The Norwood Smoke Shop at the corner of Norwood Avenue and Crestview Street in 1949 (Florida Memory).
Located four miles north of Downtown Jacksonville, Norwood is a Northside neighborhood initially platted in 1912 that is roughly bounded by Moncrief Creek, a Symrise chemical plant and a CSX rail line. The neighborhood was largely developed around Norwood Avenue between the 1920s and 1950s, with many residents taking advantage of the Federal Housing Authority’s guaranteed mortgages.
Prior to the development of Norwood, Norwood Avenue was known as the southern segment of Lem Turner Road and Turner Ferry Road during the 19th century. Prior to the Civil War, the road connected Jacksonville to a ferry service on the Trout River that was operated by Lemuel “Lem” Turner.
As the neighborhood development, Norwood Avenue emerged as a pedestrian friendly commercial district in the center of the community. The character of the district dramatically changed during the 1950s as Jacksonville morphed into an autocentric community. In 1959, Gateway Mall opened along Norwood Avenue, immediately south of Norwood. At the time, Gateway was the largest shopping center in Duval County and the location of Jacksonville’s first Publix grocery store. A year later, Interstate 95 opened in 1960, slicing through the west side of Norwood in the process.
Today, Norwood Avenue is also known as State Road 117. Built through a constrained urban environment, the road’s current four-lane design encourages automobile drivers to move through the district at a high speed, endangering pedestrians, cyclist and the area’s sense of place. However, unlike other areas of the city, Norwood Avenue’s built environment has not been significantly impacted by urban renewal. As such, many of its original buildings remain occupied by local businesses. As a result, Norwood Avenue is a Northside district where something as simple as a complete streets revamp of State Road 117 could lead to immediate safety improvements and economic revitalization.
A walk down Norwood Avenue
This 6,020 square foot retail building at 6721 Norwood Avenue was completed in 1963.
Built in 1926, the former Norwood Elementary School (Public School Number 23) operated until 2008 at 6720 Norwood Avenue. Owned by Grace and Truth Community Development Corporation, the building was designated as a local landmark in 2017. The nonprofit plans to reuse the property for a mix of uses, including senior housing, a business and development center.
The Morris Cleaners Same Day Services is a dry cleaning and laundry business located at 6603 Norwood Avenue. The building was constructed in 1969.
6505 Norwood Avenue was built in 1948 for the Norwood Baptist Church. Today, the property is the home of the Norwood Community Church.
Located at 6512 Norwood Avenue, the Blue Boy Sandwich Shop is an authentic Jacksonville institution. Known for its large sandwiches on round or sub “loaves” bread that it bakes fresh daily, the restaurant originally opened around 1962. It was started by an Italian immigrant who went by the name “Blue Boy.” The oldest parts of the restaurant date back to 1922.