Walkable Districts: Edison Avenue

November 16, 2012 25 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

While much of the focus in our city is on downtown revitalization, Jacksonville's urban core and inner-ring suburbs are home to a number of long-overlooked, historic, walkable commercial districts. In our effort to promote better use of existing assets in our communities - which will facilitate sustainable growth and subsequently increase the city's tax base - Metro Jacksonville highlight's North Riverside's Edison Avenue.

Historical Background

The Our Lady of the Angels Parish was established in 1917 on Lackwanna (Edison) Avenue to serve Jacksonville's growing Catholic population.

In 1900, the Florida Central and Peninsula Railroads contracted with the Seaboard Airline (SAL) to have SAL operate the Beaver Street railroad tracks and use the Florida Central and Peninsular railroad shops near McDuff Street.  

After the Great Fire of 1901, rebuilding efforts led to rapid residential construction beginning to spread out in all directions from downtown. In 1903, SAL acquired Florida Central and Peninsular and expanded the maintenance shops, leading to the platting of nearby Lackawanna between 1904 and 1907.  To connect the shops and neighborhood with downtown, a streetcar line was constructed along Edison Avenue, which at the time was called Lackawanna Avenue.

By 1909, over the Seaboard Air Line shops and terminals employed 1,000 men.  Soon infill industrial growth started to occur along railroad lines in the area.  

A Consumers Ice Company truck in 1948. Courtesy of the Spottswood Collection, State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/53262

With its streetcar, Lackwanna (Edison) Avenue started to attract commercial uses, which catered to the population and industries surrounding it.  Soon, companies like Orange Crush Bottling Works, Dekle Lumber Company, and Consumers Ice Company had operations in the district.

With as much as 20% of the neighborhood's residents being employed in the manufacturing sector through the 1980s, Edison Avenue eventually developed into mixed-use corridor where residential, industrial, and commercial uses stood side-by-side.

Looking down Edison Avenue in 1960. Courtesy of the Robert E. Fisher Collection, State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/167678

By the 1930's, businesses on the strip included the Great A&P Tea Company (grocery), Sam Crews Blacksmith, Louis Fleet's shoe repair, George Sumner's dry goods, Lackawanna Hardware Company, and Michael Schneider Grocery.

The mid-1930s elimination of streetcar service and the construction of Interstate 10 were significant negative impacts to North Riverside's and Edison Avenue's vitality.

The "new" Edison bus next to the Kings Road streetcar on downtown's Forsyth Street in 1936.

By 1950, Edison Avenue served as the commercial epicenter for 10,535 residents. In 1960, Interstate 10 was constructed parallel to Edison Avenue, partially leading to the corridor's decline as a visible commercial center. As Jacksonville has expanded outward, North Riverside has declined like many inner city communities across the city. According to the 2010 Census, the neighborhood's population was 3,795.

The residential development of the area north of Riverside and south of McCoy’s Creek began during this period with the platting of several new subdivisions.  B.H. Gandy filed the first recorded new subdivision in the area following the Great Fire of 1901 in 1905.  Brinkley H. Gandy had resided on a large parcel fronting the Highway (Edison Avenue) which was an important thoroughfare connecting Downtown Jacksonville with rural southwest Duval County and Clay County via the Black Creek Road (Lennox Avenue).  In that same year, William C. Fehranback filed the plat for the first of his two subdivisions in the area.  During this period, Fehranback resided in the area at 634 Smith Street.

The Woodhaven Subdivision was filed in 1908 by Jacksonville real estate investors, O. Pierre Havens and Frank E. Wood.  Between 1912 and 1917, H.B. Frazee, who was not listed as living in Jacksonville during the period, filed several new subdivisions or replats.  All of the plats in the area show the traditional straight grid street pattern, with no indication of land dedicated for parks or other amenities.  Alleys generally run mid-block. There is no indication of any uniform setbacks or other restrictions imposed by the developers, or of the elaborate infrastructure built by the developers of Riverside.

Most of the new subdivisions were bounded on the south by the railroad and the Highway (Edison Avenue) and by McCoy’s Creek on the north.  Although many of the street names are still used such as Forest Street, Calvin Street, and Lewis Street, others have changed such Webster Avenue, Delmar Street, Cherry Avenue (Belfort Street), Woodland Street, Park Street, 2nd Avenue, and the Highway (Edison Avenue). Interestingly, North Riverside was racially diverse for the first three decades of the 20th century, with the white population residing largely west of Broward Street.  The African American population tended to be concentrated more to the east and north connecting with other predominately black neighborhoods such as Campbell’s Addition to West Jacksonville, West Lewisville, Brooklyn, and Campbell’s Hill.


Jacksonville police officer with mule at corner of Edison Avenue and James Street in the 1950s. Courtesy of the Robert E. Fisher Collection, State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/167370

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