Walkable Commercial Districts: Ortega Village

May 10, 2012 10 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Jacksonville's urban core is home to a number of historic walkable neighborhood commercial districts. Many are a direct result of the defunct Jacksonville Traction Company, which once operated a 60 mile streetcar system. Today, Metro Jacksonville highlights the terminal spot of a 1908 streetcar line extension into Ortega: Ortega Village

Ortega Village History

The Ortega neighborhood we know today got its start in 1906, when John N.C. Stockton's Ortega Company purchased 5,000 acres of land from U.S. Senator Wilkinson Call.

To spur development, Stockton constructed a wooden bridge over the Ortega River to connect the project to Jacksonville.  As an incentive to purchase homesites, the Ortega Company promised no taxes and free water for a certain time period.

Between 1910 and 1930, Jacksonville's population exploded from 57,699 to 129,549.  This surge in growth would have a lasting impact on several sparsely development communities along the Ortega streetcar line, including Ortega.

During the mid-1920s, Ortega Village developed at the streetcar's Cortez Park turnaround, providing centralized neighborhood commercial uses to the growing community surrounding it.  

Ortega Village Today

Today, Ortega Village remains as small scale quaint shopping district.

Cortez Park is located just south of Ortega Village.  It served as the "end of the line" or turnaround for the 1906 streetcar line extension through Riverside and Avondale, connecting Ortega with Downtown Jacksonville.  Boy Scouts found it a popular ride to a good campsite and fisherman and crabbers enjoyed the day trips it afforded.

Cortez Park resides in the Ortega neighborhood of southwest Jacksonville. In 1909, the Ortega Company, founded by John N. C. Stockton and Charles C. Bettes, began development of Ortega, designed by the prominent architect Henry J. Klutho. It was one of four circular parks created along Park Avenue (now Baltic Street) and named for New World explorers, including Hernando Cortez (1485-1547), the Spanish conqueror of Mexico. An electric trolley traveled via the Grand Avenue Bridge to Cortez Park, where it turned around for the return trip to downtown. And a charming commercial area known as the The Village (which still exists) evolved near the park. Set amidst numerous oak trees, the quiet park becomes the site of merry-making during the annual Fall Festival at Old Ortega, which was designated a Historic District and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.

Oxford Place is one of only 25 flat iron-shaped buildings in the country.  It was built by Marsh and Saxelbye in 1924 and was designed to look like an English Village in the Tudor style.

When this structure was completed in 1924, it was known as Faulkners Grocery Company and its windows displayed produce, banana stalks and sides of meat.  Displays were changed on Sundays when cracker barrels and cookies were put in the windows to lure Sunday strollers.  At Christmas, red and green sawdust was spread on the floor in lieu of ordinary sawdust.

This building was completed in 1927 and housed a general store called Flamingos and a barber shop where haircuts were 10 cents.  Since 1955, the building has been occupied by Carter's Pharmacy.  Still operating inside the pharmacy is a 57-year-old lunch counter called the Fountain.

Ortega Village is located where Corinthian Avenue intersects with Oxford Avenue and Baltic Street in the heart of the Old Ortega Historic District.

Article by Ennis Davis