The Courier July 2016Vol. II, Issue IV ~ A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT ~ Dear Newsletter Reader, The Jacksonville Historical Society Board of Direc


The Courier


July 2016

Vol. II, Issue IV



JKG 5x7

Dear Newsletter Reader,

The Jacksonville Historical Society Board of Directors and staff have undertaken a long term planning effort aimed at making improvements to better serve the Jacksonville community. As a JHS member or volunteer we need your help in providing us with information that will help us determine our priorities for the next 5 years.

If you haven’t already responded to the survey sent out through social media, please take a few minutes to reply to this one. It is specifically geared toward members and volunteers. If you’ve already responded, we appreciate your feedback.

Please know that in order to ensure your anonymity an independent resource will oversee the compilation of questionnaire results. We appreciate your willingness to help us on this important task.

To access the survey, please click here. We would appreciate you completing the survey by Friday, August 5, 2016.

Thank you for helping us out as we proceed with our planning. We appreciate you and all you are doing to help us fulfill our mission.

Best regards,

Jeff Graf
President, Jacksonville Historical Society



Hammers and paint brushes are part of the summer at Merrill House and St. Andrew’s

Finally – for our many members and friends who attend program meetings and events at the Jacksonville Historical Society’s Old St. Andrew’s, “visible” restoration work at Old St. Andrew’s and the adjoining Merrill House is underway. The most glaring issue is the need for paint on both historic structures. However, as maintenance issues go, the desperately needed paint—for several years now—was delayed by the repairs last year to Merrill windows and shutters and replacement of the custom milled porch balusters. The distinctive church roof also underwent repairs.

Even with the glaring need for paint, it’s all been a matter of progressing in a logical order. In fact, a large piece of the St. Andrew’s decorative side yard metal fencing was replaced with a gate component last year in order to get a lift into the yard for upcoming repairs.

During the current repairs rotting wood around stained glass windows will be repaired or replaced. Then, the windows will get the much needed protective trim paint. As I write, final preparations are underway at the Merrill house -- lots of unexpected wood siding replacement -- for exterior painting that begins in August.

While the JHS outright owns Old St. Luke’s and Florida Casket Factory buildings, the City of Jacksonville owns the Merrill House and St. Andrew’s, and the Jacksonville Historical Society’s long term lease on the properties requires specific maintenance responsibilities by both parties. The City of Jacksonville is handling the exterior repair projects on Merrill House and St. Andrew’s. While it’s been a long process, the City has been a good partner, along with JHS board members Alan Bliss, Jeff Graf and Harry Reagan who have worked on the project.

Expect the historic complex to shine by early fall as we prepare for our biggest annual outreach effort, the Gingerbread House Extravaganza. Last year, the event attracted thousands and was only possible through the volunteer efforts of more than 100 artist-builders and nearly fifty more volunteers who staffed the event during its three week run in December. The Merrill House also hosted thousands of tours during the December event.

It’s exciting to know the historic complex will soon appropriately represent our mission to preserve and protect our precious historic structures.



IMG 20151

Sherrard Ceglia, JHS Archives Assistant.

She now works in the building she helped save!

Born on the Ft. Dix Army Base, within months, Sherrard Ceglia and her family moved to Richmond, Virginia, where she remained until she was 20 years old. Her next move was to Jacksonville, in 1967, to be near her fiancé. They married and three children soon followed. Three grandchildren are now part of her life.

Sherrard began working with the Historical Society Archives as a volunteer, in 2007, following a lengthy career and retirement. Soon a small grant award provided JHS funds to cover a position for ten hours a week. She’s been with the society since.

She says the archives work is perfect for her personality type. She’s analytical, loves to organize and enjoys processing ...[Read more...]



Uncle Toms Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin, Illustrated Classic. Jacksonville Historical Society Collection.

Comic con and Graphic Novels:

Adventures in the Archives

by Taryn Rodriguez-Boette

Many of you might be following the latest Comic Con event this summer. For the uninitiated, “Comic Con” is the acronym of Comic Book Conventions - events “dedicated for the appreciation of comics and related art forms and the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture”. Although I grew up following Archie, Veronica and Betty comic books, I have become a convert to Marvel Universe comic books.

