Author Topic: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South  (Read 16803 times)

heights unknown

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #30 on: May 19, 2009, 01:54:26 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.



Thanks Ron.  I agree Ron, it is a shame what has happened to not only downtown, but to all of Jacksonville, whether it be the psychological standpoint, infrastructure, transportation, parks, downtown, whatever.  We shouldn't be that way (having a problem with our identity) but our leaders helped us get that way.  We will never shed the image, I believe, of Jax being the blue collar, working class, redneck, backwoods large city with a small town atmosphere; but we can move on and integrate the new stuff along with our history and our image of who we really are.  We will never be Tampa, Orlando, or Miami, so we need to create our own identity, or just come to grips with who we are and live with it.

Yeah Ron, I "was" a man on the street back in the day, still have my roots and foundation in that area, but I will never wear my pants down to my ass and embrace gangsta thug music or the scene; but I know who I am, where I am from ("Big Jax), and who I always will be in heart.

Heights Unknown
« Last Edit: May 19, 2009, 01:56:14 PM by heights unknown »
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Ron Mexico

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #31 on: May 19, 2009, 03:19:46 PM »
Unfortunately, we get the leadership we elect.  Too bad the real estate boom fueled a lot of the elections in this town IMO. 

Having some many developers on the Council doesn't speak well for the future either.
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BigBlackRod

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #32 on: October 01, 2009, 08:44:09 AM »
I came to Ashley Street in the '80's, when it was on its last legs, but it still had a certain savage charm, and folks came from miles around to party at the juke joints and nightclubs that dotted the neighborhood. I remember how we used to charter school buses to go to American Beach (another Black landmark that has gone the way of the dodo), to party and enjoy the company of friends. By the time I got to Uptown, as we called it, Lenape's was an illegal drug emporium, and the famous rail where Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington once sat and smoked cigarettes, served as a waiting area for junkies while pushers brought their purchases out to them. I remember drinking fountain sodas at Reyno's Drugs, but soon all of the legitimate businesses abandoned the area for greener pastures, leaving only bars and poolrooms. There were specialty clubs, where certain societal groups would gather: the older folks would drink at Braren's Bar, or "Wineborough", as it was nicknamed. The cool "Superfly" dudes would congregate at Pik-Up, and there was even a sizable gay contingent that frequented the Paradise Bar. I recall just going from bar to juke joint to poolroom, to diner to shine house, and on and on, all through the night. There were several joints that stayed open ALL night, something that would never happen today. I know, it all sounds really decadent, and it was. But it was never boring...PEACE.

thelakelander

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #33 on: October 01, 2009, 09:23:32 AM »
Thanks for the insight.  Its always great to hear these types of stories from those who lived in LaVilla when it was still a neighborhood.
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JeffreyS

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #34 on: October 01, 2009, 09:27:48 AM »
It is hard to believe how under utilized Lavilla and Brooklyn have been. Maybe the courthouse will help.
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Ocklawaha

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #35 on: October 01, 2009, 10:35:35 AM »
Welcome to the family BigBlackRod! If you lived or played in Lavilla during the 1960's, we've probably crossed paths... I was the little white kid (yeah I was once little), always hanging out at Union Station. In fact myself and a younger black friend would watch trains for hours. He went on to become one of the best railroad/aviation artists of our time. The shops on Bay (between trains) were the bomb.

OCKLAWAHA
« Last Edit: October 01, 2009, 10:39:00 AM by Ocklawaha »

BigBlackRod

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #36 on: October 04, 2009, 01:06:15 PM »
My grandfather was an iceman at the Terminal; I remember riding with him on his forklift. I also remember the stifling racism of the time, and being ran off from some of the more appealing areas, told that "You cain't go in theah!" I also remember nice White ladies like Miss Bell, who lived next door and was always cooking something sweet. My mother grew up on Duval street in the fifties; amazingly, the house where she lived still stands, while the neighborhood around has vanished. I think Black folks were told that our history doesn't matter so many times, that we now believe it. Lenape's should be preserved, if nothing else does...PEACE.

