A Historical Stroll Down Talleyrand Avenue

While Downtown Jacksonville's wharfs boomed a century ago, this heavy maritime related industrial district also came to life during the same period of time. While our wharfs are long gone, this district remains an urban Jacksonville economic powerhouse: Talleyrand

Published May 29, 2012 in Neighborhoods - MetroJacksonville.com

Talleyrand Avenue was developed by New Yorker Jacob S. Parker in 1873 to connect Jacksonville to Panama Park.  Originally a toll road, it was the second major paved street in Duval County.  Parker would go on to become the first mayor of the Town of Fairfield, which was incorporated in 1882 at the southern end of what would become Talleyrand Avenue.  The name of the street comes from the family of Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, a French dipolmat who brokered the Louisiana Purchase.

After the Great Fire of 1901, this area would take on a heavy industrial flavor due to a combination of miles of riverfront, rail lines, and open undeveloped space. By the Great Depression, with no EPA to hold them back, Talleyrand had grown to become the home of many of Jacksonville's largest and dirtiest industries, employing thousands of residents in the process.

National Containerboard Corporation

If they're going much further along the waterfront in their exhibit, they should follow the river all the way to Talleyrand, where the fertilizer plants poured a choking fog of sulfur and phosphate fumes into the air to make your eyes water and set you to coughing uncontrollably.

There was real pollution in our cities in those days.  You have to think back to realize how bad it was, and how much we have done to clean it up.
Quote from a 1969 Tallahassee Democrat editorial by Malcolm Johnson.  Johnson grew up in Jacksonville before moving to Tallahassee in 1937.

Hotel Talleyrand was located at 720 Talleyrand Avenue, before being demolished during the 1980s.  Located at the terminus of the Fairfield streetcar line, it opened in 1927 exclusively for men after the Ford Motor Company announced plans to double its production capacity at its nearby assembly plant.  Today, the site is occupied by Hal Jones Contracting (below).

Located in the vicinity of the old Fairfield streetcar line, these commercial buildings along Talleyrand date back to 1926.

In 1923, Ford bought ten acres of the former Bentley Shipyards property from the City of Jacksonville for $50,000.  Dredging opened the channel, allowing Ford's fleet of oceangoing freighters to dock.  Overall construction and equipment cost approximately $2 million.  The assembly plant initially contained 115,200 square feet of enclosed space.  The adjacent powerhouse contained a 500-horsepower boiler to provide steam to the electric turbo generators.  The facility also provided fire protection through an adjacent water generation building that brought river water into a 75,000-gallon tank.  The front of the building housed a parts department along with a showroom for finished automobiles.  A 1926 addition added some 50,000 additional square feet to the east side of the structure.

The assembly plant is constructed on approximately 8,000 wooden piles.  The floor, a reinforced concrete slab, rests on raised concrete piers.  The ground plan of the plant is rectangular, and its massing is regular.  The exterior walls are curtain wall construction consisting of face brick in a running bond pattern, backed by structural brick.  The structural system is steel frame, consisting of H-beams and trusses.  Trusses are flat or angled in a butterfly pattern, a signature feature of factories designed by Albert Kahn.  The building's central roof monitors (popped-up extensions) are massive and rise noticeably above the roof plane.  They are covered with an interlocking ceramic roof tile.  The four flanking monitors have a lower profile and area sheathed with metal.

The plant remained operational until 1932 and subsequently was used as a parts warehouse until 1968.  With only eight years in operation as an assembly plant, the building was not subject to significant alterations necessary for different processes and different products.  The building is a remarkable and durable artifact of Jacksonville's industrial history, and it meets five of seven criteria for designation as a Jacksonville Landmark. The City of Jacksonville's Landmark Designation report for the plant argues it is one of the most significant industrial buildings in Florida, fulfilling five of the city's seven criteria for landmark designation.  The report notes, "Its construction between 1924 and 1926 was a major event in the history not only of Jacksonville but the state as well.  The arrival of the world's largest autombile manufacturer was a sign of the city and state's growing economic importance."

Ford Motor Company plant employees in training in 1949.

The Ford plant today.

This line of warehouses on Wambolt Street, between Talleyrand Avenue and the old Ford plant, date back to 1965.

The Dixie Culvert & Metal Company was a corrugated steel pipe manufacturing company with a plant at the NW corner of Jessie Street and Talleyrand Avenue.  This image captures the plant in 1939.

