Article by Ennis Davis, AICP
A look back in time
A locomotive serving the Atlantic and East Coast Terminal Company railroad. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
Seeing the need for a large single passenger terminal, railroad magnate Henry Flagler formed the Jacksonville Terminal Company in 1893, acquiring most of the former Honeymoon estate, west of town. Within a decade, the conglomeration of railroads heading into the Jacksonville Terminal resulted in the surrounding area’s rise as the place for heavy industry.
By 1905, the Jacksonville Terminal Company had become a congested destination where virtually every carload to or from the Florida peninsula passed through its facilities, partially due to Atlantic Coast Line Railroad passenger and freight trains from the north and Midwest headed to Florida’s booming east coast being handed off to the Florida East Coast Railway.
To overcome this problem, Atlantic Coast Line and Florida East Coast created the jointly-owned Atlantic and East Coast Terminal Company to connect and serve their railroad operations with support facilities such as warehouses, elevators, and wharves. In 1910, the Atlantic and East Coast Terminal Company opened a U-shaped freight depot and three-story office complex on a large property bounded by Bay, Lee, Forsyth, and Jefferson streets. In addition, 1.48 miles of track was installed in nearby streets to serve the new freight depot and additional industry.
A third railroad terminal was added in 1925 when the Railway Express Agency opened its largest freight railroad depot at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and West Forsyth Street. Adjacent to Florida’s premier railroad junction, surrounding properties quickly developed as industrial spaces to house businesses needing direct railroad access. Structures built in this railroad terminal warehousing district during the 1920s included 1287 West Forsyth Street.
One of the 11,130 square foot building’s first tenants was the Parmelee Provision Company. Owned by Robert G. Parmelee, this wholesale grocery company began operating out of this warehouse in 1926. During the Great Depression, L&L Freight Lines, Inc. leased space in the building. L&L operated a daily truck service between Jacksonville and Miami. Between 1936 and 1941, several businesses, including the Novelty Box & Crate Company, Economy Linen Supply and the Duval News Company ran their operations out of the structure.
During World War II, it was used as space to manufacture machinery by the Harnischfeger Corporation. After Harnischfeger’s departure around 1951, Armour & Company, which operated a large sausage factory across the street, expanded their operation to include 1287 West Forsyth Street. For several years, the meat packer used this building as their district office and garage.
1910 image of Chicago Armour slaughterhouse courtesy of wikipedia at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Armour&Company;.jpg
While the meat packing industry is well known for its impact on the American Midwest, Jacksonville was an important early 20th century meatpacking center. In the midst of a cattle shortage, Florida jumped on Chicago-based Armour & Company’s radar in 1912 when the company was offered 5,000 heads of grass cattle in Kissimmee. After purchasing the cattle and shipping it to St. Louis, Armour sent representatives to scout the area and found prospects for beef production so good that they considered locating a plant in the state. Once this became known, prominent businessmen of Jacksonville reached out and convinced the company to open a meatpacking plant at the intersection of Talleyrand Avenue and West 8th Street. To ensure a regular supply of livestock for the plant, Armour also established the Interstate Stockyards adjacent to the slaughterhouse capable of receiving livestock by truck, rail or boat for immediate slaughter. When the plant opened in 1917, it had a daily killing capacity of 500 cattle, 1,500 hogs and pigs, 300 sheep and the production capacity of 15,000 pounds of sausages. Meat products produced in Jacksonville were distributed throughout Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama.
In 1927, the internationally known meat packer built and opened a new sausage packing plant directly across the street, between the freight railroad terminals of the Jacksonville Terminal Company, the Atlantic & East Coast Terminal Company and the Railway Express Agency. Like many of its neighbors, the West Forsyth Street Armour & Company sausage factory eventually fell victim to the construction of Interstate 95 and what became the only steel arch highway bridge in Florida. With a part of its real estate being taken for the construction of the expressway that would divide LaVilla, Armour incorporated this building as a part of its sausage factory.
Later on, the building was used a warehouse for Global Van Lines and the McDown Moving and Storage Company. Founded by George Howard in Dallas as the Howard Van Lines in 1933, the company gained some fame during the 1960s by moving equipment for NASA. For many years, its slogan was “Modern moving with old fashioned care.”
1287 West Forsyth Street (Ennis Davis, AICP)
Today, nearing one hundred years of anchoring West Forsyth Street, the building is empty and listed for sale. Here is a look inside the historic building, courtesy of photographs obtained from its listing on Loopnet.com
Next Page: A look inside