Urban Neighborhoods: Panama Park

May 5, 2010 16 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville explores the Metro North neighborhood known as Panama Park.

About Panama Park

The historical community of Panama Park was first platted in 1879. Nestled between the Trout and St. Johns Rivers, the area was home to Northeast’s Florida’s first steam-powered saw mill in 1828 and also the Cummer Lumber Mill that was established in 1896 (the City’s largest employer for many years). As the terminus of two paved roads and with daily train service, the area was a popular destination for fishing, sailing, and picnicking for several decades. Real growth began in 1910, when George W. Clark Sr. began selling lots on fifty acres that he improved and provided with modern amenities.

An Early Description of Panama Park

Is one of Jacksonville's prettiest residential suburbs.  It is located four miles straight out Main Street from the corner of Bay and Main, four miles from the Post Office and a short distance from the present city limits.

It is located on St. Johns Bay and on either side of Main Street where it crosses Trout Creek, which is half a mile in width, and is, in reality, a River.  It has a half mile of water front.

A ten minute ride by automobile or twenty minutes by streetcar, through a good section all the way; in fact it is the route of the tourist sight-seeing cars, and Panama Park is one of the points of interest.

Panama Park consists of fifty acres, subdivided into two hundred lots.  This property was purchased ten years ago by Geo. W. Clark, who incorporated the Panama Investment Company and transferred the property to that Company.

Every lot faces a paved street and some have a water frontage also.  Every street is bordered with beautiful shade trees, such as Magnolias, Oaks, Olives, Cedars and imported Arbor Vitaes.  There are more than 8,000 trees in this park, including some of the finest specimens of live oaks to be found around Jacksonville.  It contains acres of flowers in season.  The title is perfect - no mortgage or liens of any kind.

From the water front lots one gets a twelve-mile view down the St. Johns River toward the ocean.

St. Johns Bay and Trout Creek furnish excellent fishing and boating.

It has a protected harbor for small boats. The sloping sandy beach is splendid for bathing purposes.

No finer hotel site could be found around Jacksonville.  It is an ideal location for a winter home for those of the north who wish only to spend the winter months in Florida, where the conveniences of city life are combined with the pleasures of country life.  Here one may enjoy boating, sailing, fishing, shooting, etc., under conditions not to be found elsewhere about Jacksonville.

It is an ideal location for summer bungalows for the businessmen of Jacksonville, in fact it would be hard to find in the vicinity of Jacksonville a better location for a permanent home for any person.

The Main Street electric line has recently been extended to a point within one mile of Panama Park and the Panama Park Transportation Company has established an automobile bus line which connects with the electric cars for Panama Park every half hour.  These buses run direct to the Recreation Pier.  Fare, five cents to those buying lots from us.

Panama Park has both rail and river transportation, which is of great importance when you consider that all building material and other freight can be shipped from this city to Panama cheaper than it can be hauled by team, to say nothing of the full carloads from other and more distant points.

Four local daily trains stop at the Panama depot.

The Mayport boat will make two daily landings at the Panama dock on a small guarantee of freight or passengers, which we will arrange for at the proper time.

Panama Park's Original Restrictions

1. Only certain lots can be used for stores.

 2. No residence may be erected which will cost less than $2,500 to build and on the Riverside Drive lots, not less than $5,000.

 3. No house may be built within 25 feet of the street which it faces.

 4. No stable or garage or other outhouse may be erected within 25 feet of any street.

 5. No wood fence may be erected within 25 feet of any street. Fences are not necessary, but if desired, must be made of iron.

 6. No lot may be conveyed to a colored person or negro.

 7. Livery stables, public automobile garages and blacksmith shops are prohibited.

 8. We prohibit the manufacture, storage or sale of intoxicating liquors in Panama Park.

 9. We require property owners and all others to close the gates across street ends upon passing through.

10. All houses must be connected with the sewer before occupancy.

11. A sidewalk along the street side or sides of the lot purchased must be built of cement within one year from date of purchase.