Dixie Culvert & Metal Company employees in 1949.

The former Dixie Culvert & Metal Company site today

The Jessie Street strip between Talleyrand Avenue and East Jacksonville was the original site of Jacksonville's fairgrounds.  The area became the location of Florida's first state fair in 1876.  The fairgrounds also hosted the only world's championship prize fight ever held in Jacksonville when James Corbett knocked out Charles Mitchell in 1894.

During the 1950s, it was transformed into an industrial park with every structure abutting a Atlantic Coast Line railroad siding.  Businesses operating in these structures today include Second Harvest and Laney & Duke.  The mission of Second Harvest North Florida is to distribute food and grocery products to hungry people and to educate the public about the causes and possible solutions to problems of domestic hunger.

The Lutheran Social Services food program began in 1979 as the Nourishment Network, but became the food bank in 1981 as its services expanded. In 1984, the food bank became a certified member of the national organization, America’s Second Harvest, which changed its name to Feeding America in 2008. The mission of Second Harvest North Florida is to feed hungry people by soliciting and judiciously distributing food and grocery products and to educate the public about the nature of and solutions to the problems of hunger.

There are two basic components: rescuing surplus food and redistributing it to local nonprofit organizations serving the hungry and providing nutritious meals and healthy snacks to children from low-income families through community-based Kids Cafe sites.

Second Harvest is the link between surplus food and agencies serving children, families, individuals and senior citizens in need. The majority of surplus food would be thrown away without this link. Financial contributions from individuals, businesses, and special events such as the Empty Bowls Luncheon enable Second Harvest to rescue and store donated food for pick up more than 450 nonprofit organizations in 17 counties.

For 80 years Laney & Duke has been fulfilling the warehousing, distribution, order fulfillment and transportation needs of some the world’s most successful companies. Laney & Duke owns and operates over 1,000,000 square feet of warehouse space in Jacksonville, including 319,000 square feet of space at 1560 Jessie Street.

Owens Corning's Talleyrand Avenue plant manufactures asphalt roofing shingles.  Built in 1952, the plant was originally owned by the Llyod A Fry Roofing Company.  Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning Fiberglass Corporation acquired the company on April 1, 1977.  In the late 1970s, there were 175 employees on its payroll.  As technology has improved the manufacturing of its product, by the 1990s, it employed 60.

Crowley Maritime Corporation, based in Jacksonville, Florida, and founded in 1892, is primarily a family and employee-owned company that provides transportation and logistics services in U.S. and international markets by means of six operating lines of business: Puerto Rico/Caribbean Liner Services, Latin America Liner Services, Logistics Services, Petroleum and Chemical Transportation, Petroleum Distribution and Contract Services and Technical Services. Offered within these operating lines of business are the following services: liner container shipping, logistics, contract towing and transportation; ship assist and escort; energy support; salvage and emergency response; vessel management; vessel construction and naval architecture; government services, and petroleum and chemical transportation, distribution and sales.

Today, the company brings in an annual revenue of more than $1.5 billion and employs approximately 5,000 people worldwide providing its services using a fleet of more than 300 vessels, consisting of RO-RO vessels, LO-LO vessels, tankers, Articulated Tug-Barges (ATBs), tugs and barges.  Crowley's 67-acre Talleyrand terminal is located on the site of the former Atlantic Coast Line Railroad's Exporting Terminals, just north of the Owens Corning plant.

This century old industrial district is home to several contaminated sites.  The most well known along Talleyrand may be the location of the former Kerr McGee Chemical Company.  Kerr McGee was located on 31 acres bordering the St. Johns Rever and Deer Creek at 1611 Talleyrand Avenue.

The site operated as a fertilizer formulating, packagine, and distributing facility from at least 1893 to 1978. Pesticide formulation operations were added in the 1950s. Previous owners of the site include Wilson and Toomer Company (1893 to 1950s), Plymouth Cordage (1950s-1965), Emhart Corporation (1965-1970) and Kerr McGee Chemical Company, now Tronox LLC (1970 to present).  

Kerr McGee Chemical Company operated two plants at the site that formulated, blended, and packaged pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers until the site was closed in 1978.  Kerr McGee also produced sulfuric acid in an on-site plant for use in the fertilizer manufacturing process and for a time operated a steel drum reconditioning facility near the pesticide storage warehouse.  Sulfuric acid production was discontinued in 1972, superphosphate fertilizer production was discontinued in 1976, and fertilizer-blending operations ceased in 1978.  The site's buildings were demolished in 1989, with the exception of three raised foundations.  The site is currently vacant and undeveloped.

