A Historical Stroll Down Talleyrand Avenue

May 29, 2012 5 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

While Downtown Jacksonville's wharfs boomed a century ago, this heavy maritime related industrial district also came to life during the same period of time. While our wharfs are long gone, this district remains an urban Jacksonville economic powerhouse: Talleyrand

JAXPORT Talleyrand Terminal

In the manner of a successful man looking back over the events that led to his prosperity, Jacksonville can count the years 1852 and 1916 as particularly significant in its history.

The first date marks the time when local citizens began to take direct action to open Jacksonville to foreign trade.

By mid-l9th century the city was well on the high road to commerce. Northern demands for its seemingly endless output of citrus fruits and timbers of all kinds drew a stream of vessels down the St. Johns.

This trade, however, had to be handled largely by light coastal ships and river craft. Large steamers and deep-draft schooners were often literally "barred" from entering the mouth of the St. Johns. A capricious sand bar, shifting unpredictably, gave ship captains the short end of the odds in any gamble to cross it safely. Pilots were never quite sure from one trip to the next where the channel would be.

In 1852 a local citizens' committee sent a representative to Washington to ask government help in removing the troublesome sand bar and in deepening the channel to Jacksonville. Response to this appeal came in the way of a $10,000 appropriation voted by Congress to study the problem and plan the job to be done. This task was assigned to the u. s. Army Corps of Engineers which had the responsibility then, as now, for river and harbor improvement projects.

Forty-three years and several million dollars later, after scores of unexpected difficulties had been met and solved, the project was finished. (During 24 of those years -from shortly before the Civil War until well into the Reconstruction Period -work was suspended altogether.)

By 1895 there was 15 feet of navigable water over the bar and 18 feet in the channel up to Jacksonville. This offered scant comfort to the people of Jacksonville, however, because sea-going ships had gotten bigger and heavier in the long meantime.

So the cycle began again. Another petition was sent to Washington in the early 1900's -this time for a channel depth of 30 feet. The government agreed to underwrite this dredging if the City of Jacksonville built piers to accommodate the size ships that would draw up to that depth.

In 1916 this condition was met. The forerunners of the three present municipal piers were constructed. the government carried out its el).d of the bargain and the Port of Jacksonville shortly' afterward became a regular port of call for several shipping lines. And Jacksonville was a world port.

During the 1960s, Jacksonville had four railroads and other land transportation available, plus water-borne service from 80 steamship lines, supplying two of the three ingredients necessary to the port's progress. The third industry is supplied by the more than 500 manufacturing and processing firms that support Jacksonville's claim to the title "Industrial Capital of Florida."

Virtually a port within a port, the municipal docks could berth nine ocean vessels at a time. With transit warehouses, dockside and depressed (indoor) railroad tracks, and open storage space, the docks were capable of receiving and loading almost any type of bulk and general cargoes.

Over the years, the municipal docks have grown to become JAXPORT's Talleyrand Marine Terminal.  This 173-acre terminal has 4,800 linear feet of berthing space on 38 feet of deepwater with a dredgind project underway that will increase depth to 41 feet.

The terminal handles containerized and breakbulk cargoes, imported automobilies and liquid bulk commodities such as turpentine and molasses.  Breakbulk cargoes include steel, lumber and paper, and a variety of frozen and chilled goods.  Talleyrand is equipped with four container cranes, on-dock rail and 160,000 square feet of transit shed space capable of handling cargo in refrigerated, freezer or ambient conditions.  Additionally, a 553,000-square foot warehouse stores a variety of cargoes, including metal products, rolls of fine and specialty papers, magazine papers and newsprint.

The Talleyrand terminal also offers two 50-LT capacity rubber tired gantry cranes, both of which straddle four rail spurs totaling 4,800 linear feet.  Talleyrand is served by CSX, FEC and NS railroads, with on-dock rail operated by Talleyrand Terminal Railroad, Inc.

Several large industries and terminals were located along Talleyrand, north of the municipal docks.  Some predated the construction of the municipal docks.  These industries included petroleum terminals, an recently demolished electric plant, creosoting works, and the paper mill that earned Jacksonville's ill-fated moniker as the "Armpit of Florida."

