Walkable Districts: Edison Avenue

While much of the focus in our city is on downtown revitalization, Jacksonville's urban core and inner-ring suburbs are home to a number of long-overlooked, historic, walkable commercial districts. In our effort to promote better use of existing assets in our communities - which will facilitate sustainable growth and subsequently increase the city's tax base - Metro Jacksonville highlight's North Riverside's Edison Avenue.

Published November 16, 2012 in Neighborhoods - MetroJacksonville.com

Historical Background

The Our Lady of the Angels Parish was established in 1917 on Lackwanna (Edison) Avenue to serve Jacksonville's growing Catholic population.

In 1900, the Florida Central and Peninsula Railroads contracted with the Seaboard Airline (SAL) to have SAL operate the Beaver Street railroad tracks and use the Florida Central and Peninsular railroad shops near McDuff Street.  

After the Great Fire of 1901, rebuilding efforts led to rapid residential construction beginning to spread out in all directions from downtown. In 1903, SAL acquired Florida Central and Peninsular and expanded the maintenance shops, leading to the platting of nearby Lackawanna between 1904 and 1907.  To connect the shops and neighborhood with downtown, a streetcar line was constructed along Edison Avenue, which at the time was called Lackawanna Avenue.

By 1909, over the Seaboard Air Line shops and terminals employed 1,000 men.  Soon infill industrial growth started to occur along railroad lines in the area.  

A Consumers Ice Company truck in 1948. Courtesy of the Spottswood Collection, State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/53262

With its streetcar, Lackwanna (Edison) Avenue started to attract commercial uses, which catered to the population and industries surrounding it.  Soon, companies like Orange Crush Bottling Works, Dekle Lumber Company, and Consumers Ice Company had operations in the district.

With as much as 20% of the neighborhood's residents being employed in the manufacturing sector through the 1980s, Edison Avenue eventually developed into mixed-use corridor where residential, industrial, and commercial uses stood side-by-side.

Looking down Edison Avenue in 1960. Courtesy of the Robert E. Fisher Collection, State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/167678

By the 1930's, businesses on the strip included the Great A&P Tea Company (grocery), Sam Crews Blacksmith, Louis Fleet's shoe repair, George Sumner's dry goods, Lackawanna Hardware Company, and Michael Schneider Grocery.

The mid-1930s elimination of streetcar service and the construction of Interstate 10 were significant negative impacts to North Riverside's and Edison Avenue's vitality.

The "new" Edison bus next to the Kings Road streetcar on downtown's Forsyth Street in 1936.

By 1950, Edison Avenue served as the commercial epicenter for 10,535 residents. In 1960, Interstate 10 was constructed parallel to Edison Avenue, partially leading to the corridor's decline as a visible commercial center. As Jacksonville has expanded outward, North Riverside has declined like many inner city communities across the city. According to the 2010 Census, the neighborhood's population was 3,795.

The residential development of the area north of Riverside and south of McCoy’s Creek began during this period with the platting of several new subdivisions.  B.H. Gandy filed the first recorded new subdivision in the area following the Great Fire of 1901 in 1905.  Brinkley H. Gandy had resided on a large parcel fronting the Highway (Edison Avenue) which was an important thoroughfare connecting Downtown Jacksonville with rural southwest Duval County and Clay County via the Black Creek Road (Lennox Avenue).  In that same year, William C. Fehranback filed the plat for the first of his two subdivisions in the area.  During this period, Fehranback resided in the area at 634 Smith Street.

The Woodhaven Subdivision was filed in 1908 by Jacksonville real estate investors, O. Pierre Havens and Frank E. Wood.  Between 1912 and 1917, H.B. Frazee, who was not listed as living in Jacksonville during the period, filed several new subdivisions or replats.  All of the plats in the area show the traditional straight grid street pattern, with no indication of land dedicated for parks or other amenities.  Alleys generally run mid-block. There is no indication of any uniform setbacks or other restrictions imposed by the developers, or of the elaborate infrastructure built by the developers of Riverside.

Most of the new subdivisions were bounded on the south by the railroad and the Highway (Edison Avenue) and by McCoy’s Creek on the north.  Although many of the street names are still used such as Forest Street, Calvin Street, and Lewis Street, others have changed such Webster Avenue, Delmar Street, Cherry Avenue (Belfort Street), Woodland Street, Park Street, 2nd Avenue, and the Highway (Edison Avenue). Interestingly, North Riverside was racially diverse for the first three decades of the 20th century, with the white population residing largely west of Broward Street.  The African American population tended to be concentrated more to the east and north connecting with other predominately black neighborhoods such as Campbell’s Addition to West Jacksonville, West Lewisville, Brooklyn, and Campbell’s Hill.


