A 1920s view of Broad Street, looking south from the roof of the Masonic Temple. (Library of Congress)
On May 3, 1901, much of Jacksonville was destroyed by fire. Known as the Great Fire of 1901, most of the LaVilla neighborhood west of downtown survived. However, the northeast portion of the neighborhood, including much of the Broad Street (then Bridge Street) did not. Over the next decade, this portion of what was once a 19th century residential community dominated by frame structures, transformed into a pedestrian scale business district. 318 North Broad Street is representative of early Jacksonville’s rapid transformation into Florida’s first major metropolitan area. The property is unique in that it features a two story masonry commercial building erected around an older frame residential dwelling.
According to public directories, the residential dwelling was built around 1902 for Jane Mott Keil. Born in 1830 in St. Augustine, Keil was a seamstress who owned the previous house on the property that was destroyed during the fire. A conductor for the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, her son Henry and daughter-in-law Mary also resided on the property.
LaVilla’s Broad Street and Progress Furniture store during the early 1990s. (City of Jacksonville)
Despite being subject to a devastating event that left nearly 10,000 people homeless, Jacksonville’s population increased more than one hundred percent between 1900 and 1910. Rapid growth led to Broad Street quickly morphing into a dense pedestrian scale commercial corridor stretching more then ten blocks from McCoys Creek, north to Union Street.
A few years after the death of Jane Keil, son Henry relocated to a larger house at 435 West Church Street, paving the way for commercial expansion at 318 North Broad Street. By 1910, public directories and Sanborn maps indicate Keil’s frame residential dwelling being shifted to the rear of the property, allowing for the construction of a new two story brick building facing Broad Street. Specializing in installment goods and owned by William and Marion Townsend, Townsend Brothers was the first business to occupy the new commercial storefront. The upper level of the new brick building and frame residential dwelling were then rented out as furnished rooms. Identified as the Will Hotel, J. and Anna Norris and Joseph and Daisy Lord were listed as tenants in 1909.
Looking north down Broad Street and the streetcar tracks of the North Jacksonville Street Railway, Town and Improvement Company. (State Archives of Florida)
Over the next two decades, a series of dry goods, meat and grocery businesses catering to LaVilla’s early Jewish community operated on the ground floor. Business owners included Benjamin Sherman (dry goods), Michael Schemer’s Standard Market (grocery and meats) and Isaac Morganstern’s Gold Eagle Grocery Company. When Schemer passed in 1923, brother-in-law Morganstern took over the grocery market, operating the business at this location until 1931.
In 1934, the Progress Furniture Company opened at 318 North Broad. Owned by Olga, Bernie and Leo Moskovitz, Jewish immigrants from Romania, the store’s slogan was “Buy or Sell…We Treat You Well.” The store was one of many that made Broad Street a furniture district for decades. Nearby furniture stores included DeLoach, Pierce-Wall, Cunningham, Ford, Davis, E.C. Newsome and Mather. Also selling appliances, the Progress Furniture Company operated at 318 North Broad until the late 1990s. Up until recent years, both the old Carpenter Gothic house and brick commercial building were used as a warehouse for the DeLoach Furniture Company.
The first floor of 318 Broad Street was designed to include two retail storefronts and an entrance to the second floor hotel. Prior to the Great Depression, the first floor was occupied by a various Jewish immigrant owned meat and grocery markets. During the mid-1930s, Olga, Bernie and Leo Moskovitz, Jewish immigrants from Romania, opened the Progress Furniture Company. The furniture company operated out of this storefront through the late 1990s.