Author Topic: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South  (Read 16802 times)

brainstormer

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #15 on: May 14, 2009, 06:20:41 AM »
White flight to the suburbs started after WWII and by the '80s downtown had few residents and little retail business left.
I realize this occurred in pretty much every city in the US, however the Lavilla area was a predominantly black neighborhood and from what I hear, very robust and healthy.  So why the decline of this neighborhood? 

And deathstar, I couldn't agree more!!!  Your statement about this being the most boring era is dead on!

JaxNative68

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #16 on: May 14, 2009, 03:16:52 PM »
I blame the city for annexing to the county in 1968 to avoid integration and the first baptist church.

thelakelander

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #17 on: May 14, 2009, 03:24:01 PM »
White flight to the suburbs started after WWII and by the '80s downtown had few residents and little retail business left.
I realize this occurred in pretty much every city in the US, however the Lavilla area was a predominantly black neighborhood and from what I hear, very robust and healthy.  So why the decline of this neighborhood?

Black flight.  After the 60s, blacks were free to live and spend money in areas that had been previously off limits.  Those with the means, left their old stomping grounds for greener pastures.  This evacuation killed off a ton of businesses in districts like Ashley Street nationwide.  Unfortunately, its rich history and building stock never had the chance to become catalyst for redevelopment like structures in nearby neighborhoods like Springfield and Riverside and cities like Savannah and Charleston.  We were too demo happy and wiped out most of the community right before the trend of moving back to the core became popular again.
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brainstormer

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #18 on: May 14, 2009, 04:59:56 PM »
Thanks Lake, you're so smart.  ;)

heights unknown

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #19 on: May 14, 2009, 05:14:00 PM »
White flight to the suburbs started after WWII and by the '80s downtown had few residents and little retail business left.
I realize this occurred in pretty much every city in the US, however the Lavilla area was a predominantly black neighborhood and from what I hear, very robust and healthy.  So why the decline of this neighborhood?

Black flight.  After the 60s, blacks were free to live and spend money in areas that had been previously off limits.  Those with the means, left their old stomping grounds for greener pastures.  This evacuation killed off a ton of businesses in districts like Ashley Street nationwide.  Unfortunately, its rich history and building stock never had the chance to become catalyst for redevelopment like structures in nearby neighborhoods like Springfield and Riverside and cities like Savannah and Charleston.  We were too demo happy and wiped out most of the community right before the trend of moving back to the core became popular again.

I agree with Lakelander on the point of "black flight."  Yeah, whites flighted away from the urban core to escape whatever, but as time went on, and segregation began to weaken in certain neighborhoods, blacks saw that they could live pretty much where they wanted; it took a couple of decades or more, but it happened, and one of the results was the little black downtown on Ashley Street started to die, along with its surrounding neighborhoods and eventually died.

Getting back to Jacksonville and what happened, I don't think consolidation had that much to do with the downfall of Jacksonville; with the white flight, and later black flight, that pretty much emptied out, and led to serious deterioriation of the urban core in which downtown happens to be the central axis, and the surrounding neighborhoods of downtown.  I am sure City Leaders saw it happening, knew it was happening, saw more of it coming, but just simply failed to plan properly (just gave up?) to make up for the deterioriation and bombshelling of downtown and the black downtown (Ashley Street/Lavilla).  No planning, poor planning, and absolute failure to redevelop or plan a successful, longterm redevelopment for those areas resulted in parking lots, razing of historical buildings and other structures, and no new buildings, skyscrapers or developments taking their place.

Having lived in Jax during my childhood in the 60's, and living in Jax throughout my Naval Career, this is how I saw Jax from the 60's until now:

1960's - Though the city was on the downslide, downtown was still the place to be.  Ashley Street was still thriving, and there were still department stores, businesses, hotels, restaurants and other things to attract people downtown.  The 60's would be the decade where the whites who lived near or in the urban core would continue their migration, which really began in the 1950's, heavily to the Southside, Arlington, San Marco, and other areas. A bright spot and jewel, and at the time considered a spark for downtown was the construction of the Gulf Life Tower (Now Riverplace Tower) which when completed was Florida's tallest building.

1970's - The start of serious decline for Jacksonville's urban core.  The 70's is the decade that would see numerous businesses close down or relocate to other areas of the city.  This was the decade when numerous buildings downtown, which incidentally in the past housed vital businesses, were closed down, razed, destroyed, or suffered the wrecking ball, with no new businesses or buildings to replace them.  However, on the up side, the 70's would see the tallest skyscraper ever constructed in Jacksonville and the State of Florida, the "Independent Life" Building (now MODIS), soar over 500 feet into the sky.  White flight had just about completed it's exodus and black flight would also "up the ante." By the end of the 70's, many of the old skyscrapers, businesses, and buildings that used to grace Jacksonville's skyline existed no more, and the majority of the buildings and businesses on Ashley Street in LaVilla had also been razed.

