June 2020 Newsletter Banner Vol VI Issue VI

      In recent weeks we at the Jacksonville Historical Society have welcomed a vigorous and rising public discourse about the past. Here and across the United States, recent events have highlighted persistent memories and new proof of injustices. We believe that whenever people grapple with their understanding and interpretation of the past, the results are generally to the good. Facilitating conversations about history is why there are such things as historical societies. Jacksonville’s is 91 years old, and we trying to get better at what we do.
      The death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers occurred far from Jacksonville. However, the emotions that resulted have touched our community, and demanded that we acknowledge our city’s painful legacies of racial injustice.
      Following decades of debate, the City of Jacksonville on June 9 removed a statue of a Confederate soldier from Hemming Park. The Mayor followed that action with the announcement that more monuments and markers will also be removed. For the record, the position of the JHS is that historic site markers are not monuments or memorials. Site markers identify the place where events of the past took place. As long as the content of their message is demonstrably correct, such markers should be protected.
      As a result of discussions with the Mayor’s Office, we will be working with the City, the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville and other stakeholders to evaluate historic site markers and monuments, and to make recommendations about them. We appreciate the opportunity to have a seat at the table during this extraordinary national conversation about the past and how history sees it.
      The past is what happened. History is how we explain the past. History is an argument woven together out of knowable facts. People look to history for evidence to support their understanding of the present world. That is why we sometimes hear history being used (or abused) in the service of the present moment. Knowing about the past, and being able to recognize strong and weak arguments about it, is every citizen’s right and as well as their duty. Recognizing connections to the past is essential to understanding the present, and our expectations of things to come. At the JHS, we welcome everyone who cares enough to participate in discussions about history.
      In our February 2020 newsletter, I reported that church buildings constructed during the 1920s during a wave of ambitious expansion are approaching centennials. The context was the plan by First Baptist Church to demolish its Sunday School building on West Church Street. The Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission (JHPC) denied First Baptist’s application for demolition, but on appeal by the Church, the City Council’s Land Use and Zoning Committee (LUZ) and City Council both voted to uphold First Baptist’s appeal against the JHPC’s decision.
      The Jacksonville Historical Society stood with those advocating adaptive re-use of the 1927 building, but public e-comments to the LUZ ran heavily in favor of the church’s appeal, which was upheld by the City Council. One of the take-aways from this episode is that urban churches are increasingly under stress for reasons similar to those cited by First Baptist – aging or obsolete infrastructure and declining attendance. Older church buildings face growing re-development pressures. Our Historic Sites Committee proposes to inventory historic church buildings to assess those eligible for landmark status, evaluate them for significance, and find ways to help their owners, as well as the City, to get out in front of situations such as First Baptist Church.
      On a brighter note (pun intended), the Jacksonville Historical Society has recently announced the formation of a task force to launch a music history museum and event venue. Please read more about it below. While seemingly ambitious at such a challenging moment, what better time, and what better way to bring Jacksonville’s people together? The response via emails to the Society and comments in social media, as well as media coverage, indicate there is a strong appetite for this project.
      Finally, the JHS continues to use caution about gathering in the COVID-19 environment. We are still responding to dozens of research queries each week, even as our staff has been working mostly remotely. JHS board and committee meetings are held via Zoom, and we limit office visitors. To that end, our June Speaker Series program was prerecorded and uploaded to our YouTube page. Please read about the details below. Our Educational Programs Committee, under the leadership of Dr. David Jamison, is working on a variety of virtual programs through the fall. We are, of course, monitoring the pandemic closely as regards the Gingerbread Extravaganza.
      Please stay healthy as we look forward to the day when we can gather again, face-to-face!

Alan Bliss


          The Jacksonville Historical Society and aficionados of music genres rooted in Northeast Florida, particularly Jacksonville, have taken on an ambitious and alluring project that is sure to draw bands and musicians to perform at a new venue in 2021.
          One part museum, one part intimate concert venue, the as-yet-unnamed venture will leverage the memories and memorabilia of people who lived through the birth of Southern rock and roll, according to Dr. Alan Bliss, the Jacksonville Historical Society’s Chief Executive Officer. “The roots of what we know today through the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers stand on the shoulders of giants in the blues and jazz genres in Jacksonville’s African American community,” he said.
          Bliss believes interest will be high and that artifacts will stream in once the project is launched. “There are people here who went to school with Ronnie Van Zant [founder of the Lynyrd Skynyrd band] or knew Gregg and Duane Allman when they lived here for a brief time in early 1969 and established the Allman Brothers Band,” he said.

Casket Factory June 2020

The Florida Casket Company building, proposed site of the music history performance venue.

