Neighborhood history

Generally located south of Beach Boulevard and west of State Road A1A, the neighborhood developed as a result of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, which forced African Americans to be restricted in where they could live, work and play throughout the country.

In Pablo Beach, renamed Jacksonville Beach in 1925, it led to a small Black community growing on the south side of the Jacksonville and Atlantic Railroad. Acquired by railroad tycoon Henry Flagler, becoming a part of the Florida East Coast Railway, the railroad was extended to Mayport in 1900. Known as the Mayport Branch line, it was eventually abandoned in 1932. The abandoned railroad’s right-of-way was acquired by the State of Florida during the Great Depression for the construction of Beach Boulevard, which was dedicated on December 17, 1949.

Initially clustered around the intersection of Shetter Avenue and 6th Street South, many of the Hill’s early residents were the labor force that built the area’s railroads, roads, bridges and worked in nearby oceanfront resorts. Serveral were employed with B.B. McCormick & Sons.

Established by Benjamin Bachelor McCormick, the company was largely responsible for development in the beaches communities and operated its contractors yard within the Hill community. Closely linked with the Gullah Geechee settlers of Cosmo, McCormick family came from South Carolina during the mid-1800s and settled near Mill Cove after the Civil War.

During the early 20th century, east-west avenues were named Shetter, Shockley (now 1st Avenue South), Griffin (now 2nd Avenue South), Greiner (now 3rd Avenue South), Susking (now 4th Avenue South) and Mann (now 5th Avenue South). At the time, Jacksonville Beach’s western boundary was South 10th Street. By 1960, a small commercial area had developed along South 1st Avenue (formerly Shockley Avenue).

The city of Jacksonville Beach has doubled in population since desegregation. A three block walk from the Atlantic Ocean, the Hill is a historic African American community in danger of displacement and gentrification. Despite these challenges, characterized by active church congregations and small frame and ranch style single family residences, it retains much of its 20th century character and sense of place.

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