1980's - To me, this was Jacksonville's gloomiest decade.  Downtown sat with more parking lots than skyscrapers and/or buildings as a whole.  While Miami and Tampa began a building boom in their downtowns, Jacksonville became stagnant, still if you will. Ashley Street which had been the heart of the black corridor was nearly devoid of any activity, and most all of the buildings in the Ashley Street Corridor were now razed and gone, and plans were afoot to destroy most of the shotgun houses in LaVilla and the two story historic houses which were built shortly after the great fire.  Downtown was bascially dead after 5:00 PM with no life.  The only bright spot during this decade was the construction of the "Jacksonville Landing" by the Rouse Company.  Other bright spots would be the construction of the Southern Bell Building (Now AT&T), AHL Building (now Jacksonville Center), 2 Prudential Plaza, and the One Enterprise Center.

1990's - I view this decade as an effort by City Officials to revive downtown once and for all; but their efforts failed.  Several plans, as I remember them, were put on the drawing board but never surfaced from the dirt. One bright spot was the construction of the Barnett tower in 1990, in which many viewed this as the start of change for downtown and the City of Jacksonville.  There was hope for the City in building a skyscraper that was over 600 feet tall, and at the time the third tallest building in the State.  However, in lieu of the hope for change, parking lots remained, and nothing really new happened for downtown Jacksonville.  Not only did the black corridor continue to suffer setbacks and serious deterioration of its infrastructure and existence, but all of the two story historic houses and shotgun houses and buildings in LaVilla were by now destroyed.  Only empty grass lots would remain, for almost a decade or more, in their place.  There were numerous efforts and plans to build new skyscrapers and developments, but to no avail; however, the Adams Mark Hotel was also built during this decade.  Another extremely bright light did shine for Jacksonville in 1994 as the City was given it's first professional sports team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Hopefully this would give downtown and the entire City a shot in the arm.

2000's - If any decade showed hope and promise, in my mind and opinion more than any other decade since the 50's, it is the first decade of the new mellinium.  Though downtown and even the City of Jacksonville is not what we would like it to be, there have been more plans on the drawing board in terms of new construction, new skyscrapers, new developments, new attractions, and new business than any other decade since the 60's.  Of particular note, the City hosted Superbowl XXXV in the year 2005 in which the nationwide media predicted catastrophe for Jacksonville, but the City proved them wrong by again proving that Jacksonville "can do" anything and do it proud! Notable construction downtown since the year 2000 are: 1) Berkman Plaza I; 2) Berkman Plaza II (under construction); 3) The Peninsula at St. Johns Place; 4) The Strand at St. John's Center; 5) United States Courthouse; 6) San Marco Place; 7) The Courthouse Project (under construction).  Several renovation of some historic buildings and skyscrapers took place renovating them into Hotels and Residential Housing.  This decade would also see a return of Jax locals/actual people, or residents back to downtown Jacksonville.  Lastly, had it not been for a severe economic downturn in the State of Florida and nationwide, more skyscrapers and developments would have graced downtown, LaVilla, and other areas throughout the City.  Who knows what downtown, LaVilla, Brooklyn, or even Springfield would look like had the severe economic downturn had not choked off much needed funds.

I know a lot was left out or I might have been off point or incorrect on some items, but maybe most of you can add those things I left out, correct them or expound on them and what I have already posted in subsequent posts.  All in all, it has been rough for Jacksonville the last 50 years, in particular downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods; but our present decade and the next is one of great promise, but only if we get the right leaders in City Government to focus on the right and correct vision for our City. Several empty parking lots still remain, and numerous beautiful and promising skyscrapers still sit dark and empty, but the potential and definitive foundation is there for downtown Jacksonville to be who she should be.

Heights Unknown

« Last Edit: May 15, 2009, 08:40:26 AM by heights unknown »
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urbanlibertarian

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #20 on: May 14, 2009, 05:39:50 PM »
Nicely written, HU.  The only thing I would add would be to the 2000's notable construction list The Parks at the Cathedral which is what brought me downtown.
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stjr

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #21 on: May 16, 2009, 01:36:35 PM »
Surprised you didn't rerun this item from one of your other articles with this article:

Quote


Another aerial of LaVilla.  Ashley Street, then known as the Harlem of the South, can be seen on the right side of the image.  Today, the area that held the old theaters, jazz clubs and restaurants has been replaced with the LaVilla School of the Arts.


