Brentwood History

The intersection of Golfair and Boulevard in 1928. This building was used as an example to show the new use of setbacks being applied to the development of new retail. In this case, the building was built to the future street line. The future street was never constructed and this space is used as surface parking 91 years later. (City of Jacksonville)

Following the Great Fire of 1901, sparsely populated areas north of Springfield began to rapidly grow as a response to Jacksonville’s early 20th century rebuilding boom. In 1913, the original Brentwood Subdivision was placed on the market by the Brentwood Realty Investment Company. Developed on wooded parcels previously occupied by farms, naval store and lumber operations, Brentwood was the brainchild of Charles W. Bartleson. Bartleson was a Riverside resident who also owned and operated the C.W. Bartleson Company, a wholesale grocer once located near the Riverside Viaduct in Brooklyn.

Platted around wetlands and marsh straddling Longbranch Creek, the subdivision was originally roughly defined by Davis Street on the west, Pearl Street on the east, West 35th Street on the north and West 26th Street on the south. In addition, characterized by 50 foot by 100 foot average lot dimensions, 50 foot wide streets and 80,000 square foot blocks, it was a local example of a streetcar suburb. Prior to 1936, the Jacksonville Traction Company utilized Woodbine Street through the neighborhood to connect the Florida State Fairgrounds with North Main Street and downtown. At its height, the streetcar system provided 84 total round trips with rush hour headways of 9.5 minutes and 11 minute headways the rest of the day for the 20 minute trip to downtown.

Then considered to be on the edge of town, West 21st Street served as the primary east-west thoroughfare, linking it with Moncrief to the west and Talleyrand to the east, while Pearl Street developed as the main north south route. The built environment of today’s Brentwood was directly impacted by Jacksonville adopting a zoning ordinance in 1925 and Florida’s first comprehensive municipal plan in 1930. Pearl Street was zoned as a commercial district. Zoning in the north section of Brentwood was restricted to one and two family dwellings. On the other hand, the north section of the neighborhood was zoned to allow for one, two or multi-family dwellings in order to provide for apartment house development of the future.

Pearl Street near West 19th Street in 1928. (City of Jacksonville)

Sandwiched between historically Black communities, Brentwood was a major political battleground during segregation and the fight for civil rights. Initially a community where Black residents were not legally allowed to reside, it became the location of the second public housing projects in the city when the White-only Brentwood Homes opened in 1938. The Brentwood Homes and adjacent Brentwood Park combined to buffer the neighborhood from Moncrief to the west while multiple railroad lines formed an eastern buffer to Longbranch and Talleyrand.

In 1958, Frank Hampton, Sr., a Moncrief resident, self-made millionaire, owner and operator of Hampton’s Gulf Service and Fuel Oil Services, successfully sued the city to integrate its Brentwood Golf Course after not being allowed to participate in a tournament because of his race. In response, the city sold its course to a private operator to keep segregation intact. Hampton followed up by successfully fighting all the way to the Supreme Court, forcing Jacksonville to open all of its recreational facilities to African Americans. According to Hampton in a later Florida Times-Union interview, “I figured if they’re going to sell the golf courses, let them sell everything.” Hampton later sponsored a 1961 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visit to Jacksonville and was elected to the City Council in 1974.

This era also witnessed additional attempts by public agencies to use infrastructure as a method to separate adjacent communities along racial lines. Projects directly impacting Brentwood included the construction of the Jacksonville Expressway (Interstate 95), over the east side of Moncrief and the conversion of 20th Street into the 20th Street Expressway, later renamed in honor of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

Brentwood Park

Despite municipal funded and supported attempts to maintain racial segregation in Brentwood during the civil rights era, by the 2010 Census, African Americans made up 90.4 percent of its population. Today, Brentwood lives on as an intact century old neighborhood that is home to an impressive architectural collection of historic residential structures and one of the Urban Core’s largest public parks.

Next Page: Brentwood photo tour