Abandoned Jacksonville: Coca-Cola Bottling Company


When traveling on the forgotten side streets of Jacksonville's older neighborhoods, one can't help but have a bit of "factory nostalgia" due to the eerily quiet ruins of industrial sites that once buzzed with activity. Here's a story of the rise and fall of a Jacksonville bottling factory that represents the early 20th century manufacturing history of Coca-Cola and Pepsi: The Springfield Warehouse District's Coca-Cola Bottling Company.

Published October 7, 2014 in History - MetroJacksonville.com




The production of Coca-Cola in Jacksonville occurred shortly after the Great Fire of 1901, with the opening of the Jacksonville Coca-Cola Bottling Company in the rear of a LaVilla saloon, located at 624 West Bay Streeet, in 1902.  In 1913, the company relocated to 520 East 8th Street, adjacent to the St. Johns River Terminal Company (SJRT) railroad in Springfield. Coca-Cola's first stay in Springfield would be a short one. By 1917, the company had relocated back to LaVilla's Railroad Row at 830/840 West Bay Street.

By 1920, more than 1,000 Coca-Cola bottlers were operating in the U.S.  This decade of American prosperity resulted in bottle sales of Coca-Cola exceeding fountain sales. Rapid growth in Jacksonville also resulted in expansion opportunities for Coca-Cola locally.


The Coca-Cola Bottling Company in 1934. Courtesy of the Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/51378

Just north of downtown Jacksonville, Springfield rapidly became one of the city's most popular neighborhoods during the two decades following the Great Fire. In the midst of the Florida Land Boom, the Telfair Stockton & Company began development on a new industrial park in Springfield near the junction of Main Street, the Seaboard Air Line (SAL), Southern, and St. Johns River Terminal Company (SJRT) railroads.

In 1926, in need of additional space, the Jacksonville Coca-Cola Bottling Company constructed a three-story reinforced concrete bottling works in the heart of Stockton's new industrial district, at the intersection of East 14th and North Market Streets. Here, syrup concentrate purchased from the Coca-Cola Company, was taken by the Jacksonville franchise and mixed with filtered water and sweeteners, and then carbonated before being bottled. Bottled products were then sold and distributed to local retail stores, vending machines, restaurants and food service distributors.

In the following decades, additional growth resulted in Coca-Cola acquiring adjacent buildings in the Springfield Warehouse District. Just west of Coca-Cola's bottling works, the Mehlas Warehouses became space for bottled drink storage. Also completed in 1926, the Mehlas complex initially housed companies that supported the larger manufacturing and distribution companies in the area. Some of its earliest tenants included the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company (bakery), Michelin Tire Company, and Excelsior Mills Corporation (automobile upholstery).  Michelin and Excelsior Mills were within a one block walk of the Studebaker and Chevrolet parts warehouses.


The Mehlas Warehouses in 1926. Courtesy of the Telfair Stockton & Company industrial advertisement.

The Jacksonville Coca-Cola Bottling Company also consumed the Mavis Bottling Company's bottling works across the street. Founded in 1926 by Charles G. Guth, a Baltimore candy maker, the Mavis Bottling Company of America built their factory across the street from Coca-Cola, at 14th and Market Streets in 1927.  It was one of eight plants Guth built across the country to produce a new chocolate drink called "Mavis".

In 1929, Mavis was consolidated into another company Guth was involved with called Loft, Inc. Loft owned and operated 200 candy stores with soda fountains that purchased over 31,500 gallons of Coca-Cola syrup each year.

After Coca-Cola refused to give him concessions on the sale of cola in his Loft stores, Guth started selling Pepsi.  When Pepsi-Cola went bankrupt in 1931, he purchased the company for $10,500, turning it into a national brand.  As Pespi grew, the Mavis Bottling Company was then absorbed into Pepsi-Cola and by 1936, Pepsi had become the nation's second largest soda company.


The Mavis Bottling Company, shortly after opening. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/51348

Loft, Inc. closed the 14th Street Mavis bottling plant in 1930. Under Coca-Cola's ownership, this site was utilized for truck storage, sign painting, and a cooler department.

Built out at the two-block Springfield bottling complex and still in need of space, the Jacksonville Coca-Cola Bottling Company began leasing support space in other areas of town in 1947 and continued to do so for two decades.