Hey!  Whatever happened to just plain ol' COMMON SENSE!!

stjr

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #22 on: May 16, 2009, 01:52:24 PM »
Quote

Photograph of Eartha White (far right, facing camera, holding groceries) in front of the Mission. 195?


Photograph of Eartha White presiding over a meeting at the Mission. 195?

Clara White Mission, Jacksonville, Florida
  The Mission was formally established in 1928 and named by Eartha White in memory of her mother, Clara White. In 1932, during the severest days of the depression, Eartha White recognized the need for a larger facility to feed, shelter, and counsel the homeless. With the help of friends, she moved the mission into its present building on Ashley Street in downtown Jacksonville.  Many notable figures, such as James Weldon Johnson, Booker T. Washington, Mary McCleod Bethune and Eleanor Roosevelt visited her at the Mission.

In 1944, a fire destroyed much of the building, but she raised the funding to rebuild and enlarge the original structure. In the ensuing years, the Mission served as a nucleus and often a starting point for many of her charitable and humanitarian services: Works Progress Administration office, orphanage, a home for unwed mothers, and a tuberculosis rest home.  Eartha White lived on the second floor of the mission until her later years.

The Mission, in addition to its many other social and civic services, is still noted for being the only non-profit organization serving daily mid-day meals to the needy in Jacksonville.

From:
 http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.unf.edu/library/sc/images/eartha67.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.unf.edu/library/sc/earsel.html&usg=__IsCvrDoxa-GP9KZqUUL48CUSKjU=&h=638&w=742&sz=63&hl=en&start=83&tbnid=ciuDJMHcww7y3M:&tbnh=121&tbnw=141&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dashley%2Bstreet%2Bjacksonville%26gbv%3D2%26ndsp%3D18%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26start%3D72

From the same web page, Ashley Street?:



« Last Edit: May 16, 2009, 01:55:47 PM by stjr »
Hey!  Whatever happened to just plain ol' COMMON SENSE!!

stjr

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #23 on: May 16, 2009, 02:01:52 PM »
Looks like Daniel started on Ashley Street also:

Quote
daniel History
Daniel Memorial was established in 1884 as the Orphanage and Home for the Friendless with the mission to �receive into a suitable home to support and provide for all who shall come under the provisions of the constitution as far as our means and facilities will enable us.� A cottage was rented on the corner of Liberty and Ashley Street and a fund was started to open a permanent home. Three years later, a two-story frame building was built on the corner of Evergreen Avenue and Center Street.


Colonel James Jaquelin Daniel

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stjr

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #24 on: May 16, 2009, 03:09:53 PM »




Quote

Congregation Ahavath Chesed was formally chartered in 1882, with Rabbi Marx Moses officiating at the dedication of the synagogue on September 8th of that year....

In 1910 the move to Laura and Ashley Streets was made with Rabbi Pizer Jacobs delivering the dedication address.   We had several rabbis until Rabbi Israel Kaplan came in 1916.  He was responsible for the formation of the Interfaith Thanksgiving Services first held in 1917 with 3 other religious congregations participating.


Above from: http://www.thetemplejacksonville.org/aboutus/history/



Stanton, 1901:
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thelakelander

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #25 on: May 16, 2009, 05:51:51 PM »
This funeral home is one of the last remaining historic buildings on Sugar Hill's, Davis Street.



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stjr

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #26 on: May 17, 2009, 09:17:04 PM »
Nice catch, Lake.  I wonder if the brick and trolley tracks are still under the street?  They look great in the picture.  It would be neat to see some Jax streets restored to this look.  A great tourist attraction, no doubt.

While not my tastes, I love the whimsey of the architecture.  Imagine someone trying something like this today!
Hey!  Whatever happened to just plain ol' COMMON SENSE!!

heights unknown

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #27 on: May 17, 2009, 09:30:50 PM »
They probably took up those tracks.  It's called creativity, something that's sorely lacking in architechture today.  Ah Beaver Street; When I was a kid I had a friend that lived across from that funeral home in some apartments, and most of that neighborhood had sulfur water for drinking water.  Yuck!

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deathstar

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #28 on: May 17, 2009, 11:57:08 PM »
Somebody build a time machine, now please!

Ron Mexico

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #29 on: May 19, 2009, 01:34:31 PM »
What a great thread!  HU, I love the insight from a "man on the street".  It is a shame as to what has happened to downtown.  There is such a rich cultural history to JAX that we have just lost.  Being a native Floridian, we always regarded JAX as a an older town that was more blue collar.  You would drive through it and there would be ships downtown and people working and some pretty wild smells, but like I said, it was a working class city.  now I think there is a push to make it look like Tampa or Orlando (God help us) where if they just looked to some of these photos and got more input, they would see a plan already there.

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