Urban Neighborhoods: Murray Hill

June 30, 2010 33 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville explores a city that was annexed into Jacksonville in 1925: Murray Hill.

About Murray Hill

Named after a neighborhood in Manhattan, Murray Hill (Heights) is a 1907 replat of the northern section of the Edgewood subdivision, which was platted in the 1880's. In 1914, streetcar service was extended to the community and in 1915, Murray Hill was incorporated as its own town with Hugh Lauder serving as its first mayor. Many early residents were railroad workers who built homes in Murray Hill due of its close proximity to the terminal in Lackawanna. Murray Hill was annexed to the City of Jacksonville at noon on August 15, 1925.

Residential Murray Hill

Primarily developed over the first half of the 20th century, Murray Hill is home to a diverse collection of architectural styles that combine to give the neighborhood a unique sense of place. Residential architectural styles in the area include Bungalow, Craftsman, Prairie School, Colonial, Tudor Revival, Art Deco and Masonry Vernacular. Another unique quality of Murray Hill is the size of its houses. They are typically smaller than those in other local historic districts, making the area much more affordable for first time home buyers.  Currently, there are 3 bedroom/1 bathroom homes listed in the neighborhood for as low as $125k.

916 Talbot Avenue

About Murray Hill: The oldest existing house in Murray Hill was built in 1898 at 916 Talbot Avenue.

About Murray Hill: In 1907, more than half of the lots offered in Murray Hill had been sold for $1,500 each, and about a dozen homes had been constructed.

Ruth Upson Elementary School (The Murray Hill School) opened in 1916 with an enrollment of 48 students.  In 1920, the school was still in the middle of undeveloped land accessed by small cow paths. Sidewalks were built to the school in the early 1920's when the town was incorporated.  After Murray Hill's annexation into Jacksonville in 1925, no other sidewalks were built in the neighborhood until the 1970s.

Upson was called Murray Hill School when it opened in a three-room facility on a cold gray morning in November 1916. Ruth Upson, the first principal, and two others taught the 43 students who had to trek though muddy cow paths to get to the school.

In 1941, the school was renamed for Upson after a neighborhood petition. She retired in 1949 after 32 years as principal, during which enrollment grew to more than 1,000. She died in 1968. Upson now has 380 students.
Source: Murray Hill school marks its 90th
Florida Times-Union, The (Jacksonville, FL) - Wednesday, April 11, 2007

About Murray Hill: In 1928, houses in Murray Hill were built at a rate of one every two days.

The Murray Hill Baptist Church on Post Street.

About Murray Hill: 4213 Kerle Street is one of only 3 known Sears Kit Homes built in Jacksonville. The "Paloma" model was built by the Whittier family in 1918. Arthur Whittier hired a mule and wagon to transfer the house sections from the railroad tracks to the Kerle Street home site.

The inhabitants of this home at Lark and Antisdale Streets have transformed their entire yard into a garden.

The Murray Hill Presbyterian Church on Post Street.

About Murray Hill: Murray Hill Heights is one of the first subdivisions in Duval County to be planned to accommodate automobiles with paved roads and detached garages.

About Murray Hill: Henrietta Dozier, Jacksonville's first female architect, designed 6 houses on the 4500 block of French Street in 1925.

About Murray Hill: Murray Hill's peak building period occurred during the 1940s, when 1,700 homes were constructed in the area.

About Murray Hill: Busiest Building Years

1940 - 341 houses
1949 - 276 houses
1941 - 265 houses
1928 - 153 houses
1942 - 152 houses

This Murray Hill United Methodist Church building was constructed in 1946.

About Murray Hill: Busiest Building Decades

1940's - 1,701 houses built
1920's - 653 houses built
1950's - 602 houses built
1930's - 404 houses built
1960's - 182 houses built

About Murray Hill: Many of the streets in the area, such as Cassat Avenue and Challen Avenue, are named after investors in the Edgewood Company that platted Edgewood in the 1880’s.

Edgewood Subdivision Trustees

William M. Nelson

Charles C. Mclean (Ingleside)

William J. Harkisheimer (Hamilton)

Elizabeth J. French

Edmund Day

Massillon Cassett

William B. Owen

The Parks of Murray Hill

Platted during an era when pedestrian usability was a priority, Murray Hill's landscape is dominated by a series of parks providing recreational space within walking distance of most of the neighborhood's residents.

Murray Hill Playground

The 10.1 acre Murray Hill Playground is located at 4208 Kingsbury Street.

In 1941, the heirs of J. Graeme Drew sold the park property to the City. Several athletic associations have used and helped maintain the playground over the years including the Murray Hill Youth Assoc., the Wright Youth Assoc., and most recently the Murray Hill Athletic Assoc. Improvement projects in 2001-2003 added two scoreboards, a walk path, fencing for two T-ball fields, a water feature, three portable shelters, a playscape and more.

Murray Hill Four Corners Park

The 7.44 acre Murray Hill Four Corners Park is located at 4602 Lawnview Street.

The City acquired the park property in six deeds between 1925 and 1939. The passive park takes its name from the property’s location at the four corners of the Lawnview Street and Lamboll Avenue intersection. With input and assistance from the Murray Hill Preservation Association, the City completed an improvement project in 1995 that included a lighted walking and jogging trail (internal to the park), and new benches, irrigation spigots, and trash receptacles.