12. The width of every boat house is limited to one-half the width of the lot upon which it is built.

13. No water front lot will be sold for mercantile purposes.

14. No person will be allowed to maintain a herd of cattle, hogs, sheep or mules or permit poultry to run at large.

15. All restrictions are binding for 10 years.

Phoenix Park

It began with a spark from a shanty at lunch hour, a small fire in a fiber factory at Davis and Beaver streets. All before it was destroyed until it died that night in a gentle rain on the banks of Hogans Creek two miles away.

Dollar loss was $15 million -- $2 billion today.

Savannah saw flames, the Carolina's smoke. No Southern city had been so visited by fire. Fortunes were gone. Some went mad. All time began that Friday afternoon.

Saturday morning, practical history began from scratch. Live oaks no longer would grow in the middle of streets.

The ash was smoldering. Only chimneys survived. Amid the stench of dead animals the rebuilding began.

Rudolph Grunthal took out Building Permit #1 Monday morning, for a temporary shack at State and Main streets. Porcher L'Engle was building the first brick building, at Adams and Broad, in three weeks. Professions resumed partitioned in tents and sheds.

Sound of saw and hammer filled the air. Half the number of buildings burned were under construction by year's end.

The street car line was extended north and at its end was built a park named Phoenix to mark the reconstruction.
Burned down, built back Jacksonville started over from scratch on May 4, 1901. From the piles of rubble arose a fresh-faced city almost overnight.
The Florida Times-Union - Sunday, February 21, 1999

Panama Park Photo Tour

Evergreen Cemetery

With the Old City Cemetery in Oakland near Downtown not able to serve the growing community, the Jacksonville Cemetery Association was founded in 1880 for purpose of establishing a new cemetery.  Under the leadership of its president, James Jaquelin Daniel, the association purchased two hundred acres of high ground immediately north of Long Branch Creek between the fashionable Springfield neighborhood and the new subdivision to the north called Panama Park.  With additional property donated by the Daniel family, Evergreen Cemetery began accommodating burials in 1881 that later included the relocation of the graves of some of Jacksonville’s pioneer families such as that of Isaiah D. Hart, recognized as the founder of Jacksonville.  In 1899, Charles Clark opened the forty-one acre Woodlawn Cemetery to the west of Evergreen, which was purchased in 1912 by the Evergreen Cemetery Association.  In 1881, the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine purchased a twenty-acre tract from the Evergreen Cemetery Directors for the purpose of establishing a separate Catholic burial ground known as St. Mary’s Cemetery.  In 1976, the Evergreen Cemetery Association officially acquired St. Mary’s Cemetery.  In addition to containing a significant collection of monuments, crypts, and gravestones, Evergreen Cemetery, which currently has approximately 60,000 graves, is the final resting places for four U.S. Senators, four Governors, as well as other noted individuals in government, commerce, military, and community service.

44th Street

Forming the north boundary of the Evergreen Cemetery, 44th Street connects Evergreen Avenue with Main Street and Norwood Avenue.  Just south of Panama Park, the majority of residences in this area are brick construction.  

Evergreen Avenue

During Panama Park's early years, Evergreen Avenue served as the major neighborhood commercial center.  While the commercial center has since given way to the industrial expansion of US Gypsum Company, many of the community's older residences remain nearby.

Now serving as a spur to the US Gypsum Co., this rail line once continued north crossing the Trout River.

United States Gypsum Co.

Complete with it's own paper mill, the United States Gypsum Company's 700,000-square-foot complex manufactures drywall under the company's brand name, Sheetrock.

Shaw's Southern Belle Frozen Foods Inc.

Shaw's Southern Belle Frozen Foods, Inc. has been a staple in the Panama Park community since it opened in 1934 by John R. Shaw Sr. as Florida's first crabmeat processing plant.  The company, which employs about 120 people, makes products like deviled crab and crab cakes for the commercial food industry. Clients include Red Lobster, Shoney's, Captain D's Seafood, Golden Corral Buffet & Grill, Long John Silvers and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.

The warehouse facility is located across the street from this residence that is now a part of the Shaw's Southern Belle complex.

