The Courier

January 2018
Vol. III, Issue V



Thank you for your friendship…
your support and loyalty


by Emily Lisska

The beginning of the year is a welcome time when North Florida showcases its glorious weather and underscores why we live here. While any Northerner would envy Jacksonville’s January 2018, the month has presented its ups and downs with changing weather from day to day.

We all know that change is a constant, but at the Jacksonville Historical Society, you can count on some important constants, as thoughtful programs and such activities. Yet some change is coming. After more than 21 years as Executive Director, I gave notice to the board in June, that I would retire on January 31. In late November, Alan Bliss, PhD, was selected by the board to serve as Interim Executive Director. You’ll read more about Alan in this newsletter. As a JHS Past-President with involvement throughout the community, he is ready to lead with professionalism and enthusiasm, and with devotion to Jacksonville.

One project during my tenure will come to fruition on Wednesday, February 7, on the first floor of the Main Library, the society’s "Through the Lens" photography contest. The contest was the idea of Bill Jeter, a JHS Past-President. He and his wife, Deanne Clark are sponsors of the contest and the February 7 exhibit, detailed more fully in this newsletter. I hope to see you there.

For now, I thank you for your friendship, support and loyalty. As a member, you have been instrumental in supporting our work. You’ve embraced our many publication projects, film projects, Speaker Series and acquisition of historic properties. Many of you watched the archives grow from a one room collection in loaned space at Jacksonville University Library to today’s extensive holdings in the 1878 St. Luke’s Hospital and beyond to the Florida Casket Company, the two historic structures acquired by the JHS in 2010.

For some, you’ve experienced our award-winning interpretative house restoration, the Merrill House and many of you were hands-on volunteers and major donors to the Old St. Andrew’s restoration. A few of you may even recall our loaned one room office space on the Southbank prior to our presence at the National Register St. Andrew’s.

As I leave, grant applications are in place for our National Register Old St. Luke’s Hospital, in need of a serious face-lifting; we wait to see if the Florida Legislature funds the society’s restoration grant application. A current grant supports an immigrant oral history project. A contract for the annual Cultural Council grant is in hand and provides revenue for our on-going operations. The recent Gingerbread Extravaganza raised the most in our history, $63,000, with a generous $10,000 of that amount from the Delores Barr Weaver Forever Event Fund. With all expenses paid, contributions for that widely recognized JHS event continue to arrive!

Working at the JHS with Meghan Powell, Taryn Rodriguez Boette and the dedicated volunteers, board members and interns, was a privilege and joy; individually, they each were supremely skilled and talented, and collectively, they proved transformative for the society. Volunteer projects for the Jacksonville Historical Society are already on my calendar.

As President-elect of the Florida Historical Society and with a two year term as President beginning in May, I’ll remain deeply attached to the preservation and promotion of area history. As for now, I look forward to seeing you at a more leisurely pace at Jacksonville Historical Society future events. Once again, I send my deep appreciation and fond regards to you.


Greetings from Interim Executive Director
Alan Bliss

Alan Bliss 2 modified

Alan Bliss, Ph.D.

by Alan Bliss, Ph.D.

As my predecessor Emily Lisska notes, I joined the board of the Jacksonville Historical Society in June, 2015. Since then my engagement with and enthusiasm for the work of the JHS has steadily grown. After helping lead our 2016 strategic planning initiative, I was honored to become board president last summer. Now I am doubly honored by the confidence that the board of directors has shown in me by this appointment, at a moment of significant change. Throughout January, Emily and I have worked concurrently to effect a smooth transition.

Everyone who cares about Jacksonville will join me in thanking Emily for her twenty-one plus years of passionate, devoted service to the JHS and to local history. Through public talks, grant applications, history tours, council meetings and phone calls, amid an ever-growing portfolio of responsibilities, she has guided this organization to its place as Jacksonville’s preeminent resource for historic preservation and education. Emily’s retirement is well-deserved, but we are fortunate that she has consented to serve in an emerita role, participating in projects that interest her. Thank you, Emily!

Plans are underway to publicly honor Emily's accomplishments. Please stay tuned.

My appointment as Interim Executive Director runs through August 31, 2018, while the search continues for a permanent successor to Emily. As Interim ED, my goal is to continue to implement and advance the ambitious vision in our strategic plan, adopted in October 2016. We are lucky to be Jacksonvillians at a time when so many good things are happening across our community. I welcome with excitement the opportunity to contribute to better understanding the history of this great city, and how that shapes our present lives!

The enthusiasm and encouragement that I have heard from so many energizes me – thank you. But, no one can do all that lies ahead alone. In the coming months, the staff and I will depend on the help and support of our membership and directors. I invite you to share with me your ideas and ambitions for the future of the Jacksonville Historical Society.


Jacksonville Historical Society’s Photo Contest: “Through the Lens”

photo contest

Photograph by Raymond Murphy

Location: Downtown Main Library, first floor gallery.

On the evening of February 7, the Jacksonville Historical Society’s photo contest entries will go on display. From 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm, during the Downtown Art Walk, an opening reception will take place. At 6:30 pm the awards presentation will take place, announcing contest winners and their cash prizes.

