Luncheonette, are being used for parking cars and fostering weeds.
What's left of Manuel's Tap Room in 2015.
The foundations of Manuel's Tap Room and Hayes Luncheonette. The ghostly walls of Genovar's Hall stand behind them. In the 1920's, this building became the Wynn Hotel. When in town, Louis Armstrong preferred to stay at the Wynn, because it was "on the street" where the action was. The first floor of this building was occupied by the Lenape Tavern, one of Ashley Street's most popular nightspots.
In front of the Lenape were two metal horse hitching rails, which still remain. In the early 1940's this spot was known as "the rail of hope," where waiters and musicians would hang out, waiting for a job. One of the frequent occupants of the rail was R.C. Robinson, a blind piano player who had attended the Deaf and Blind School in St. Augustine before coming to live with a relative at 633 Church Street, one block away. He developed his talents playing as side-man for some of the well known performers and later rose to stardom himself under the name of Ray Charles.
Stories Behind the Concrete Slabs of Jax: Part I
Stories Behind the Concrete Slabs of Jax: Part II