Chevron USA's Jacksonville Terminal receives petroleum products by tanker and barge.  Product on-site is stored in several steel tanks with a total capacity of 561,400 barrels.

TransMontaigne Inc. is a distributor of refined petroleum products to independent wholesalers and industrial and commercial end users, delivering approximately 0.3 million barrels per day throughout the United States, primarily in the Gulf Coast, Southeast and Midwest regions. The Company’s Gulf Coast operations include seven refined product terminals located in Florida. At its Gulf Coast terminals, it handles refined products and crude oil on behalf of, and provides integrated terminaling services to, customers engaged in the distribution and marketing of refined products and crude oil and the United States Government. Its Gulf Coast terminals receive refined products from vessels on behalf of its customers. In addition, the Company’s Jacksonville terminal also receives asphalt by rail.

In 1910, the Jacksonville Municipal Electric Light Plant was constructed in the vicinity of Talleyrand Avenue and East 30th Street on the banks of the St. Johns River. The plant abutted the Eppinger & Russell Creosoting Works, which opened in 1909.  The electric plant was called Talleyrand Generating Station until the 1960s when it was renamed for J. Dillion Kennedy, a former City Commissioner who was instrumental in growing what is now the JEA. At that time, electricity in Jacksonville was provided by this plant along with Southside (now demolished) and a floating power plant out by NAS JAX (The Inductance, left over from World War II).  Both this plant and the paper mill next door burned high-sulphur content fuel oil and rained black soot down on the city from time to time.  The historic Kennedy Generating Station structure was demolished in 2007.

The Eppinger & Russell Creosoting Works was located immediately to the south of JEA's electric plant. Eppinger and Russell Company was formed in New York on December 30, 1904. Eppinger and Russell Company was in the business to purchase wood, treat it with preservatives, largely creosote, and sell it as telephone poles, railroad ties, piles and similar products.

This property was first used as a wood treating plant by Eppinger and Russell from 1909 to 1962. Eppinger and Russell deeded the Tallyrand Avenue property to Bernuth Lembcke Co., Inc. Bernuth operated creosote storage facilities on the property until 1966.  The Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) acquired the property by condemnation from Southern Regional Industrial Realty, Inc. in 1977.

This Sanborn map illustrates the location of the Texas Company and Eppinger & Russell Creosoting Works.  Chevron USA occupies the Texas Company site and a JEA electrical substation has replaced the creosoting works.

An Eppinger & Russell smokestack.

Eppinger & Russell workers on strike.

Today, a JEA electrical substation occpies the former Eppinger & Russell site.

National Container Corporation's paper mill was established in 1938 by Sam Kipnis, a Russian Jewish immigrant. The paper mill replaced the American Agricultural Company's Talleyrand phosphate works, which was constructed along the St. Johns River in 1919.

National Container had become America's third largest box maker by the time it was purchased by Owens-Illinois in 1956.

Under court order to divest, Owens-Illinois sold the Tallyrand mill to Alton Box Board Company in 1965. In 1981, Jefferson Smurfit completed their takeover of the Alton Box Board Company.

The merger of Jefferson Smurfit and Stone Container in 1998 would be the downfall of the mill. The merger resulted in the removal of 1.1 million tons of capacity from company operations. The Jacksonville containerboard mill, along with mills in Circleville, OH, Alton, IL and Port Wentworth, GA were indefinitely shut down by the end of 1998.

The mill that produced the rancid smell that once blanketed the urban core and earned Jacksonville's nickname as "The Armpit of Florida" was no more.

The Keystone Jacksonville Terminal began operations 2011 at the abandoned paper mill site.  The approximately 110-acre tract on the St. Johns River, which will eventually employ 200, receives imported coal, petroleum Coke and other bulk materials which is supplied to Keystone's customers by truck, rail or barge.  Keystone's first customer was Vulcan Materials Company, which signed a 20-year lease for 10 acres at the terminal. The mill's massive kilns still remain and Keystone plans to convert them to enable the manufacturing of lime.

Talleyrand of the past/

Talleyrand of the present

Talleyrand is located one mile east of downtown Jacksonville along the St. Johns River.

Article by Ennis Davis.  Historic images courtesy of Florida State Archives.

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