1. McCoys Creek culvert
The McCoys Creek tunnel during the 1930s.
During the city’s early years, McCoys Creek was known as the “biggest swamp in any city the size of Jacksonville in the world.” It flooded the nearby railyards on a regular basis and its stagnate water had already proven deadly with the Yellow Fever Outbreak of 1857.
In 1930, the wild meandering waterway was channelized in order to control and to promote commerce, becoming an inland waterway for sport boating and barges.
In addition, a new channel and block long culvert were constructed to divert the waterway away from the Jacksonville Terminal Company’s railyards. The original culvert is a brick arch that once stretched under industry in the vicinity of the Riverside viaduct. During the mid-20th century, this culvert was extended where the Florida Times-Union now stands.
Most who travel Riverside Avenue from Brooklyn to downtown never realize what lies beneath. One can only imagine the potential of this subterranean stretch of waterway in the heart of a revitalized downtown.
2. Jax’s Ford Assembly Plant is a pier built on top of the river
Modeled after Henry Ford’s River Rouge plant, Jacksonville’s Ford Motor Company assembly plant represents a little slice of Detroit in our downtown core area. At its height, as many as 800 workers churned out 200 Model A cars a day, in a structure that also accommodated as many as 50 rail cars inside of it.
It also represents something that’s hard to find in modern day Jacksonville. The massive structure is one of a few early 20th century buildings still standing that were constructed on top of the river. Constructed in 1924, the plant is built on approximately 8,000 wooden piles with a reinforced concrete floor on raised concrete piers.
3. Spinning Wheels shakes and ice cream manufacturing on Houston Street
In 1910, this four story brick building was built as a dairy for Charles Sumner’s W.P. Sumner Company. Sumner specialized in butter and cheese products. In 1920, five years after Sumner’s death, the building was acquired by Jefferson Richard Berrier and converted into an Ice Cream factory.
The J.R. Berrier Ice Cream Company was known for its mammoth-sized, multi-flavored shakes, which were called Spinning Wheels. Although, Berrier’s manufacturing operations ceased for good in the 1950s, the family operated a chain of soda fountains in Jacksonville until 1970.
4. Maxwell House wasn’t the first
In 1910, Maxwell House opened as the Cheek-Neal Coffee Company along Hogans Creek because it was adjacent to where coffee was once loaded onto ships. The coffee roasting complex that exists today includes buildings that were built by other businesses in the maritime district. However, the East Bay Street complex wasn’t their first location along Hogans Creek. The original factory was located on the southside of Bay Street. The oldest buildings it occupies today were built for other companies during Bay Street’s era as a riverfront industrial district. The four-story warehouse at the corner of Bay and Marsh Streets was built for Albert Laney’s (1892-1976) Laney & Delcher Storage Company in 1926. Two-story brick warehouses adjacent to Hogans Creek were occupied by Rosser & Fitch Merchandise Brokers in 1926.
The old Rosser & Fitch Merchandise Brokers warehouse along Hogans Creek.
5. Civil War Era buildings still stand in downtown
Brooklyn’s 364 Spruce Street is a hall-and-parlor residence that date backs to the 19th century. A hall-and-parlor is a side gabled house that is usually two rooms wide and one room deep. It is the most common design for folk houses in the rural South.
In 1901, much of what we know as downtown Jacksonville was destroyed by the Great Fire. However, if you pay attention, there are a few structures still standing that date back to the Civil War era. Now in danger of being victims to new development, a few are located in Brooklyn. During Jacksonville’s fourth occupation of the Civil War, a large contingent of Union soldiers were stationed in Brooklyn. 328 Chelsea Street is believed to be one of the last post-Civil War cottages remaining in the urban core, providing a direct link with Jacksonville’s Reconstruction.
328 Chelsea Street
6. Poltergeist on Church Street
In 1982, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer generated $121.7 million at the box office for a film focused around ghosts originating from an improperly relocated cemetery underneath a new neighborhood. Called Poltergeist, that movie was fiction. On downtown’s “Billy Goat Hill,” there really was a cemetery improperly relocated.
In 2001, while working on underground utilities for the Parks at Cathedral townhome development, contractors discovered human remains. This area was then determined to be a part of the Old City Burial Grounds, Jacksonville’s oldest documented public cemetery. The 19th century graveyard was relocated, allowing the project to move forward.
7. Jax’s lost professional basketball team
Florida’s American Basketball Association’s (ABA) team started off as the Minnesota Muskies in 1967. Despite having the league’s second best record, owner Larry Shields concluded that the team was not viable in the Twin Cities, due to attendance figures of 2,800 per game. The following season, the team moved to Miami Beach and was named the Miami Floridians. That year, the Floridians lost 4-1 in the division finals to the Indiana Pacers.
Following the 1969-1970 season, new owner Ned Doyle dropped Miami fromt the name and made the franchise a regional team, splitting home games in Miami, Tampa-St. Petersburg, West Palm Beach and Jacksonville. In Jacksonville, the Floridians played their home games in the Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum. That season, the team made the playoffs, but lost their series to the Kentucky Colonels 4-2.
Despite the move from Minnesota to Florida, the franchise never became viable, leading to it being disbanded in June 1972. Four ABA teams were absorbed into the NBA: The New York Nets, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, and San Antonio Spurs. Prominent players in the ABA included Artist Gilmore, Rick Barry, Hubie Brown, Moses Malone, George “Ice Man” Gervin, and Julius “Dr, J” Erving.
Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at firstname.lastname@example.org