          Under direction of the Jacksonville Historical Society, the 14-member task force includes Bliss and Hemann; the Rev. Canon J. Allison DeFoor, of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida; Mike Boulware and John Gordon, owners of B-Side Vintage, a music shop in Gainesville; Dr. Richard Danford, Jr., president of the Jacksonville Urban League; David Chauncey, Esq., an attorney with ADB Legal; Ennis Davis, an urban planner and founder of The Jaxson; Dennis Whittle, president of The Whittle Group and a founder of Normal>Next; Stanton Hudmon, principal at Pine Street/RPS Commercial Real Estate; Charles “Chip” Storey, a founder of Normal>Next; Randy DeFoor, Jacksonville City Councilmember, and Michael and Leigh Howton Philips, Southern Rock aficionados.
          “This is an opportunity go through the history of Blues to Jazz to Country to Rockabilly to Southern Rock that came from here and the Southern Rock-influenced sounds of the Country Rock that is popular today – to which Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers are seen as one of the foundational sounds for bands like Florida-Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Cole Swindell, Jake Owen, Brantley Gilbert, Thomas Rhett, etc., all of which are from Florida or Georgia and may be the only modern popular music with a guitar riff every once in a while,” said Chauncey, a member of the Jacksonville Historical Society’s board of directors.
          “Take Lynyrd Skynyrd, for example,” Chauncey continued. “The ‘Ballad of Curtis Loew’ is a song really about the influence of African American music, specifically the Blues, on Ronnie Van Zant. Even though Curtis Loew was not a real person, Loew was a composite of several influential African American individuals important to Van Zant, including, legendary Blues icons Robert Johnson, and Muddy Waters and family friends in Jacksonville.”
          The task force invites the public to participate in establishing the music history and performance venue by donating artifacts from music performers who came from Jacksonville or paused here for a time and who subsequently contributed to the rich history of American music that has its roots established in Jacksonville.
          “I believe we’ll see a treasure trove of items come flying out of attics, garages and other places,” said Rev. DeFoor, a member of the Jacksonville Historical Society’s board of directors and one of the originators of the idea, who draws on experience as a former board member of the Museum of Florida History, and founder of the Museum of Natural History of the Florida Keys.
          To contribute to the unnamed venture, contact the Jacksonville Historical Society at (904) 665-0064 or email info@jaxhistory.org. To make a donation to establish the museum, click below.

Kate A. Hallock
Marketing & Communications Director


Mitch Hemann

Welcome to the June Speaker Series program

          Senior Archivist Mitch Hemann takes on Jacksonville's rich musical history in this prerecorded performance found on our YouTube page.

          Earlier this month, I climbed up to the third floor of the old Florida Casket Company building to record a handful of songs. The temperature hovered around 100 degrees, it was extremely humid, and a torrential rainstorm began to fall loudly on the roof above me before I could finish. Was I crazy? Probably. But I also did it to properly kick off our campaign to open a long-overdue museum dedicated to the region’s impressive musical heritage. The video also features an abridged version of a presentation about the Allman Brothers Band and the now infamous Jacksonville Jam, which solidifies Jacksonville Florida as the birthplace of Southern Rock.
          The Allman Brothers is just one part of a tangled web of musical roots deeply embedded in the fertile soil beneath our feet. This history stretches back for generations. The very foundation of American Music was laid right here in our own backyards.
          African in origin, these musical traditions were first brought here by enslaved people who took great risks to keep their culture and traditions alive. Those traditions continue today among their descendants. The Gullah Geechee can still be found in low country and coastal sea island communities that stretch from North Carolina all the way to Jacksonville and beyond. Ring shouts, spirituals and work songs are where the origins of this music can be found.
          By the turn of the century, our own LaVilla was a thriving entertainment district that rivalled the likes of New Orleans and Atlanta, but there was a great divide in Jacksonville. Because of segregation, large populations never heard this music and considered it taboo. This notion of segregated music continued for decades until the birth of Rock & Roll in the 1950s and the eventual blues revival born out of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
          This was the cultural climate that Duane Allman and his younger brother Gregg found themselves in while growing up in Daytona. A time when you could catch hours of R&B and soul music being broadcast far and wide by stations like WLAC out of Nashville, TN. A time when the Rolling Stones were booked to appear on the popular television show Shindig!, but wouldn’t perform unless blues legend Howlin’ Wolf was allowed to perform as well. These were monumental and historic times in music. A time when an artform was being forged that transcended color. The music the Allman Brothers Band created was an amalgamation of the best that blues, soul, country and even jazz had to offer.
          There is no shortage of music history in the area, but Jacksonville's contributions are seldom acknowledged on the national stage. We intend to remedy that with a museum that provides an all-inclusive experience and promotes community collaboration. There’s plenty of room in the spotlight for everyone, and we need your support to make it a success. We look forward to connecting with anyone who has an interest in being a part of this exciting project.

Mitch Hemann
Senior Archivist

          The Jacksonville Historical Society Speaker Series is sponsored by Retina Associates, Fred H. Lambrou, Jr., M.D.


