What to do with LaVilla?

December 12, 2012 26 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The recent scquabble between the Mayor's Office and Jerry Holland over the need to construct an $8 million Supervisor of Elections office/warehouse complex near the Ritz Theatre has overlooked the question of if such a project is even worthy for this historically significant area. For those who question its significance, here is a brief summary behind the sites still standing in Florida's first urbanized African-American community.

Building Locator Map

1. Jacksonville Terminal - 1000 West Bay Street - 1919

Completed in 1919, this Southern anomaly served as an official gateway to Florida, handling as many as 20,000 passengers a day.  With a design based off of New York's Pennsylvania Station, it was the largest train station south of Washington, DC.  Prior to its closing, every president since Warren Harding passed either through its concourse or platforms.  It's greatest year was 1944.  That year, it employed over 2,000 residents and shuttled over 10 million passengers.

2. 927 West Forsyth Street - 1909

927 West Forsyth is one of the few buildings remaining in the vicinity of the Jacksonville Terminal.  Constructed in 1909, one of the buildings early tenants was F.W. King & Company. For many years it was the home of the Southeast Wheel & Rim Company. The remaining two buildings on the block shared by 927 West Forsyth have housed a variety of uses over years including City Meat & Slaughter House company in 1925.  927 West Forsyth, like all of the West Forsyth Street buildings between Lee and Jefferson Streets, once faced the massive Atlantic & East Coast Terminal Company's freight depot.

A 1913 Advertisement for F.W. King & Company. Courtesy of The Rotarian, 1913.

Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.

3. 827 West Forsyth Street - 1953

In 1954, brothers William and Emmett, opened Khoury Brothers Wholesale Dry Goods.  William was one of the first young men in Duval County to volunteer in the U.S. Army during World War II.

4. 825 West Forsyth Street - 1902

Across the street from the now demolished railroad terminal, this building dates back to 1902.  In 1915, the Jax Chero-Cola Bottling Company operated out of the structure.  Chero-Cola was founded in 1905 as the Union Bottling Works by Claud A. Hatcher in Columbus, GA.  Hatcher's first beverages were named Royal Crown, a ginger ale and a cola called Chero-Cola.  In 1912, the company's name was changed to Chero-Cola.  Over the years, the company's name has changed and it is now known as Royal Crown Cola International.  During the mid 20th century, Atlantic Printers and Dixie Suppy Company Inc. (dry goods) were located here.

5. 801 West Forsyth Street -

In 1920, Philip Bork operated his Bork & Sons business out of this small building.  Bork & Sons were in the bed springs industry.  During the 1950s, it was the location of Southern States Iron Roofing Company.  It is one of several small and interesting buildings remaining in LaVilla where the complete history remains relatively unknown.

6. Fairmont Creamery Company Building - 122 North Jefferson Street - 1945

This building was constructed for the Fairmont Creamery Company. Fairmont specialized in butter, eggs, cheese, poultry and frozen foods.  Products and supplies were shipped by a rail spur on Houston Street. The creamery company was incorporated March 29, 1884 by William Wheeler and Joseph H. Rushton in Fairmont, Nebraska.  It became a pioneer in milk can pickup and was one of the first creameries to provide farmers with their own hand-operated cream separators.

Throughout its history, Fairmont Creamery Company was known in the dairy industry for its quality control and progressive methods of food production and distribution. By 1959 Fairmont was among the country's 500 largest corporations. In 1980, Fairmont merged with a subsidiary of American Financial Corporation of Cincinnati, Ohio, and changed its name to Utotem, Inc. Between 1980 and 1984, all of its properties and subsidiaries were either sold or closed, marking the end of a great American name.

The Fairmont Creamery in 1949. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/53216

7. 632 West Forsyth Street - 1909

Dating back to 1909, Benjamin Reid's Reid Brother's Moving & Storage operations were housed at 632 West Forsyth Street. During the 1950s, it was utilized by Cunningham Furniture as a used furniture warehouse. In the later half of the 20th century it was the home of the Davis Brothers Furniture Company.

8. 618 West Forsyth Street - 1914

Many urban core residents remember 618 West Forsyth Street as Club Kartouche.  However, the nearly century old building was once the Eagle Laundry Company.

9. The Adams Building - 525 West Bay Street - 1895

The Adams Building is one of the few remaining structures unscathed by the Great Fire of 1901. It was constructed as a hotel catering to transients using the railroad terminal in 1895.

10. The El Modelo Cigar Factory - 501 West Bay Street - 1886

Constructed in 1886, this building is one of three downtown structures east of Broad, built before the Great Fire.  During it's heyday, it was occupied by the El Modelo Cigar Factory, which employed 225 workers. While Tampa is known as Cigar City because of Vincente Ybor, Jacksonville had 15 cigar plants itself around the turn of the century. El Modelo is significant because in 1893, Jose Marti, founder of the Cuban Revolutionary Party gave a fiery speech at this location to build support  for liberation of his homeland. From 1915 to 1965, the building was a hotel, operating as the Plaza, the Hillsboro, the Southern, and the New York Hotel. Today it is an office building and the largest remaining nineteenth-century commercial building in Jacksonville.

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