Article by Ennis Davis, AICP
6. TacoLu Baja Mexicana
The living aren’t the only ones enjoying the dishes being served inside Taco Lu’s 81-year-old two-story log cabin. Over the years, bartenders and other employees have claimed the place is haunted by the ghost of Alpha Paynter.
Paynter once operated a boarding house in the cabin and is buried behind the building. It is said her apparition has appeared near the huge limestone fireplace in the center of the main dining room and in other parts of the restaurant. Paynter has been seen so much that the building is now listed in The National Directory of Haunted Places.
The next time your chips disappear, don’t be so quick to blame the diners next to you.
5. Old City Cemetery
Established in 1852, the Old City Cemetery on East Union Street is one of the most overlooked and underrated historic sites in Jacksonville’s urban core. Cut off from downtown by the Mathews Bridge Expressway ramps, the cemetery is home to a who’s who list of early 19th-century Jacksonville settlers and residents. One is Marie Louise Gato, the 19-year-old daughter of local cigar factory owner Gabriel Hidalgo Gato. She was shot five times as she was entering her father’s house in North Springfield on April 20, 1897. On her deathbed, she accused her spurned boyfriend Edward George Pitzer. A week later, the police lieutenant investigating the case was attacked and murdered near the corner of Liberty and Phelps streets.
Attracting a horde of female admirers, Pitzer’s two week trial became one of the most sensational murder cases in the city’s history. Pitzer was eventually found not guilty and Gato’s murder was never solved. Over a century later, some claim they have encountered the sounds of weeping, spooky lights, and the ghost of the young lady buried near the back of the cemetery.
4. El Modelo Block
This building at 501 West Bay Street is one of a handful in downtown that survived the Great Fire of 1901. During its early years, it housed Gabriel Hidalgo Gato’s El Modelo Cigar Manufacturing Company. After Gato’s death, the building was occupied by the Plaza Hotel and a number of bars in what became known as a seedy area of the city.
In 1907, a Spanish-American War veteran entered the front door one of these bars in what would be his last act. He was immediately shot in the chest with a sawed-off shotgun. Upset over the tragic events - and still waiting on that drink - the victim’s ghost allegedly haunts the building.