The Sports District: Life Before Everbank Field

December 8, 2015 7 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

While the Jacksonville City Council is poised to pass a bill this week to add an amphitheater and indoor football facility at Everbank Field, Metro Jacksonville takes a look at what was in the Sports District before football.


Aerial view of Merrill-Stevens Dry Dock and Repair. State Archives of Florida

Jacob Brock opened the first shipbuilding operation during the 1850s on the site most know as the former Jacksonville Shipyards. After Brock's death in 1877, the shipyards were sold to Alonzo Stevens. The Merrill-Stevens Engineering Company was formed in 1887, when James Eugene and Alexander Merrill joined Stevens as business partners. By the early 20th century, the shipyard employed 1,500 and included the largest dry dock on the east coast, between Newport News and New Orleans. During this era, the barges used in the construction of the Panama Canal were constructed on-site.

During the 1950s, Merrill-Stevens sold the shipyard and relocated to Miami, where the company still buildings yachts today. In 1963, new owner W.R. Lovett renamed the company the Jacksonville Shipyards, Inc. (JSI). By the time JSI was sold to Fruehauf Corporation, it had become Jacksonville's largest civilian employer, with a workforce of 2,500.

JSI's decline began in the 1980s, shutting down briefly in 1990, laying off 800 workers. It would reopen briefly, only to close permanently  in 1992 after selling its drydocks to a shipyard in Bahrain. 23 years later, Jacksonville is still struggling to find a new use for the industrial brownfield site.

The Merchants and Miners Transportation Company (foreground) and Merrill-Stevens Engineering Company (left) during their heyday.

Only a collection of piers remain from the Jacksonville Shipyards operation. The rest of the site was demolished over a decade ago, in anticipation of redevelopment.


This Maxwell House plant consists of three primary structures. The 4-story Laney & Delcher Storage Company Building built in 1926 (left), the 5-story Maxwell House roasting plant built in 1924 (right), and the 101' tall processing tower built in 1954 (center).

One company standing the test of time is Maxwell House. In 1910, Maxwell House opened as the Cheek-Neal Coffee Company along Hogans Creek because it was adjacent to where coffee was once loaded onto ships. The coffee roasting complex that exists today includes buildings that were built by other businesses in the maritime district.

Maxwell House around 1950. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

The four-story warehouse at the corner of Bay and Marsh Streets was built for the Laney & Delcher Storage Company in 1926. Before being taken over by Maxwell House, the Fulton Distributing Company utilized it as a whiskey and wine warehouse. Two-story brick warehouses adjacent to Hogans Creek were the home of Rosser & Fitch Merchandise Brokers in 1926.

The lowrise structure in the foreground housed the Rosser & Fitch Merchandise Brokers in 1926. The taller building replaced the original coffee plant, which was adjacent to Hogans Creek on the south side of East Bay Street.

Just east of Maxwell House's property, established in 1919, the George Doro Fixtures Company continues to make architectual millwork in a block of buildings dating back to 1904.

Destined to be new home of Intuition Ale Works, the Noland Building at 929 East Bay Street was originally built for the Hajoca Corporation in 1948. Hajoca was a plumbing supply business.

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