4. The Exchange Building

218 West Adams Street

Built in 1929 for the Monticello Drug Company, the Exchange Building served as the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) headquarters in Jacksonville, while the black unit was based out of the Clara White Mission. When Hurston signed onto the Project in 1938, FWP Director Carita Doggett Corse made an announcement to her staff at headquarters that Hurston would be paying them a visit, although no African-American FWP employee had ever made an appearance at that segregated office. As William Stetson Kennedy recalled “Dr. Corse went on say that Zora had already published a couple of books, and been feted by New York library circles and was therefore given to putting on certain airs such as smoking cigarettes in the presence of white folk and that we would have to make allowances for Zora, and sure enough, Zora came, and Zora smokes, and we made allowances.

5. St. Nicholas Train Station

2564 Atlantic Blvd

The family of Gerda King, Zora Neale Hurston’s lifelong best friend, lived in Spring Park. During her visits, Hurston often caught the train to St. Nicholas Station. St. Nicholas Station was built after the Florida East Coast Railway took over the railroad line between the beaches and City of South Jacksonville in 1899. The passenger rail station served St. Nicholas until the FEC ceased operations in 1932. Eventually, the old railroad become Beach Boulevard. In 2004, the old depot that Zora Neale Hurston once used, was restored and relocated to St. Nicholas Train Station Park by the St. Nicholas Business Association.

6. St. Nicholas Cemetery

3811 Beach Boulevard

The family of Zora’s best friend Gerda King and her sister-in-law Blanche King Hurston resided in the Spring Park area near Saint Nicholas. The King family were also members of the Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, which was founded in 1874. St. Nicholas Cemetery, one of the oldest and largest African-American cemeteries in the Southside was associated with the Mount Zion Baptist Church that the King family attended. According to M. Alene Murrell’s Zora Neale Hurston In and Around Jacksonville, FL in the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s, Zora and her friends would sometimes take a short cut through St. Nicholas Cemetery on their way from Saint Nicholas to get to the King’s residence.

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com