Historical Background

On July 1, 1902, the Jacksonville City Council granted a streetcar franchise to the North Jacksonville Street Railway, Town, and Improvement Company. This new streetcar line serving what would eventually become known as the neighborhoods of Northwest Jacksonville generated national attention because it was a predominately Black-owned and operated company during the early years of Jim Crow-era segregation.

Served by the streetcar line, Barnett’s Subdivision became an attractive and vibrant neighborhood for many middle-class African American families following the Great Fire of 1901. Platted between 1907 and 1908 a few miles northwest of Downtown Jacksonville, Barnett’s Subdivision was a development roughly bounded by Kings Road north to West Fourth Street on the east side of Myrtle Avenue and West Seventh Street on the west side of Myrtle Avenue, and from the S-Line Urban Greenway west to Whitner Street, near the campus of Edward Waters University.

Today, Barnett’s Subdivision is generally accepted as being a part of the greater Durkeeville neighborhood, which is located north of Kings Road and west of Interstate 95. Here are five interesting historical stories and facts associated with the subdivision’s past.

1. Named after the founder of Barnett National Bank

Bion Barnett (State Archives of Florida)

Barnett’s Subdivision is named in honor of William Boyd Barnett, who owned the land in the 19th century. Born in Nicholas County, West Virginia, Barnett sold his interest in a Kansas bank and relocated to Jacksonville in 1877.

With a capital investment of $43,000 and a staff consisting of him, his son Bion as the bookkeeper, and one other clerk, he founded a new local bank in 1877. In 1901, his bank was the only one in town that survived the Great Fire that consumed most of the city. By 1995, Barnett Bank had grown to become Florida’s largest bank and a Fortune 500 company with revenue of $3.10 billion. At its height, it employed nearly 19,000 workers in Florida and Georgia and was the 20th largest banking organization nationwide with more than 600 offices statewide. For many years, the bank was Jacksonville’s leading corporate giver.

In 1997, Nations Bank announced its plans to acquire Barnett. At the time, it was the largest banking merger in American history.

2. Home to one of Jacksonville’s last surviving Green Book sites

First published in 1936, the Negro Motorist Green Book was a compilation of restaurants, overnight accommodations, gas stations and other public services for people of color traversing a “white-only” landscape for Black travelers during segregation. Jacksonville was a major Florida destination featured in the document.

Located at 1251 Kings Road, Barnett’s Subdivision’s former Fiesta Motel is Jacksonville’s last surviving Green Book site that was not located in the nearby LaVilla neighborhood. The Fiesta Motel was a motel for Black travelers when it opened in 1961 with 26 air conditioned rooms, each with television and telephone. The old motel is now the 1251 Efficiency Apartments.