10 Cool Places In Jacksonville That Don't Exist Anymore

It is no secret that Jacksonville has an extensive history—some pretty well known; some not so much. Here is a list of 10 places in Jacksonville that, unfortunately, do not exist anymore.

Published November 20, 2014 in Culture - MetroJacksonville.com

1. Ember’s Restaurant

Ember’s Restaurant was opened in 1964 by owner Carl Holmquist. At the time, this restaurant was located on the 18th floor of the Universal Marion Building in downtown Jacksonville. Ember’s was an elegant restaurant that seated 250 people and served American-Continental cuisine. Live Maine lobsters were flown in from Booth Bay, Maine every Friday. The coolest thing about Ember’s was that it rotated—the building was designed to completely rotate 360 degrees every hour and a half. At the time, it was the largest revolving restaurant in the world.

Ember’s restaurant has since closed and, today, has been converted into office use for the Jacksonville Electric Authority.

Read More:

On Top of the JEA Building

2. Downtown Wharves

A wharf is a structure built along a waterfront so that ships and vessels may rest, dock, load, etc. In cities like San Francisco and Seattle they have become popular tourism destinations. For much of Jacksonville's early history, downtown's riverfront wharves along Bay Street were a beehive of activity, featuring a network of seafood markets, bars, shipyards, and wholesale industries to match.  

By the 1950s, many had become dilapidated dens of crime and economic despair. In an effort to clean up and modernize the waterfront, most of downtown's wharves were demolished and converted into riverfront parking lots by the Haydon Burns administration.

A fish market at the end of Ocean Street. Today, this area is a parking lot for the Jacksonville Landing.

Read more:

Lost Jacksonville: Wharves, Merchant Marines and Ports

A Different Waterfront

Sniffing Along The Jacksonville Waterfront

3. The Great White Way

In the early half of the 20th century, much of Forsyth Street was known as the “Great White Way.” This nickname was taken from New York City, as most people believed Jacksonville’s theater district was similar to Broadway at the time. The “Great White Way” included theatres such as the Florida Theater, the Palace, the Center, and the Imperial. Additionally, “The Great White Way” was home to iconic restaurants such as the Stathis Restaurant, and hotels such as the Seminole.

While the Florida Theatre obviously still stands, most of the other buildings that once made up the “Great White Way” have been replaced by apartments, parking garages, and commercial buildings.

An image of crowds packing Forsyth Street in 1956 for the showing of the The Lone Ranger at the St. Johns Theatre. Today, the theatre site is occupied by the Jacksonville Bank Building.

Read More:

Lost Jacksonville" The Theater District

4. Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South

Genovar's Hall can been seen to the right of Manuel "Chula Papa" Riveria's Manuel's Tap Room.  Genovar's Hall was a spot where young musicians would hang out waiting for jobs. One of those was R.C. Robinson  who live a block away at 633 Church Street. Eventually Robinson became known as  the one and only Ray Charles. Manuel's Tap Room was located at 626 W. Ashley Street and described in the January 1942 issue of The Crisis, the magazine of the NAACP, as "the Finest of its kind in the South."  Manuel's has since been demolished.

During the Jim Crow era, LaVilla's Ashley Street was often referred to as the “Harlem of the South.”  It was home to several theatres, bars, clubs, hotels, live performance venues, restaurants, and cafes. Performers like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ma Rainey, Billy Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Cab Calloway were known to frequent the vibrant district.

A major anchor in the “Harlem of the South” was the Ritz Theatre, which put on nightly film, plays, and musical performances that celebrated African-American culture. Other notable places included the Roosevelt Theater, the Egmont hotel, and the Strand Theatre.

The "Harlem of the South" did not last, though. LaVilla went through tough times in the 60s and 70s, similar to many established urban communities across America. In the early 1990s, much of the neighborhood was razed for a redevelopment plan that failed to materialize.

Read More:

What to do with LaVilla?

Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South

5. The Line

The New York Inn, Turkish Harem and 836 Houston Street brothels, just west of Davis Street. Image courtesy of the Florida State Archives.

This red light district was located on what is now modern day Houston Street. The origins of “The Line” date back to the late 19th century, when prostitutes were forced over the city’s line, into the City of LaVilla, as a way to make Jacksonville more attractive. “The Line” consisted of over 60 boarding houses for the women, allowing “buyers” to literally walk door to door looking for the “right price.”

"The Line" finally died during the mid 20th century when the Navy became concerned about too many personnel frequenting the area.

Owned by Cora Crane, The Court was the largest brothel along The Line.