Shaw's Southern Belle will continue to own about 20 acres and has been studying expansion plans. The company, started 69 years ago, employs about 120 people to process crabmeat and make products like deviled crab cakes for the commercial food industry, including restaurant chains such as Red Lobster, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and Steak and Ale.
One of its first customers was Jacksonville-based Winn-Dixie Stores Inc.

Shaw's Southern Belle Frozen Foods Inc. is testing the waters for an expansion at its Trout River plant, where it set up shop 68 years ago to process crabmeat. - 2002

Panama Park

Panama Park is located along Buffalo Avenue, between 59th and 60th Streets, in the Panama Park suburb of north Jacksonville. After annexing the area in 1925, the City purchased ten acres for the park from developer Charles E. Bell in 1929. Approximately seven acres became Panama Playground, with active recreation facilities such as baseball fields, while the remaining three-acre tract with many trees was established as a passive facility named Buffalo Park. Following the consolidation of Jacksonville in 1968, the City combined the two facilities into Panama Playground, later known as Panama Park – which at the time was the largest public recreational facility in north Jacksonville. The Charlie T. Joseph Community Center (now a Senior Center) resides across from the northeast section of the park. And the City completed a major improvement project at Panama Park in 2003.

Looking down Lawton Avenue.

North Florida Educational Institute (Lola M. Culver Elementary School)

The former Lola Culver Elementary School was one of architect Henry Klutho's last great Prairie-style designs. The building is highlighted by two central towers surmounted by terra cotta eagles. After serving the Panama Park community for 92 years, the doors to Lola M. Culver Elementary School were closed for the last time.  Today, the building is the home of the North Florida Educational Institute.

Built in 1916 to educate the children of this working class neighborhood, Lola M. Culver Elementary School once served as the only public school  in this area of North Jacksonville. With the river as it's neighbor, school number thirteen once rang with the thrill of childish laughter and play. Named for it's second principal, a pleasant but stern woman of the mid nineteen hundreds, the school's huge front steps, bordered by six foot thick bulwarks on either side,  welcomed you to it's narrow hallways and spiral wooden stair cases to the second floor. The surrounding live oaks and quiet streets still stand as reminders of days less cluttered by technology and more of children walking to school, or being ridden on the crossbars of a bicycle. Close by was a "Little Store" where your fifteen cent lunch money would get you a Delaware Punch drink and a fist full of Mary Janes, or a set of fake wax teeth that you could chew like gum.  Thirty five cents, a week's allowance, got you a Duncan Yo-yo. or a three sheet set of cardboard dolls with exchangeable clothes with little tabs that you folded to hold them on. It was a school where you were summons to class by a real bell, and no one ever heard of an intercom. Where the teachers that taught you may have taught your parents, and where if you took a roll call of all the students that had ever passed through it's doors most would tell you that they began every day with a prayer and a pledge of allegiance to the flag.

E. 63rd Street connects Buffalo Avenue with Main Street.

Oakwood Street

Bounded by Main Street, E. 63rd Street and the CSX railroad, this Panama Park community is the site of many stately well maintained historic residences.


Main Street

An aerial of Main Street and Panama Park during the 1950s.  Anchored by Food Lion, the Main Street Station shopping center sits on the former site of the drive in theater.

Our Legacy - Serving The Jacksonville Area Since 1956

Joseph's legacy began in the Italian kitchens of the San Francisco neighborhood where he grew up. He found the aromas of fresh homemade breads, sauces and meats so irresistible, he dedicated his life to the rich heritage of Italian cooking.

All his life, Joseph's heart was in two places - the kitchen and the dinner table. His greatest thrill was watching the smiling faces of people enjoying the flavor of his hard work. He used to say, "Cooking is something special when it's in your soul. Otherwise, there's an ingredient missing."

Today Joseph's passion for authentic Italian cuisine lives on in every item on our menu. As you indulge in recipes perfected by generations, know its Joseph's own second generation, his daughters, who bring these dishes to you at both of our Jacksonville locations.