Jacksonville police officer with mule at corner of Edison Avenue and James Street in the 1950s. Courtesy of the Robert E. Fisher Collection, State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/167370

Edison Avenue Today

Over the last sixty years, more people have moved away (6,740) from North Riverside, than the population that remains today (3,795).  As a result, Edison Avenue is a corridor that has seen its greatest days gone by.  However, there are still several structures standing that were apart of an era when Jacksonville had 60 miles of streetcar lines connecting walkable districts like this with downtown.  However, blessed with an interesting historical development pattern, a central location, a preserved building stock, and a national trend of people flocking back to cities, North Riverside and Edison Avenue remain bright.

The Our Lady of the Angels Parish was established in 1917 to serve Jacksonville's growing Catholic population. The sanctuary was built in 1915 and dedicated by Bishop Michael J. Curley in 1917.  Described at the time as, "one of the prettiest small church buildings in the state", the sanctuary reflects a variation of the Late Gothic Revival Style.  Bishop Curley assigned Father William Barry as its first pastor.  Membership at this location declined as the community around it became more economically distressed in the later half of the 20th century.  Because of declining membership, the church was eventually closed around a decade ago.

Still operating as a neighborhood market, this building was Joe's Grocery in 1960.  It was constructed in 1930

Founded by William W. "Bill" Gay in 1962, W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractor provides a wide variety of commercial, industrial and engineering contracting services within the public, private and military sectors.

Now a part of the Gay complex, in 1960, this 1931-era storefront was occupied by the Lackawanna Furniture Company.

Completed in 1934, the former Boree Service Station is now a part of the Gay complex.

These two buildings (above and below) along Osceola Street were once a part of the Mason Lumber Company complex. For the first half of the 20th century, the block between Stockton and Osceola Streets, was the location of the Dekle and Mason Lumber Companies.  Sraddling what is now the CSX "A" Line, the Dekle Lumber Company operated a planing mill that was eventually taken over by William Marcy Mason.

Mason's son, Raymond Knight Mason, founded the Charter Company in Jacksonville in 1949. Charter grew to become conglomerate with more than 180 subsidiaries that was in the Fortune 500 for a decade before falling into bankruptcy protection in 1984 and spiraled.  Mason's other son, William Marcy Mason, Jr. was the president of the Jacksonville Federal Savings Bank.

The Mason Lumber Company's operations remained at this location into the 1960s. In 1968, the majority of the lumberyard complex was replaced by a Holiday Inn motel.  Today, Gateway Community Services occupies the former motel.

A 1960s rendering of the Stockton Street Holiday Inn (now Gateway Community Services, Inc.).

Sanborn Map illustrating the Dekle Lumber Company.

This site at Woodlawn and Edison was a wholesale lumberyard in 1960.  In 1976, the Bert Morsch Lumber Company began manufacturing pressure treated lumber, timber, marine pilings, and wood fencing, leading to the contaimination of the property.  Excavation of onsite contaiminated soils is anticipated to begin in late 2012.

The Wrightsville A.M.E. Church (True Church of the Risen Christ) at 2297 Edison Avenue constructed in 1922.

In the early 20th century, Consumers Ice Company operated an ice plant adjacent to the Wrightsville A.M.E. Church at 2293 Edison Avenue. The company closed in 1954. In later years, the Gillespie Bonded Warehouse Company operated out of the site.  The old ice house was demolished during the late 1990s.  The Consumers Ice Company's former South Jacksonville ice plant will soon be occupied by the Aardwolf Brewing Company.

For many years, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, better known as A&P, operated at store at 2293 Edison Avenue.  When this store was in operation, A&P was the world's largest retailer, reaching $1 billion in sales with 16,000 stores in 1936.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) - District 2's Urban Office is located at 2198 Edison Avenue.

Consolidated Electrical Distributors, Inc. operates out of a building that was constructed in 1924 to serve as a bottling factory for the Orange Crush Bottling Company. Orange Crush was founded in 1911 by Clayton J. Howell, who partnered with Neil C. Ward. Ward perfected the process of blending ingredients to create the exclusive formula that yielded the zesty, all-natural orange flavor of Orange Crush. Originally, Orange Crush included orange pulp in the bottles, giving it a "fresh squeezed" illusion even though the pulp was added rather than remaining from squeezed oranges. In 1942, the Edison Avenue facility was rebranded as the Seven-Up Bottling Company/Duval Bottling Company.  Seven Up operated out of this Edison Avenue building until 1969. Seven Up eventually merged with Dr. Pepper in 1988.

Edison Avenue is located on Jacksonville's Westside just north of Interstate 10 between McDuff Avenue and Brooklyn.

Article by Ennis Davis

This article can be found at: https://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2012-nov-walkable-districts-edison-avenue

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