Peterbrooke Chocolatier and the Story of Mixon TownJanuary 20, 2015 6 comments Print Article
Peterbrooke Chocolatier recently announced plans to transform an abandoned bacon slicing plant into a new state-of-the-art chocolate factory. While this is big news, the most interesting part of the story is their decision to invest in the revitalization of Mixon Town. Here's the background story on this long overlooked neighborhood on the outskirts of downtown Brooklyn and Riverside.
Industrial Mixon Town
The industrial section of Mixon Town straddles the CSX "A" Line railroad tracks in the West Lewisville section of Mixon Town. Historically, poultry processors, meat packers, ice houses, and lumberyards co-existed with working class African-Americans in the area of the neighborhood. One of the earliest industrial operations in Mixon Town was the Renfroe & Williams Planing Mill along Stockton Street, near the railroad.
This rail corridor was originally developed by the Jacksonville, Tampa & Key West Railway during the 1880s. In the 1990s, it became a part of Henry Plant's railroad system before being acquired by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in 1902. In 1967, the ACL merged into the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad, eventually becoming a part of CSX.
This collection of industrial buildings were constructed along Chambliss Street between 1921 and 1949. Today, they are occupied by Majestic Machine & Engineering, Inc. and W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractor, Inc. W.W. Gay was founded by William W. "Bill" Gay in 1962. Providing commercial, industrial contracting and engineering services, W.W. Gay is one of Mixon Town's largest landowners.
Peterbrooke Chocolatier's new digs at 239 Copeland Street were once a part of the Jones-Chambliss Meat Packers slaughterhouse complex. The Jones-Chambliss Company was officially first incorporated in January 1911 with $30,000 in capital. The company's name was a combination of its founders, Charles A. Jones and John O. Chambliss. In 1966, the company expanded its complex with the construction and opening of Henry's Hickory House, a meat and bacon slicing plant, on the other side of the railroad. The while the company continued to operate Henry's Hickory House, the slaughterhouse was closed in 1980. In 1988, Henry's Hickory House was sold to William "Billy" Morris for $500,000. In 2001, the Hickory House plant produced 600,000 pounds of bacon a week or more than 31 million pounds annually, buying pork bellies and performing the rest of the process at their plant. As late as the mid-2000s, Henry's Hickory House was Florida's largest bacon producer, employing 140 people and supplying bacon brands, such as Tom & Ted's, to grocery stores throughout the Southeast. In addition to Henry's Hickory House, Morris acquired Georgia-based Bubba Burgers in 2000 and Peterbrooke Chocolatier in 2012.
As a part of Peterbrooke's move, the old Henry's Hickory House bacon plant is being renovated. Recently, new doors have been added in this truck loading dock along Copeland Street.
Residential Mixon Town
Mixon Town was once considered a diverse inner city neighborhood. The North Riverside section of Mixon Town (East of Nixon Street) originally began as a working class district dominated with a white population. Its residences are similar in scale and architecture of bungalows in Riverside.
West Lewisville, the east side of Mixon Town, was and still remains a dominant African-American district. Despite being developed in the same period of Jacksonville's history as adjacent North Riverside, West Lewisville's residences are more utilitarian in nature. This row of frame cottages dates back to 1924. It is similar to Springfield's Dancy Court in design and scale.
Stockton Street connects Mixon Town to Riverside and Beaver Street. It is the main north-south thoroughfare through Mixon Town.
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