Immediately successful and earning a 10% profit after a year of operation, the South Jacksonville Municipal Railway extended eastward along Atlantic Boulevard to connect with the FEC’s Mayport branchline in St. Nicholas. This connection largely resulted into the development of another commercial node known as Times Square. Home of Lou Bono’s first pit-fired barbeque restaurant, Times Square was razed for the construction of Interstate 95 following the end of World War II.
South Jacksonville’s most well known development was launched along the expanding Muni car line by Telfair Stockton in 1925. By this time, Stockton had become a well known developer building new neighborhoods around his North Jacksonville Street Railway in the years immediately following the Great Fire of 1901. With the Muni running on 13 minute headways between South Jacksonville and downtown, the time had arrived to reposition his Gamble & Stockton Company South Jacksonville brickyard into something more ambitious.
So Stockton transformed his South Jacksonville brickyard, at Hendricks Avenue and Atlantic Boulevard, into an 80-acre mixed-use subdivision called San Marco. The brickyard’s claypit was transformed into Lake Marco and the surrounding land was converted into Mediterranean Revival architectural style residences. Along the South Jacksonville car line, San Marco Square, the subdivision’s business district, was designed to mimick the Piazza di San Marco in Venice, Italy. San Marco’s success led to Villa Alexandria being platted just to the south in 1929. Villa Alexandria’s first two homes were built by Carl and John Swisher, owners of New Springfield’s King Edward Cigar Company.
In addition, in 1925 the Muni utilized Jacksonville & St. Augustine Public Service Corporation abandoned infrastructure and right-of-way to expand south to Point LaVista (Miramar). An ambitious rail project in its own right a decade earlier, the Jacksonville & St. Augustine Public Service Corporation had attempted to build a 40-mile interurban electric railroad line between South Jacksonville and St. Augustine with stops in Pablo Beach (Jacksonville Beach) and the Diego Plains (Palm Valley).
Like streetcar systems, interurban railways were electric self-propelled passenger rail vehicles. Unlike streetcars, interurban railways were used primarily for passenger travel between cities, suburbs and rural communities. During their height, privately operated interurban railways were the fifth-largest industry in the country. The Jacksonville & St. Augustine Public Service Corporation failed to complete construction on its 40-mile route because the industry declined during World War I. Characterized by poor cash flow, the expanded subsidization of roadways for cars and trucks proved to be too much competition for the private sector. With that said, by the time the project failed, six miles of track had been completed south of South Jacksonville by the end of 1914. Countrywide, only three interurban line remain while many others have been converted into modern light rail lines.
The South Jacksonville Municipal Railway extension to Point LaVista complemented the platting of another Mediterranean Revival themed subdivision called Granada. Named after a Spanish city that was the capital for the Moors (8th-15th centuries) and opened in early 1926, Granada was originally a vision of Lawrence Howard, the owner of Howard Mills in Durkeeville. Despite fully paved roads, ornamental street lights, park space, riverfront frontage and streetcar service, only three houses had been built by the time Florida’s 1920s real estate bubble had burst. A few blocks south, Kelnepa was another speculative development stimulated by Point LaVista’s new found mid-1920s connectivity to Jacksonville via the Muni. Like Granada, it also fizzled when the real estate boom quickly came to an end.
The South Jacksonville Municipal Railway’s car 110 was delivered in 1928 as a part of a four car order. (State Archives of Florida)
Although it opened with great fanfare, the South Jacksonville Municipal Railway proved to be a short lived 12-year experiment. Countrywide, streetcar ridership peaked a year before the opening of the Muni. Then after three years of explosive transit oriented development along its route, Florida’s real estate market fell apart. Florida’s bust was then followed by the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. By the time local economic conditions had become favorable, Jacksonville had already replaced streetcar service with buses.
Despite its limited era of existence, the pedestrian scale mix of uses that did take place was successful enough that South Jacksonville is now called San Marco and remains one of the city’s most popular neighborhoods.
<h1>Next Page: South Jacksonville Municipal Railway Line Photo Tour</h1>