Since 1929, the Jacksonville Historical Society has maintained the area’s largest archive of historic photographs. In 2017, JHS announced a photo contest to capture contemporary life in our community through a place, an event, the city’s people, the city’s history and architecture, the area’s social or cultural life, or a combination of these categories.

Amateur and professional photographers of all ages were invited to enter their four best images celebrating our community. There were over 60 entrants, and over 200 photos were submitted. The photos were judged based on their artistic quality, as well as their ability to creatively capture a slice of life in the Jacksonville community. The four judges were Paul Karabinis, Associate Professor of Photography at the University of North Florida; Pat Andrews, President of the Jacksonville Historical Society; Shawana Brooks, Arts and Culture Developer for the Jax Makerspace at the Main Library; and Dr. Wayne Wood, historian and author.

The contest and this exhibition were generously underwritten by a grant from William H. Jeter, Jr. and Deanne M. Clark. Prizes presented to the winners are as follows: Grand Prize winner – $1,000; Second Place winner – $500; Third Place winner – $300, and two Honorable Mention award winners – $100 each. The fifty best photos chosen by the judges will presented on display.

The Jacksonville Historical Society is grateful to all of the photographers who entered the contest, as well as the judges, the sponsors, and the Main Library. For more information about The Jacksonville Historical Society, go to


Black History Month at the Ritz:
A JHS February Membership Program Event

Tuesday, February 13, 2018     6:30 PM to 8:00 PM

Ritz modified

The Ritz Theatre and Museum

Sponsored by The Jacksonville Historical Society and the
Ritz Theatre and Museum

Speakers: Ritz Museum Director Adonnica Toler and JHS Interim Executive Director Alan Bliss

The Ritz Museum, a gem of Jacksonville history in its own right, is the perfect place to reflect on Black History Month and to celebrate our community’s African-American heritage. Please join us to introduce (or re-introduce yourself) to the Ritz Museum’s rich exhibits and collections, and to experience the “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” animatronic exhibit, which movingly represents Jacksonville’s famous native sons, James Weldon Johnson and his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson. Museum Director Adonnica Toler, MA and her team of docents will narrate tours of the museum.

Social half hour with light refreshments begins at 6:30 pm. The program begins at 7:00 pm, with tours starting at approximately 7:10 pm.

$5.00 suggested donation at the door to benefit the Jacksonville Historical Society and the Ritz Theatre and Museum.


Two recent extraordinary gifts showcased in
the Merrill House

capt Bruce

Captain F.W. Bruce
His great grandson, Cleve Powell donated his flatware

Typical donations to the Jacksonville Historical Society include old documents and photographs, but the society also accepts objects with a North Florida provenance. Objects donated to the society in late 2017, included a presentation box of flatware and a set of china acquired by a local family who lost everything in the Great Fire of 1901. These extraordinary gifts were placed on exhibit in the Merrill Museum House during the holiday season.

The flatware was originally owned by the F.W. Bruce family. Captain Bruce, navigator, surveyor and engineer, worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. When he retired in 1913, the flatware was presented to him by the Corps. Captain Bruce was also in charge of designing and constructing the Merrill-Stevens Shipyards in 1917. He was one of the founding residents of the Arlington neighborhood in Jacksonville. His great­-grandson, Cleve Powell, donated the silverware to the Jacksonville Historical Society.


Flow Blue China donated by mary F.A. Ship

Beautiful flow blue ironstone, known as the Fairy Villas pattern, was acquired by the Jacksonville Davidson family in the latter part of 1901, to replace the china lost during the Great Fire in May of that year.

During the late Victorian times and into the Edwardian times, the flow blue ironstone was commonly referred to as semi-porcelain. William Adams & Co. produced the Fairy Villas Stone China until 1930.

The china, including place settings and a many large serving pieces was used in recent decades by Jacksonville resident, Mary F. A. Shipp and family. In the fall of 2017, the large set was donated to the Jacksonville Historical Society and placed on exhibit in the Merrill House with the Bruce flatware.


Our Mission:

The mission of the Jacksonville Historical Society is to educate and inspire the greater Jacksonville community to value its history, by fostering understanding of how the region's past shapes our present.



Alan Bliss, Ph.D. , Interim Executive Director | Andrew Morrow, Interim Archivist | Erin Steichen, Office Assistant | Imani Phillips, Office Admin | Sherrard Ceglia, Archives Assistant

2017-18 JHS Board

Pat Andrews, President | Michael Fackler, Esq., Vice-President & Treasurer | Maggie Means, Secretary | Alan Bliss, Ph.D., Immediate Past-President | Ed Booth, Esq. | David Chauncey, Esq. | Judge Gary Flowers | Angela Gates | Drew Haramis | Karen Herzog | Larry Kanter, M.D. | Frederick H. Kent III, Esq. | Doug Milne, Esq. | Harry Reagan |
Lisa Sheppard | Reecy Thornton | Skip Willbach |
Wayne W. Wood, O.D., Hon. AIA


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