We offer you wholesome Italian meals that will remind you of Grandmothers kitchen. We use only the freshest ingredients and absolutely no preservatives in any of our homemade dressings, sauces, meatballs, Italian sausage or any of our homemade breads. Our food is really prepared from scratch. We can accommodate any allergy concerns or special dietary needs. Try a Pizza on our whole wheat crust or choose our whole wheat sub roll for any of our oven baked sandwiches. As always, our breads are baked fresh daily using Olive oil. Mama Rose, Mr. Joseph’s wife, makes sure that everything at Joseph’s stays as it was 52 years ago.

This new building for the Panama Pharmacy opened in 2007 at 7307 North Main Street.

Trout River Waterfront

Panama Park's working waterfront gives the community a unique atmosphere when stacked against other urban Jacksonville neighborhoods.

The original Main Street bridge over the Trout River in 1956

Today, the original bridge serves as a public fishing pier.

The Jacksonville Zoo can be seen from the Main Street Pier.

The Peyton family's Gate Concrete Products manufacturing facility can be seen from the pier as well.

Commercial Diving Academy

Gulf Coast Commercial Diving Academy was established in 1995, in Orange Beach, Alabama, in order to provide training and employable skills in the profession of commercial diving.

The School was established by Ray Black in answer to the need for trained commercial divers and the rare-existence of schools of this type. The School is the realization of his dream of sharing his 15 years of experience and training with others. Ray Black was born in Alabama and dedicated his life to working with the industry for almost two decades. He has been associated with worldwide commercial diving companies.  

In 2001, David Weisman, a maritime business owner, partnered with Ray Black and they moved the Academy to Jacksonville, Florida. They changed the name of the School to Commercial Diving Academy and began the process of building both the facility and the program into the world’s premiere dive training institution. Together they created a master plan for dive training education. This included a unique training schedule, delivered in a contained campus that encompassed housing, meals, open water diving and state of the art training tanks to support instruction in underwater construction techniques. In 2007 they acquired the exclusive rights to a deepwater training site in central Florida and in 2009 CDA became the only school in the nation to offer deepwater training accredited by the Divers Certification Board of Canada, The Association of Commercial Diving Educators and recognized by the International Marine Contractors Association. Future plans include closed bell/saturation diving training and the development of our maritime welding program.

The site of the proposed Pirate's Point Yacht Club & Marina.

JEA's Northside Generation Station can be seen in the distance across the river.

A cruise ship can be seen in the distance across the river.

Shrimp boats docked at the Dye Marina.

Seafarers Marina

Seafarers Marina is a family owned and operated marina since 1979. We are located on the Trout River just off of the St. Johns River at channel marker 68. Our dock is 600 feet long and has 75 slips each having finger docks, water, and electricity. The Trout River depth ranges from 10-14 feet. We have shower facilities, grill area, and a laundry room. Our guest have internet access in the office during business hours. We offer live aboard, over night, weekly, and monthly wet slip rates. We are approximately 5 miles to downtown Jacksonville, the landing and the river walk. We are approximately 15 miles to the beaches. We are centrally located, within a few miles to grocery stores, restaurants, and hardware stores . We offer a safe friendly family environment. We welcome all boaters. We are very proud of our river city, so come and see it for yourself!!

Unique Panama Park

- First Wisconsin up and moved in late July, to the neighborhood of Fifth and Silver Streets. Other regiments moved to high ground north of Evergreen Cemetery, near Phoenix Park and Panama .

- Panama Park was home to two of Jacksonville's previous mayors, and the founder's of Duval Spirits, the late J. Baker Bryan and his brother Lon B. Bryan.

- ...Championship bicycle racers left New York by steamship for a winter meet at Jacksonville's Panama Park track, said to be the South's finest concrete oval...
Florida Times Union, January 29, 1901

- Florida's 15th Governor (1889-1893), Francis Philip Fleming was born in Panama Park, on September 28, 1841, to Lewis and Margaret (Seton) Fleming.

The Future

Panama Park stands to greatly benefit from the proposed north commuter rail corridor. Split by the railroad (highlighted in green), two potential stations could be constructed in the community opening the door to transit oriented development along North Main Street and economic redevelopment of residential neighborhoods adjacent to the railroad tracks.

Article and Photos by Ennis Davis