Recently the JHS Archives received as a gift a copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Although we have various editions of this classic, this new gift is a graphic ... [Read more...]



1938 waterfront 8x10 picmonkey

Downtown Jacksonville from the St. Johns River. Jacksonville Historical Society Collection.

"Missing Downtown"

When: NOW!
Where: Old St. Luke's, JHS Archives

The Historical Society Archives is currently featuring images and objects from our collections. The two small exhibits, "Missing Downtown" and "Cabinets of Curriosities" are open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.




Elvis Has Left the Building:

The 60th Anniversary of the King at the Florida Theatre

When: August 9th
Reception 6:30pm
Program: 7pm
Location: Old St. Andrews, 317 A. Philip Randolph Blvd.

Join the Jacksonville Historical Society Tuesday, August 9th, for a program on Elvis Presley's renowned Florida Theatre performances six-decades ago!



Neff House NE- MC14.11.001

Neff House on Fort George Island. Photo from the Jacksonville Historical Society [Merrill Collection].

1622 - Neff House

The most outstanding part of the home's design is the circular entry tower with its conical roof and semi-circular wrought iron balcony above the entry door.

Fort George Mansion: The Neff House

The Neff House, located at 11435 Fort George Road near Kinglsey Plantation on Fort George Island, was built by Jacksonville architect, Mellen C. Greeley in 1927 as a winter home for Chicago businessman Nettleton Neff. According to Greeley, the Neff family was struck by tragedy early, about six months into its construction when Neff lost his wife, two small children and his older son. Neff, himself, died before the completion of the house and he never saw the completed version of his "castle-like" home.

The house sat vacant for many years until Kenneth Merrill, of Merrill Stevens Ship Building Co., the St. Johns River Shipbuilding Co., and the Merrill Dynamite Co., purchased the home as a holiday retreat for the Merrill family. The Merrill's made ...[Read more...]



Metropolis 1899

Oldest copy of "The Metropolis in JHS Archives: November 16, 1899. Jacksonville Historical Society Collection.

July 2, 1887: The Florida Metropolis founded on this day. The Metropolis operated under two other names -- The Evening Metropolis and The Florida Metropolis.

The newspaper was started by W.R. Carter and Rufus Rufus A. Russell (former employees of the Evening Herald that lasted from 1883 to 1887) as a Democratic afternoon paper after the Morning News and Evening Herald were combined. The original paper included four pages and eight-columns.

The paper was issued every week-day in the year, with two exceptions -- during the Yellow Fever epidemic and on May 3, 1901.

The Metropolis was renamed the Jacksonville Journal in 1922.

CrossFlorida Barge Canal

Oringally called the "Florida Gulf-Atlantic Ship Canal". This map shows the canal beginning in Jacksonville and ending in Port Inglis. Jacksonville Historical Society Collection.

July 10, 1937: Cross-Florida Canal appropriation rejected by City Council.

This map shows the proposed route of the canal crossing Florida from the mouth of the St. Johns River, Jacksonville, to Port Inglis on the Gulf of Mexico. The length of the canal proper was 175 miles with a width of 200 to 400 feet.

Formal beginning of excavation began near Ocala on September 19, 1935 when President Roosevelt "pushed an electric button at his Hyde Park residence in New York, setting off a heavy charge of dynamite". The (1935) plan called for a sea-level canal, making locks and their operation unnecessary.

In the early 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt used the canal work as an unemployment relief project. By 1935, the Ship Canal Authority asked FDR to make it a Works Progress Administration project, and so he set aside $5 million to begin construction under the Corps of Engineers. By late 1936, the WPA funds were exhausted and the project was abandoned due to lack of funds and possible damage to the underground water supply. On July 10, 1937, the Jacksonville City Canal rejected the appropriation of funds for the Canal.

The Cross-Florida Barge Canal would continue to be an economic and environmental issue for the next 40 years.


Jacksonville Port Authority Members: C.W. Beaufort, J. Dillon Jennedy, Bob Harris, David W. Jackson, Edwin H. Fletcher, Chariman D.A. Watts, Frank Peterson.

