6 Lost Districts of Downtown Jacksonville

May 20, 2015 25 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

A district is defined as an area of a country or city, regarded as a distinct unit because of a particular characteristic. In an era where the pedestrian was king in Jacksonville, downtown was loaded with distinct districts-- many of which are no longer with us. Here are a few lost districts that you may not be familiar with.

1. Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South

A parade on Ashley Street, between Broad and Jefferson Streets, during the 1950s.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, LaVilla was the city’s railroad hub, primary red light district, and center of African-American life and culture in Northeast Florida. During it's heyday, Ashley was lined with theaters such as the Bijou, Airdome, Globe, Frolic, and Strand. With live music venues like the Lenape Bar, Hollywood Music Store and Knights of Pythias Hall, it was an important stop on what was known as the Chitlin' Circuit for black entertainers. In fact, in 1910, the first published account of blues singing on a public stage occurred on Ashley Street. Ashley's fortunes took a turn for the worse with the rest of the LaVilla neighborhood with Desegregation. What was left as taken out by Ed Austin's River City Renaissance plan of the 1990s.

Inside of Hayes Luncheonette at 634 Ashley Street in 1938.

The Knights of Pythias Building on Ashley Street was torn down in 1957 for a project that never came to reality.

The Strand Threatre, at Ashley and Jefferson, was famous for its apple and potato pies.

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