A 1950's Sanborn Map of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company.

By the late 1960s, the time had come for Coca-Cola to move on from their constrained and aging 55,400-square foot Springfield plant.  In 1968, a $1.8 million, 145,000-square foot modern bottling facility was constructed in Jacksonville's westside to replace the Springfield operation. Built on a 12-acre site, the plant was one of Coca-Cola's largest bottling facilities in the Southeast and capable of producing 1/2 million bottles per 8 hour shift.

Nearly five decades have passed since Coca-Cola left Jacksonville's urban core. Out of the four bottling plants operated by Coca-Cola in LaVilla and Springfield between 1902 and 1968, two still exist. Both LaVilla buildings were demolished decades ago and their sites are now a part of the JTA Skyway's path paralleling West Bay Street between downtown and the Prime Osborn Convention Center.


http://www.bushconstructioncompany.com/uploads/1/1/0/5/11050380/5856739_orig.jpg?285
Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated's Huron Street plant in West Jacksonville. Photograph courtesy of http://www.bushconstructioncompany.com/uploads/1/1/0/5/11050380/5856739_orig.jpg?285
In Springfield, both former bottling plants still stand. Although the original facade has been modified, the 1913 structure appears to be in solid condition due to it being a part of the Schur & Company pump maufacturing plant at just east of Ionia Street.

Unfortunately, the abandoned Springfield Warehouse District bottling complex, which represents the early 20th century history of Coca-Cola and Pepsi, remains empty and continues to slowly deteriorate with each passing day.


Produced in 2010, the City of Jacksonville's Urban Core Vision Plan included the idea of a revitalized warehouse district and Coca-Cola complex built around a commuter rail line that would connect downtown to the airport.



Timeline: Coca-Cola Bottling Company in Jacksonville



1. 1902-1913 - 624 West Bay Street (LaVilla - demolished)

2. 1913-1916 - 520 East 8th Street (Springfield

3. 1917-1926 - 830/840 West Bay Street (LaVilla - demolished)

4. 1927-1967 - 2334 Market Street (Springfield)

5. 1968-Present - 1411 Huron Street (Woodstock)



Next Page: The Jacksonville Coca-Cola Bottling Company Then and Now




Then: The Jacksonville Coca-Cola Bottling Company (2334 North Market Street)



Inside the Coca-Cola Bottling Company in 1948. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/51588



Machine at the Coca Cola Bottling plant in 1948. Photograph courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/51590



Machines filling and capping bottles at the Coca Cola Bottling plant in 1948. Photograph courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/51589



Empty bottles at the Coca Cola Bottling plant in 1948. Photograph courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/51587



A Coca-Cola truck on the property of the former Mavis Bottling Company. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/167782




Now: The former Jacksonville Coca-Cola Bottling Company site


The former Coca-Cola Bottling Company plant was built in 1926.






From left to right: The Jacksonville Cola Cola Bottling Company building, Mehlas warehouse complex, and the Mavis Bottling Company building.


The Mehlas warehouse building was utilized as warehouse space by Coca-Cola before operations were relocated to the Huron Street bottling plant in 1968.


The Mehlas warehouse buildings were completed in 1926. The complex initially housed companies that supported the larger manufacturing and distribution companies in the area. Some of its earliest tenants included the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company (bakery), Michelin Tire Company, and Excelsior Mills Corporation (automobile upholstery).


Considered modern in 1926, by 1968 this urban manufacturing complex had become obsolete for accommodating significant tractor trailer loading and unloading.


The remnants of a railroad siding that once served the Mavis Bottling Company parallels East 14th Street.


Looking east on 14th Street from left to right: Mavis Bottling Company and Mehlas Warehouse buildings.  The original 1926 Coca-Cola Bottling Company plant is located in distance behind the Mehlas buildings.


The modified facade of the Mavis Bottling Company building. Mavis was absorbed into Pepsi after its owner purchased Pepsi for $10,500 in 1931. After the Jacksonville Mavis plant was shut down in 1930, the complex was utilized for truck storage, sign painting, and a cooler department by the Coca-Cola Bottling Company.

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com


This article can be found at: https://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2014-oct-abandoned-jacksonville-coca-cola-bottling-company


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