East 8th Street Streetcar Line

The Belet Millworks building was constructed along the 8th Street streetcar line in 1920.

While Talleyrand may seem like a long walk from downtown today, residents and employees of this district did not have to walk as far as one would think.  Multiple streetcar routes provided access to the Talleyrand area for nearly four decades of the 20th century.  Needless to say, the same development pattern that cities like Charlotte, Salt Lake City, and Austin are witnessing with their recent fixed-rail investments, dense development occurred around these lines.  One streetcar route to Talleyrand ran along 8th Street from Springfield, terminating at Armour & Company's slaughterhouse and stockyards and the Wilson & Toomer (Kerr McGee) fertilizer plant.  While the meat packing industry is well known for its impact on the American Midwest, Jacksonville was an early 20th century center of economic influence on this industry as well.  To capitalize on beef production in the Southeast, Chicago-based Armour & Company established the Interstate Stockyards, a slaughterhouse and fertilizer plant at the 8th Street streetcar line's terminus.

A Sanborn map illustrating Armour & Company's facilities at the intersection of East 8th Street and Talleyrand Avenue.

It would be the only meat packing plant constructed by the "Big Five" (Armour, Cudahy, Morris, Swift and Wilson) in the Southeastern United States before 1920.  Today, the Armour site is the location of Southeast Toyota's vehicle processing center.  The neighborhood surrounding East 8th Street was platted as the Glen Myra subdivision, allowing Talleyrand industrial workers to reside nearby.  Although the streetcar line is gone, the impact of this operation on the surrounding area is still noticable in the form of gridded streets, buildings directly abutting 8th Street and residences without driveways.  Over the years, the neighborhood has declined but its location gives the Talleyrand area a viable option for mixed use development within a walkable setting.

Southeast Toyota Distributors, a subsidiary of JM Family Enterprises, Inc., is the world’s largest independent distributor of Toyota and Scion cars, trucks and vans. With 175 independent Toyota dealers in the five-state region of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina, Southeast Toyota sales out-pace Toyota sales in every other part of the U.S.  

In 2010, Southeast Toyota sold 340,800 vehicles, including 56,000 from fleet business. Approximately 75 percent of Southeast Toyota’s vehicles arrived in 2010 via rail from various Toyota manufacturing facilities throughout North America, and nearly 25 percent arrived by ship from Japan. Southeast Toyota's 75-acre Talleyrand processing center prepares new vehicles for distribution throughout the Southeast.

Glen Myra is an urban Jacksonville neighborhood in need of more exposure as secondary streets feature interesting historical structures.  The Danese Street building below was constructed in 1925 and was once occupied by the Sunshine Potato Chip Company.  Today, the structure is occupied by the Emory Manufacturing Company, which faces Westcott Street, which is one block east.  Emory manufactures bicycles and is said to be the first manufacturer of beach cruisers in the United States.

Liquid Environmental Solutions on East 7th Street is a comprehensive provider of non-hazardous liquid and organic waste collection, transportation, treatment and recycling services.

JEA's Buckman Water Reclamation Facility eats up a large portion of the Glen Myra and is now the community's northern border.

Previously, the Municipal Dock Railway, the Talleyrand Terminal Railroad (TTR) is a short line terminal railroad run by Rail Link, Inc., a subsidiary of Genesee & Wyoming Inc. It serves the Jacksonville Port Authority and tenants with over ten miles of track. It has only one main line, running west from the Tallyrand Marine Terminal on the St. Johns River just north of Glen Myra to an interchange with CSX and Norfolk Southern northeast of downtown Jacksonville, Florida. Operations began on July 28, 1996.  Commodities transported include automobiles, chemicals, intermodal containers, and pulp and paper.

Municipal Docks Railway employees in 1950.  The City owned railroad featured ten miles of track and a diesel switcher, linking the city docks with nine nearby industries and the rest of the city.

In 1960, coffee was the leading commodity passing through the Municipal Docks and Terminals.  The volume of green coffee moving through the docks originated in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico and consigned mainly to four coffee roasting plants in the city, which was the fourth largest coffee importer in the nation.

