10 Cool Places In Jacksonville That Don't Exist AnymoreNovember 20, 2014 18 comments Print Article
It is no secret that Jacksonville has an extensive history—some pretty well known; some not so much. Here is a list of 10 places in Jacksonville that, unfortunately, do not exist anymore.
4. Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
Genovar's Hall can been seen to the right of Manuel "Chula Papa" Riveria's Manuel's Tap Room. Genovar's Hall was a spot where young musicians would hang out waiting for jobs. One of those was R.C. Robinson who live a block away at 633 Church Street. Eventually Robinson became known as the one and only Ray Charles. Manuel's Tap Room was located at 626 W. Ashley Street and described in the January 1942 issue of The Crisis, the magazine of the NAACP, as "the Finest of its kind in the South." Manuel's has since been demolished.
During the Jim Crow era, LaVilla's Ashley Street was often referred to as the “Harlem of the South.” It was home to several theatres, bars, clubs, hotels, live performance venues, restaurants, and cafes. Performers like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ma Rainey, Billy Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Cab Calloway were known to frequent the vibrant district.
A major anchor in the “Harlem of the South” was the Ritz Theatre, which put on nightly film, plays, and musical performances that celebrated African-American culture. Other notable places included the Roosevelt Theater, the Egmont hotel, and the Strand Theatre.
The "Harlem of the South" did not last, though. LaVilla went through tough times in the 60s and 70s, similar to many established urban communities across America. In the early 1990s, much of the neighborhood was razed for a redevelopment plan that failed to materialize.
What to do with LaVilla?
Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South