The historic community of Durkeeville, one of Jacksonville's most dense historic neighborhoods, developed in the 1930s as a place of refuge for the city’s African Americans during the Jim Crow Era. Like many inner city neighborhoods, the area began to suffer after being cut off from downtown by I-95, and then by blight and crime during the 1970s through the early 1990s. Despite its setbacks, Durkeeville still remains one of Jacksonville’s most intact, pedestrian friendly, working class neighborhoods.
Published August 29, 2006 in History - MetroJacksonville.com
West Duval Street
While LaVilla was destroyed in the name of so-called progress, a small forgotten portion of Duval Street to the west of I-95, has been left over as a prime example of what that community once looked like in the days when streets were lined with 2 story wood frame and shot gun homes
During the early half of the 20th Century, Jacksonville had a large manufacturing base located around the railroad terminal. Although most of those companies have passed on, many of the old brick warehouse building still remain in the area. Along Myrtle, south of Beaver Street, many structures are waiting to be converted to new uses, such as artist lofts or affordable housing. This photo of a former steel wire mill is representative of the numerous brick warehouse buildings remaining in this district.
Another unique local institution in this old manufacturing area is the farmers market on Beaver Street. The market sits directly adjacent to the Beaver Street viaduct, which carries automobile traffic over rail yards. This viaduct is also one of the best spots for skyline viewing in Jacksonville.
When most think of historic Jacksonville residential architecture, places like Springfield, San Marco, and Riverside come to mind. Even though Durkeeville has a good number of historic structures, it is rarely mentioned.
These houses are located in the area just SE of W 6th Street and Myrtle Avenue.
Located on Moncrief, just east of Stanton Prep, is a row of seven brick bungalow duplex buildings. This may be the largest remaining block of brick bungalows in the city.
Edward Waters College
Durkeeville is the home of Jacksonville’s only urban college. Edward Waters College’s campus is located on Old Kings Road, about a mile NW of the Myrtle Avenue intersection. It was originally established in 1866 as Florida’s first college for African Americans.
B.F. Lee Theological Seminary Building, now the school’s administration building, was constructed in 1925 by Mark & Sheftall Architects
Like other Jacksonville neighborhoods, this community has its share of churches. Two examples include:
Mount Ararat Baptist Church
Mount Olive Baptist Church
Durkeeville’s primary commercial streets are Old Kings Road and Myrtle Avenue. Both are lined with local mom & pop business establishments and are urban (walkable) oriented. While Old Kings carries more traffic, Myrtle carries more foot traffic.
Because of the neighborhoods density, many corner stores, such as BJ’s grocery, exists in the middle of residential areas.
Years ago, before companies like Bush and Coors dominated the beer industry, Jacksonville was the home of a popular brewery. The Jax Brewing Company was located in Durkeeville and produced the popular brew, until selling its rights in 1956 to the famed Jackson Brewery in New Orleans. Although operations ceased decades ago, the old Jax Brewing Company production plant still remains intact on W. 16th Street.
JP Small Park
Originally called Durkee Field, this historic ballpark is the city’s oldest remaining. From 1938 to 1942, it was the home of the Jacksonville Red Caps Negro League baseball team. The city of Jacksonville just recently completed a renovation project that included the addition of a small pocket park between the field’s entry gates and Myrtle Avenue.
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