Hemming Park and the Morocco Temple

In 1919, the “Prison Special” came to town. The “Prison Special” was a group of 26 suffrages who had served prison sentences that toured the nation to highlight their experiences. Reaching Jacksonville in February, the group met with Helen Hunt, then the chairman of the National Women’s Party in Florida.

They later held an outdoor meeting in Hemming Park and an evening meeting in the Morocco Temple. Dressed in prison garb, at the meeting the women shared their experiences of being arrested for fighting for women’s rights.

At the end of the Morocco Temple event, a resolution was adopted to urge President Wilson to pass the federal woman suffrage amendment.

The Morocco Temple

Duval Theater

The ghost of the Masonic Temple and Duval Theater (far left) at the intersection of Main and Monroe Streets.

In March 1914, the Florida Equal Franchise League sponsored a lecture at the Duval Theater to focus the city’s attention on suffrage. Miss Kate Gordon of Louisiana and Congressman J.W. Bryan of Washington were the event’s keynote speakers.

The Duval Theater was connected to the Masonic Temple. Located on the corner of Main and Monroe Streets, the Masonic Temple on Main Street was conceived in 1907 as an 11-story building, which would have made it the tallest building in the city at the time. The Florida Grand Lodge of Masons eventually settled for a seven-story reinforced concrete building designed the L.M. Weathers Company at the intersection of Main and Monroe Streets. Completed at the cost of $110,000, it featured an arcade of shops that served as the main entrance to the 1,250-seat Duval Theatre.

The Masonic Temple and Duval Theater site today.

In later years, it was known as the Temple Theatre and a part of the Florida State Theatre circuit before closing for good in 1950. Unfortunately, history, architecture and scale were not enough to save it from the wrecking ball. During the mid-60s, it was razed for the smaller masonic lodge and surface parking lot that survives today.

Article by Adrienne Burke, AICP, Esq. Photo captions by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com.