The large warehouses in the background were constructed in 1919 for the storage of cotton.  At one point, it was owned by the National Container Corporation.  The National Container Corporation was founded in 1938 by Harry Ginsberg. By 1956, when it was purchased by Owens-Illinois, Inc., it was the nation's third largest box company. This structure was last occupied by Smurfit-Stone, which used the facility to manufacture cardboard boxes.

Sanborn maps illustrate the original building's use as cotton warehouses for the municipal docks.

An aerial of the Municipal Docks Railway (now TTR), National Container Corporation, and Glen Myra in 1947.

Fire Station Number 11 is located at the intersection of Talleyrand Avenue and East 18th Street.

JAXPORT Talleyrand Terminal

In the manner of a successful man looking back over the events that led to his prosperity, Jacksonville can count the years 1852 and 1916 as particularly significant in its history.

The first date marks the time when local citizens began to take direct action to open Jacksonville to foreign trade.

By mid-l9th century the city was well on the high road to commerce. Northern demands for its seemingly endless output of citrus fruits and timbers of all kinds drew a stream of vessels down the St. Johns.

This trade, however, had to be handled largely by light coastal ships and river craft. Large steamers and deep-draft schooners were often literally "barred" from entering the mouth of the St. Johns. A capricious sand bar, shifting unpredictably, gave ship captains the short end of the odds in any gamble to cross it safely. Pilots were never quite sure from one trip to the next where the channel would be.

In 1852 a local citizens' committee sent a representative to Washington to ask government help in removing the troublesome sand bar and in deepening the channel to Jacksonville. Response to this appeal came in the way of a $10,000 appropriation voted by Congress to study the problem and plan the job to be done. This task was assigned to the u. s. Army Corps of Engineers which had the responsibility then, as now, for river and harbor improvement projects.

Forty-three years and several million dollars later, after scores of unexpected difficulties had been met and solved, the project was finished. (During 24 of those years -from shortly before the Civil War until well into the Reconstruction Period -work was suspended altogether.)

By 1895 there was 15 feet of navigable water over the bar and 18 feet in the channel up to Jacksonville. This offered scant comfort to the people of Jacksonville, however, because sea-going ships had gotten bigger and heavier in the long meantime.

So the cycle began again. Another petition was sent to Washington in the early 1900's -this time for a channel depth of 30 feet. The government agreed to underwrite this dredging if the City of Jacksonville built piers to accommodate the size ships that would draw up to that depth.

In 1916 this condition was met. The forerunners of the three present municipal piers were constructed. the government carried out its el).d of the bargain and the Port of Jacksonville shortly' afterward became a regular port of call for several shipping lines. And Jacksonville was a world port.

During the 1960s, Jacksonville had four railroads and other land transportation available, plus water-borne service from 80 steamship lines, supplying two of the three ingredients necessary to the port's progress. The third industry is supplied by the more than 500 manufacturing and processing firms that support Jacksonville's claim to the title "Industrial Capital of Florida."

Virtually a port within a port, the municipal docks could berth nine ocean vessels at a time. With transit warehouses, dockside and depressed (indoor) railroad tracks, and open storage space, the docks were capable of receiving and loading almost any type of bulk and general cargoes.

Over the years, the municipal docks have grown to become JAXPORT's Talleyrand Marine Terminal.  This 173-acre terminal has 4,800 linear feet of berthing space on 38 feet of deepwater with a dredgind project underway that will increase depth to 41 feet.

The terminal handles containerized and breakbulk cargoes, imported automobilies and liquid bulk commodities such as turpentine and molasses.  Breakbulk cargoes include steel, lumber and paper, and a variety of frozen and chilled goods.  Talleyrand is equipped with four container cranes, on-dock rail and 160,000 square feet of transit shed space capable of handling cargo in refrigerated, freezer or ambient conditions.  Additionally, a 553,000-square foot warehouse stores a variety of cargoes, including metal products, rolls of fine and specialty papers, magazine papers and newsprint.

The Talleyrand terminal also offers two 50-LT capacity rubber tired gantry cranes, both of which straddle four rail spurs totaling 4,800 linear feet.  Talleyrand is served by CSX, FEC and NS railroads, with on-dock rail operated by Talleyrand Terminal Railroad, Inc.

Several large industries and terminals were located along Talleyrand, north of the municipal docks.  Some predated the construction of the municipal docks.  These industries included petroleum terminals, an recently demolished electric plant, creosoting works, and the paper mill that earned Jacksonville's ill-fated moniker as the "Armpit of Florida."