ow09

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #37 on: November 15, 2009, 10:07:29 PM »
If anyone has not read the June 2008 article in FolioWeekly about LaVilla and the ubran renewal project, it's available here:

http://www.urbanjacksonville.info/2008/06/19/ghosts-of-lavilla-how-jacksonvilles-great-urban-redevelopment-experiment-betrayed-city-residents-and-black-history/

stjr

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #38 on: June 27, 2010, 04:56:09 PM »
Adding this cross-reference to a great insight into the "Ashley Street Blues" and its role in music history from my post #32 at the MJ thread " A Brief History of Jacksonville Music" ( http://www.metrojacksonville.com/forum/index.php/topic,6732.msg160790.html#quickreply):

This is not to be confused with a good 147 page dissertation on LaVilla and Ashley Street written by Peter Smith:

"Ashley Street Blues: Racial Uplift And The Commodification Of Vernacular Performance In LaVilla, Florida, 1896-1916"

http://etd.lib.fsu.edu/theses_1/available/etd-03312006-171940/unrestricted/pds_dissertation.pdf

This report claims that the first documented professional performance of the blues on stage was at Ashley Street's Colored Airdome.

Lake, I just read through most of this dissertation and it is an absolutely fascinating take on a part of Jacksonville history nearly lost.  To think that at one time Jax was not only the "Hollywood" of motion pictures, but, also the potential "Memphis/New Orleans" of music.  And, we have done next to nothing here to celebrate this.

I hope you send this dissertation to a variety of City political, cultural, historic preservation, and African-American leaders as an inspiration for saving what little we have left of these structures and and to encourage the celebration of this culture on the stages of the Ritz and elsewhere.  Especially, African-American's should insist on bringing this period alive, to preserve their own culture, to spotlight their contributions to the evolution of Jax, and to remind all facets of the community that the arts can bring all of us together in a spiritual experience.

The author should be encouraged by our community to build upon this research and to consult with the community on how to further disseminate this history.  A Ken Burns-style  documentary based on this would be a great start.  I wonder if the talent and resources could be found to create an ongoing "reproduction" of these obviously unique and "lost" shows at the Ritz.  It could do wonders in raising the esteem of Jax,  its African American and cultural communities, local history and historic preservation, and, simultaneously, create downtown economic development through entertainment and tourism.

And, here is the latest sad chapter (pages 113-114)  for which we as a City need to atone:

Quote
Ashley Street in LaVilla is only now beginning to recover from the debilitating effects of urban decay and the crippling intrusion of Interstate 95 through the neighborhood. The Clara White Mission and the Stanton School still straddle Broad (formerly Bridge) Street. For a brief period, they were the only structures that remained standing for many blocks along the north side of Ashley Street. The Willie Smith Building, which housed Joe Higdon’s Hollywood Music Store and the Florida Cut Price Pharmacy had been built on the former site of the Colored Airdome. The city demolished it in 2003 to make way for the expansion of the Clara White Mission and now a new employment training center stands on the site. On the south side of Ashley Street, all the buildings are gone, save one. There is currently a project to restore Genovar’s Hall (also known as the Finkelstein Building), which was once the home of the Wynn Hotel and the Lenape Bar. This restoration was initiated through a cooperative agreement between Jacksonville’s Economic Development Commission and it is financed by the Nu Beta Sigma Chapter of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. The reconstruction has run into some challenges, though. The entire structure is now supported by jacks and the interior of the building is completely gutted. Some of the old facade remains on the second floor, but not much else. Recently, in a self-conscious attempt to create an historic tableau (currently referred to as, “the LaVilla Experience”) as part of a proposed James Weldon Johnson Memorial Park, three shotgun shacks from the 1920s have been relocated just behind the structure. Ashley Street currently terminates where it once crossed Jefferson Street and the campus of the new LaVilla School of the Arts begins here, where Ashley Street now ends.
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iloveionia

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #39 on: June 27, 2010, 06:12:46 PM »
Imagine if Jax embraced history like New Orleans.  Manhattan. 
It all makes me very sad. 