Read More:

Ghost of Jacksonville: Davis Street (page 2)

6. Springfield Park


While major parts of Springfield Park are still around, it is not nearly as lively, connected or populated as it used to be.

The park dates back to the 19th century, when low lying land straddling Hogans Creek was donated to the city by the Springfield Company. During the park’s popularity, it was Jacksonville's version of New York's Central Park and even a home to the city’s first zoo.  Few years later, the park would also welcome the addition of a municipal pool. In 1929, the Hogans Creek Improvement Project designed by architect Henry J. Klutho, introduced a venetian-style promenade running the entire length of the green space.

While “Springfield Park” may be gone, parts of it, like Klutho Park remain fairly popular today, hosting events such as “Dog Days in the Park,” “Throwback Baseball,” and the “Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra at Klutho Park.”

Read More:

Jacksonville's Central Park?

7. McCoys Creek Greenway

Newly completed McCoys Creek bulkhead and Riverside Avenue culvert in 1930.

Much like Springfield Park, McCoy’s Creek is still around; though, its glory days are long gone. McCoy’s Creek is a green and a body of water that stretches as far south as Murray Hill, and as far north as Grand crossing. In the city's early years, McCoy’s was known as the biggest swamp in any city that was close to the size of Jacksonville.

Known as a wild, meandering waterway associated with yellow fever outbreaks, over $600,000 was spent in 1930 to bulkhead and dredge the creek, construct seven bridges, and build a park. An additional $50,000 was spent for a railroad bridge crossing over the new shipping channel.

Due to a lack of continuing maintenance, the new McCoys Creek Greenway quickly fell victim to the adjacent industrial environment and pollution. Today, it is mostly known for flooding the North Riverside area of Jacksonville.

After eight decades of neglect and silting, Joseph E. Craig's vision of an inland waterway for barges and sport boating can still be seen from the Cash Building Materials bridge.

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Lost Jacksonville: McCoys Creek

8. Oriental Gardens

Located in San Marco, these gardens started in 1925, thanks to local Riverside resident George Clark. Clark began planting overflow from his botanical gardens on an 18 acre, vacant bluff overlooking the St. Johns River along Craigs Creek. By 1937, Clark’s work caught public attention, and became a major attraction in Jacksonville well into the 1950s. The Oriental Gardens featured hourly concerts, on top of its 100 varieties of tropic and sub-tropic plants, shrubs, and trees.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.  In 1954, the private estate was purchased by State Investment Company and carved into 33 single family home sites.

Read More:

Remembering Oriental Gardens

9. Moncrief Park

Moncrief track with grandstand in background. Image courtesy of Cardcow.com

Moncrief Park originally opened as a park in 1874, which included a baseball field, bathhouses, restaurants, bowling alleys, and a mile long racetrack. To provide access to the park from the city, the Jacksonville Traction Company extended their trolley line to Moncrief. This extension led to rapid residential growth in the area. In 1909, a horse racing track was added to the park. Over 6,000 people attended the track's first race event. By 1910, New Yorkers were calling Moncrief the "Belmont of the South" and Jacksonville was being sold as the place to go on vacation.

However, shortly after the track opened in 1909, an antiracing group had been established to abolish gambling and the wrong types of people from coming to Jacksonville.  In Spring 1911, the Florida State Senate passed a bill prohibiting all racetrack gambling by an overwhelming vote of 62 to 1.

In 1914, the remnants of Moncrief Park were redeveloped into the neighborhoods straddling Myrtle Avenue and Moncrief Road that exist today.

Moncrief Park Band. Image courtesy of State Archives of Florida.

Read More:

Lost Jacksonville: Horse Racing at Moncrief Park

10. Subtropical Exposition

Designed by the Ellis& McClure firm in 1887, the “Subtropical Exposition” was built in an attempt to draw more tourists to Florida. This exposition covered over an acre of ground and featured a main building that was topped with towers and minarets. Inside this enormous hall there was an light-up fountain made of stone and coral, with a pond that contained several rare fish. The exposition also had several exhibits, including a Seminole Indian camp, an art gallery, two lakes, and a zoo.

A highly popular attraction, President Grover Cleveland visited it twice in 1888 and 1889. Unfortunately, the exhibition would have a short run do to a yellow fever epidemic in the area that halted tourism. The exhibition was torn down in 1897 to make way for a new reservoir.

Read More:

Back in Time: The Subtropical Exposition

Article by Kristen Pickrell

This article can be found at: https://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2014-nov-10-cool-places-in-jacksonville-that-dont-exist-anymore

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