July 15, 1963: The Jacksonville Port Authority was created by Act of the Florida Legislature to develop, maintain and market Jacksonville's port facilities. The Port Authority held their first meeting on this day to determine how quickly they could assume control of the municipal docks and terminals. A resolution was passed at this meeting thanking "President Kennedy for his support of the Cross-Florida Barge Canal and the President's specific request for $1,000,000 of construction funds to start work on the canal during the fiscal year" of 1963.

The members of the Jacksonville Port Authority in 1963 :
* City Commissioner, J. Dillon Kennedy (Member)
* Representative from Duval County Commission, Bob Harris (Secretary)
* Vice-President of Strachan Shipping Company (Florida), President of Jacksonville SEAFARER, Inc.; President of Jacksonville Maritime Association; and Director of Central National Bank, David A. Watts (Chariman)
* President of Jackson Marine Sales, Inc.; Director of SEAFARER; former Executive Vice President of Gibbs Corporation, David W. Jackson (Treasurer)
* President of Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce and President of McCall Service, Inc., C.W. Beaufort (Member)
* President of Diversified Products, Inc., Frank Peterson (Member)
* President of Gibbs Shipyards, Inc. and Director of SEAFARER, Edwin H. Fletcher (Vice Chairman)


Kiss of Life, The Florida Times-Union [Rocco Morabito]. Click the image to watch the "Kiss of Life" Documentary.

July 17, 1967 : While on his way back from photographing a railroad strike in Northwest Jacksonville, Jacksonville Journal photographer, Rocco Morabito began to take photos of Jacksonville Electric Authority lineman working on the electric poles. When Morabito saw lineman Randall Champion hanging upside down from a pole and realized he had been electrocuted by a high voltage wire he summoned rescue and continued taking photos. Another lineman, J.D. Thompson, climbed up the pole and gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to Champion -- and that is the famous image Morabito captured.

Not only did Thompson save Champion's life, but the photo that Rocco Morabito took that day would go on to win the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News.

 579a MainStBridge1941

Main Street Bridge, 1941. Jacksonville Historical Society Collection.

July 18, 1941: The John T. Alsop Bridge, known more commonly as the Main Street Bridge opened on this day.

A more eastern location would have allowed for a naturally higher bridge, but politics got in the way. The ferry company, which operated at the foot of Main Street, wanted to realize profits from the sale of its land and successfully pushed the current site, leaving generations of vehicles waiting for boat traffic.


Arcade Theatre, 1915. Jacksonville Historical Society Collection.

July 19, 1915: One of the earliest movie theaters in Jacksonville, the Arcade Motion Picture Theatre opened on this day.

The theatre had 1,250 seats, a balcony, six ceiling fans, a ladies parlor and a special children's section, for mothers who wanted to leave their children "in the care of a maid". The building had two entrances, one through an arcade of shops that led from the Bisbee Building on Forsyth Street and one along Adams Street.

In the 1930s, original architect Roy A. Benjamin (who designed almost 200 movie theatres nationwide and countless other buildings in and around Jacksonville) renovated the facade to reflect the Art Deco style typical of movie houses of the day.

In 1960, the theatre was renamed to Center Theatre. It closed in 1983 and in 2002, "the 90-year old building partially collapsed sometime during the early morning hours" (Florida Times-Union).


City of Jacksonville

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Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville


Our Mission: The mission of the Jacksonville Historical Society is to foster and promote the appreciation of the history of Jacksonville and Northeast Florida by collecting, preserving, presenting, and interpreting that history for the benefit and education of its members, the public and future generations.

Staff: Emily Lisska, Executive Director| Taryn Rodriguez-Boette, Associate Director & Archivist| Meghan Powell, Office Manager & Event Coordinator| Sherrard Ceglia, Archives Assistant| Jeremy Graf, Archives| Robert Hughes, Facilities Manager

2016-17 JHS Board Jeff Graf, President| Pat Andrews, Vice-President| Maggie Means, Secretary| Robert Hennigar, Treasurer | Alan Bliss| Ed Booth| Jeff Bryan| Michael Fackler| Drew Haramis| Cora Hackley| Doug Milne| Harry Reagan| Robin Robinson| Anzhelika Siloyan| Lisa Sheppard| Reecy Thornton| Wayne W. Wood

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