Article by Tim Gilmore

The young man at the check-in desk is asking about the rules. He’s glad that each room has a lock on the door, and he likes the fact that he gets his own key. The housekeeper says bad things used to happen at The Palms, but management has gotten serious about security. Some tenants have stayed for months and even years, she says.

(photo by Hurley Winkler)

When he asks if he can have visitors, she says, “You can have visitors until 11 o’clock.”

He lowers his brows, tilts his head just slightly, and after a lengthy pause, says, “You mean 11 o’clock…at night?”

When she says she does, he pauses again. Then he shows her his palms in explanation and says, “Okay, man thing. You know, I might like to have a woman to my room.”

A typed list of rules hangs on the wall with a warning that tenants will be charged $15 per broken rule. He can pay $10 up front for a visitor or he can pay the $15 fine. He says he’ll have to think about it.

(photo by Hurley Winkler)

Some of the rules include:

“No illegal drugs in the hotel.”

“No one under the age of 21 years of age allowed in the building, the palms hotel is for adults only.”

“No vulgar language or racial remarks in common areas.”

“Proper clothing must be worn at all times in any common area. Shirts are required! NO underwear! in common areas.”

Though most of the people sitting on the porch or watching TV in the kitchen probably are, in fact, wearing underwear (whatever the rule is supposed to mean), the management’s list of rules, security lock system, and array of security cameras throughout the building do seem to have mitigated the violent crime and theft that have plagued this boarding house for decades.

Variously called The Palms View Inn, The Palms Rooming House, and The Palms Hotel, the building was constructed in 1904 as the Ensminger Apartments. Its three stories of 37 rooms have seen their full share of the vicissitudes of human existence.

(photo by Hurley Winkler)

The Ensminger featured six apartment suites, each with a front porch and latticed back porch. There were marble steps and wainscoting along the halls and stairs. Apartments were furnished with steam heat, both gas and electric light fixtures, and speaking tubes—long air pipes used to contact servants across long distances.

The signs on the front and side of The Palms claim it was established in 1950, skipping its first four and half decades, while a 1930s’ shot by prolific Jacksonville photographer Jack Spottswood identifies the building as the Carlis Hotel.

(photo by Hurley Winkler)

The shape and proportions, the numbers and distancing and height of windows, and the degrees of corbeling below the roofline remain the same, but the exterior brick walls of The Palms are now covered in whitewashed stucco and instead of three stories of porches over Market Street, only the ground level porch remains, heavily fortified in plastered arches.