stjr

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #40 on: June 28, 2010, 03:43:38 PM »
More...
Quote
Recognizing Jacksonville’s African American heritage


Artist Adrian Pickett and Carlton Lamar Robinson with Pickett’s new poster, the first in a series called “Harlem of the South.”

by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

In the first half of the 20th century, much of Jacksonville’s history was written by and about African Americans. The part of west Downtown called LaVilla was a center of culture, especially music. The late Teddy Washington grew up there with the late Ray Charles. Genovar’s Hall was a performance venue for the most well-known African American singers and musicians of the era.

Jacksonville’s African American community also has a rich history in business and entrepreneurship, said Carlton Lamar Robinson, president of the First Coast African American Chamber of Commerce and an instructor at Florida State College at Jacksonville. He was at the Adrian Pickett Gallery Thursday for the unveiling of the first in a series of prints titled “Harlem of the South,” a celebration of Jacksonville’s heritage.

“We want to promote Adrian as an artist and as an entrepreneur,” said Robinson. “He took something he’s passionate about and turned it into a business.”

Robinson and Pickett worked together to create the concept, then Pickett used his talent to transform those ideas into art.

Pickett, who has gained a reputation for his realistic pencil and charcoal drawings, said combining people with architecture, as he has in the first of the “Harlem of the South” series, was a challenge.”

“I do portraits of people and animals. It was definitely out of the box for me,” he added.

The original drawing is on exhibit at the Adrian Pickett Gallery at the Landing. Limited edition prints, signed by the artist, will be available beginning Saturday. For details call 962-2540.

http://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/downtowntoday.php?dt_date=2010-06-28
Hey!  Whatever happened to just plain ol' COMMON SENSE!!

chas1445

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #41 on: March 13, 2011, 11:14:57 AM »
The picture of the marching band in picture 17, and next to the last picture in the article, in front of Manuel's Tap Room is the Stanton High School (Blue Devils) Marching Band.  They are marching East towards the school about a little more than a block away on the left side.  The pictures in these articles are priceless.  It is all that are left of an area of Black History of Lavilla, and Sugar Hill in Jacksonville, Florida that future generations can view to get an idea of what it was like living in Jacksonville at that time.  I enjoy viewing those pictures and reading the articles, because I lived and grew up in the area during the 40's and 50's.  I returned to Jacksonville in 1960 after my discharge from the Army.  I drove cab there for a while, and it was pretty much the same as it was when I left.  However, I moved away in 1961.  I do go back each year because I still have a lot of family living there.  Each time I visit, I am sadden when I drive through Lavilla, and Sugar Hill.

clh222

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #42 on: August 07, 2011, 01:46:11 PM »
Heights Unknown's description of the Ashley street area really brought back memories of my growing up in the area. I remember the theaters, the fries and chicken dinners from the Roosevelt grill next to the Roosevelt theater, the soda fountain counter at Reynos drugstore, and I went to school with many of the kids in the area.  Most of us went to A. L. Lewis Elementary and played on the little league teams for Lavilla Park. 

I had no idea that this area had such a rich history.  I remember my elementary school teachers saying many areas of Jax were settled by black union soldiers and freedmen but I had no idea that so many prominent areas like the Kingley Plantation was once owned by blacks.  Incredible.

mrland

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #43 on: November 22, 2011, 03:15:15 PM »
My father, Arv Rothschild, managed the Roosevelt and Strand Theatres in the 40s and 50s.  He used to emcee the Saturday morning matinee shows at the Roosevelt.  I recall spending a lot of time with him on Ashley Street...hard to believe it was not preserved somehow.  If anyone remembers my father or any experiences at the theatres, I'd love to hear about them. 

Tacachale

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Re: Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South
« Reply #44 on: November 22, 2011, 03:46:29 PM »
^That's really cool mrland, thanks for sharing!
Do you believe that when the blue jay or another bird sings and the body is trembling, that is a signal that people are coming or something important is about to happen?