Chevron USA's Jacksonville Terminal receives petroleum products by tanker and barge.  Product on-site is stored in several steel tanks with a total capacity of 561,400 barrels.

TransMontaigne Inc. is a distributor of refined petroleum products to independent wholesalers and industrial and commercial end users, delivering approximately 0.3 million barrels per day throughout the United States, primarily in the Gulf Coast, Southeast and Midwest regions. The Company’s Gulf Coast operations include seven refined product terminals located in Florida. At its Gulf Coast terminals, it handles refined products and crude oil on behalf of, and provides integrated terminaling services to, customers engaged in the distribution and marketing of refined products and crude oil and the United States Government. Its Gulf Coast terminals receive refined products from vessels on behalf of its customers. In addition, the Company’s Jacksonville terminal also receives asphalt by rail.

In 1910, the Jacksonville Municipal Electric Light Plant was constructed in the vicinity of Talleyrand Avenue and East 30th Street on the banks of the St. Johns River. The plant abutted the Eppinger & Russell Creosoting Works, which opened in 1909.  The electric plant was called Talleyrand Generating Station until the 1960s when it was renamed for J. Dillion Kennedy, a former City Commissioner who was instrumental in growing what is now the JEA. At that time, electricity in Jacksonville was provided by this plant along with Southside (now demolished) and a floating power plant out by NAS JAX (The Inductance, left over from World War II).  Both this plant and the paper mill next door burned high-sulphur content fuel oil and rained black soot down on the city from time to time.  The historic Kennedy Generating Station structure was demolished in 2007.

The Eppinger & Russell Creosoting Works was located immediately to the south of JEA's electric plant. Eppinger and Russell Company was formed in New York on December 30, 1904. Eppinger and Russell Company was in the business to purchase wood, treat it with preservatives, largely creosote, and sell it as telephone poles, railroad ties, piles and similar products.

This property was first used as a wood treating plant by Eppinger and Russell from 1909 to 1962. Eppinger and Russell deeded the Tallyrand Avenue property to Bernuth Lembcke Co., Inc. Bernuth operated creosote storage facilities on the property until 1966.  The Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) acquired the property by condemnation from Southern Regional Industrial Realty, Inc. in 1977.

This Sanborn map illustrates the location of the Texas Company and Eppinger & Russell Creosoting Works.  Chevron USA occupies the Texas Company site and a JEA electrical substation has replaced the creosoting works.

An Eppinger & Russell smokestack.

Eppinger & Russell workers on strike.

Today, a JEA electrical substation occpies the former Eppinger & Russell site.

National Container Corporation's paper mill was established in 1938 by Sam Kipnis, a Russian Jewish immigrant. The paper mill replaced the American Agricultural Company's Talleyrand phosphate works, which was constructed along the St. Johns River in 1919.

National Container had become America's third largest box maker by the time it was purchased by Owens-Illinois in 1956.

Under court order to divest, Owens-Illinois sold the Tallyrand mill to Alton Box Board Company in 1965. In 1981, Jefferson Smurfit completed their takeover of the Alton Box Board Company.

The merger of Jefferson Smurfit and Stone Container in 1998 would be the downfall of the mill. The merger resulted in the removal of 1.1 million tons of capacity from company operations. The Jacksonville containerboard mill, along with mills in Circleville, OH, Alton, IL and Port Wentworth, GA were indefinitely shut down by the end of 1998.

The mill that produced the rancid smell that once blanketed the urban core and earned Jacksonville's nickname as "The Armpit of Florida" was no more.

The Keystone Jacksonville Terminal began operations 2011 at the abandoned paper mill site.  The approximately 110-acre tract on the St. Johns River, which will eventually employ 200, receives imported coal, petroleum Coke and other bulk materials which is supplied to Keystone's customers by truck, rail or barge.  Keystone's first customer was Vulcan Materials Company, which signed a 20-year lease for 10 acres at the terminal. The mill's massive kilns still remain and Keystone plans to convert them to enable the manufacturing of lime.

Talleyrand of the past/

Talleyrand of the present

Talleyrand is located one mile east of downtown Jacksonville along the St. Johns River.

Article by Ennis Davis.  Historic images courtesy of Florida State Archives.

This article can be found at: https://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2012-may-a-historical-stroll-down-talleyrand-avenue

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