Murray Hill Art Center at Herbert Bayer

Murray Hill Art Center at Herbert Bayer Park is located in the Murray Hill Heights section of southwest Jacksonville. In 1949, the City purchased the park property, including the building that originally housed the Murray Hill Baptist Church. The park opened soon thereafter, and was originally named for Herbert Bayer (1900-1971), the dean of Florida’s legislative reporters, who lived near the park. Mr. Bayer covered every legislative session for the Florida Times Union between 1925 and his retirement in 1964. After use as a community center, the building sat empty, when through the efforts of the Murray Hill Civic Club and the City, it opened for art programs in 1985. Classes were offered in watercolor painting, weaving, basketry, quilting, pottery and more, and the Civic Club held monthly meetings at the Center. The programs expanded through the 1980’s, and it is the City’s principal visual arts center in 2005.

Jasmine Park

The City purchased the lots for creation of the park in 1928, making it one of the older municipal parks. With two benches and abundant trees, this small park provides an attractive setting for the relaxation and visual enjoyment of area residents.

Powers Park

Powers Park is located at 3153 Green Street.
Powers Park is located in the Murray Hill section of west Jacksonville, two blocks northwest of the McDuff Avenue and Post Street intersection. The City established the park soon after purchasing a three-block tract from Arthur M. Powers (1904-1987) in 1929. A Riverside resident, Mr. Powers was the Secretary-Treasurer of Sabel Brothers, a downtown wholesaler of shoes, shoemaker equipment, and leather goods. He and other family member also sold the City additional property in 1940 and 1955, which was later incorporated into the park. A 1969 report of City recreation space described the site as a well-maintained, passive park, and today it remains a passive facility, without athletic or playground amenities. Powers Park provides a scenic, natural setting with many picturesque trees, and attractive green space for the area’s residents.

Additional parks in Murray Hill not photographed include Murray Drive Playground and Cameron Park.  For more information about these public spaces: http://search.coj.net/cgi-bin/MsmFind.exe?QUERY_ENCODING=UTF-8&CFGNAME=MssFindSQ.cfg&QUERY=murray+hill&SQ=X&NO_DL=X

Edgewood Avenue

Edgewood was originally called Murray Hill Avenue and was designed to be a boulevard with a wide landscaped median. As early as the 1930's, the "Avenue of Progress" was a popular commercial district with a large number of specialty shops and four grocery stores.  Edgewood's peak years were between the late 1950's and mid 1970's. Despite the opening of several malls and shopping centers over the decades, several businesses along this corridor have managed to adapt and survive, providing Murray Hill with a traditional town center that most of Jacksonville's neighborhoods continue to lack.

The Edgewood Avenue Christian Church at the intersection of Edgewood Avenue and Antisdale Street.

In operation since 1947, the Edgewood Bakery was chosen by the Retail Bakers of America Association to be a part of its Heritage Road Tour Across America in late 1009.

Small's Pharmacy operated where Flowers by Pat is today. The original soda fountain and apothecary drawers are still there today. Rumor has it that the pharmacy was a model for a shop on Main Street at Walt Disney World.

The Murray Hill Theatre (image above from 1949) is the community's only locally designated historic landmark. The theater opened August 1949 and was praised for its air conditioning, crying room and slide back seats. Mayor Hayden Burns welcomed guests who paid 50 cents to see "Red River" starring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift. Located at 932 Edgewood Avenue South, the Theatre is now a faith-based nonprofit nightclub.

The Murray Hill Theater today

The Murray Hill Public Library at 918 Edgewood Avenue South

The Dreamette is an ice cream shop that has operated at Post Street and Edgewood Avenue since 1948.

The Florida Christian Center on Edgewood Avenue was the site of the Florida Military Academy (image above from 1954), which was built in 1913. The Florida Military Academy was the site of the neighborhood meeting where residents voted to incorporate Murray Hill in 1916. The academy building was demolished in 1975 to make way for the Florida Christian Home building (image below).

The First Block

The First Block, which is located where Edgewood crosses the CSX railroad tracks (A-Line) and Roosevelt Blvd, is the home to the Avenue's oldest remaining commercial buildings.  Buildings here date back to 1915, serving as a commercial dominated terminus for Jacksonville's former streetcar system. If commuter rail returns to the CSX A-Line, one of Jacksonville's original transit oriented developments will again be linked with fixed mass transit.

The Edgewood movie theater was built in 1947 and closed in the 1980s. Since then, it has been used as a campus for Jones College.

The former Jacksonville Traction Company's Murray Hill streetcar line right-of-way adjacent to the intersection of Edgewood Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard.

Cassat Avenue

Cassat Avenue serves as Murray Hill's western border. In Murray Hill's early years, Cassat was a two lane roadway with pedestrian oriented retail buildings located at major intersections.  

Looking west at the intersection of Cassat Avenue and Attleboro Street in 1948.

Intersection of Cassat and Lenox Avenues in the 1950s.

An accident at Cassat Avenue and Attleboro Street in 1957.

Over the years, this commercial corridor has been expanded from two to five lanes to accommodate automobile traffic at the expense of the pedestrian and the neighborhood. In the future, Jacksonville should look at ways to apply Complete Streets applications to this thoroughfare in an effort to revitalize this important commercial area and neighborhood gateway from Interstate 10.

McDuff Avenue

McDuff Avenue forms Murray Hill's eastern border. Connecting the neighborhood with Lackawanna, this thoroughfare provided Murray Hill's residents with direct access to what was the area's largest employer, the Seaboard Air Line Shops and Terminals.  
For information on Lackawanna and Seaboard terminal: http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2009-feb-urban-neighborhoods-lackawanna

Looking north along McDuff Street in 1957

Recently, McDuff Street has been expanded to include bike lanes and sidewalks.

The former Southside Meat Company building (shown in historic image above) today at McDuff and Rosselle Streets.

Murray Hill is located on Jacksonville's Westside along Edgewood Avenue between Cassat Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard.

Article and photographs by Ennis Davis