          The Florida Humanities Council presents a series of lectures in July worth a look: The Vice of Miami, Jim Crow, and More Exciting Topics for Florida Talks: At Home!
          Upcoming programs include:

Mosquito Menace

Waging War on the Mosquito Menace

How Florida overcame the challenge of mosquitos, perhaps the most vexing struggle humans encountered in the past two centuries.
July 1 @ 6:00 pm (EDT)
Learn more and register

Miami Vice

The Vice of Miami during the '80s

No longer the peaceful old-age spa, Miami in the early ‘80s had the highest murder rate in the country and was the center of drug cartels populated by immigrants from Latin America’s lowest strata.
July 8 @ 6:00 pm (EDT)
Learn more and register

Florida on Fire

Florida On Fire: The Fire in the Sky

The Great Jacksonville Fire of 1901 was the nation’s third-largest urban fire in history. Ocala, Deland, St. Augustine, Key West, and other well-known cities all were devastated by urban fires in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
July 15 @ 6:00 pm (EDT)
Learn more and register

Strangers in Strange Land

Strangers in a Strange Land

The virtual lecture explores Florida’s art history and rich visual mythology.
July 22 @ 6:00 pm (EDT)
Learn more and register

Jim Crow in Florida

Jim Crow in Florida

The Jim Crow era did more to create anti-black beliefs and feelings than slavery. Stereotypes created during the Jim Crow era are deeply embedded in the collective American consciousness and unfortunately have been internalized by many.
July 29 @ 6:00 pm (EDT)
Learn more and register

GBX 2020 Website Feature Image 2

          Who's ready for gingerbread? We're calling upon all past and future gingerbread creators to let us know if you would participate in Gingerbread Extravaganza 2020.
          Would you participate if it were deemed safe to hold the annual event at Old St. Andrew's Church as long as social distancing and other health protocols were put in place?
          If life safety is still a concern in December, would you be willing to participate virtually by bringing a creation to the church for a video?
          Please let us know via survey below as soon as possible so that we might better plan for our signature fundraising event. If you have already participated in the survey, please do not take it again. Thank you!


Kristanna B. Barnes

          At its May Board of Directors meeting, the Jacksonville Historical Society unanimously voted to extend an invitation to Kristanna Barnes to join the Board of Directors.
          Barnes -- the daughter of the noted late Jacksonville architect Robert Broward and the late Marjorie Broward -- is co-owner, along with her son Hampton, of Wick: A Candle Bar, a DIY candle shop in San Marco. Her passion for Jacksonville has been passed down through generations of the Broward family who have called Jacksonville home since 1764.
          “Both of my parents instilled in me a sense of duty to ensure that Jacksonville both preserves its history while at the same time learns from the past to create a better city and society for future generations,” said Barnes, a seventh generation Jacksonville native who has spent her career advocating for the betterment of the Jacksonville community through her involvement in education, healthcare, and property development/rehabilitation efforts.
          Long an advocate for public education, Barnes has served since 1991 on a wide variety of boards and associations, including the Duval County School Board (2000-2008), the Florida School Boards Association (2002-2007), several Parent Teachers Associations (1991-2002), and The Board Institute for School Boards (2003-2008), among others. She has also served on the boards of the Jacksonville Symphony, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, the Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership, and the Alliance for World Class Education.
          Barnes was also a member of the Jacksonville Community Council, Inc. (JCCI), the Children's Commission, and the Duval County Joint Planning Committee. Additionally, she was a member of the Duval County Construction Trades Qualifying Board, is a member of the City of Jacksonville's Value Adjustment Board, and is currently engaged in property development and rehabilitation.

Imani Phillips

          With great sadness, the staff at the Jacksonville Historical Society bids Office/Archives Assistant Imani Phillips goodbye as she leaves next month for an internship with the Amelia Island Museum of History.
          Imani joined JHS four years ago as an intern while studying for her bachelor's degree in history at the University of North Florida. After finishing her internship, she joined the staff under former Executive Director Emily Lisska. Now Imani has finished her studies for a master's in history at UNF and hopes to find full-time employment soon. To learn more about Imani, read her story here.
          Good luck, Imani! We wish you all the best and the most success!


          With the recent Mayoral Mandate regarding the wearing of masks and observation of social distancing, the Jacksonville Historical Society’s facilities, including the archives and research library, will remain closed to the public until further notice. As soon as normal operations resume, research appointments can be scheduled.
          In the meantime, the JHS staff remains available and committed to serve the Jacksonville community by telephone and email. As some tasks are being performed remotely, requests for assistance will be answered as soon as possible. Contact our office by phone at (904) 665-0064, or email info@jaxhistory.org. For archives and research assistance, contact archives@jaxhistory.org. For any additional questions or concerns, contact Executive Director Alan Bliss directly at alan.bliss@jaxhistory.org.
          For the latest news of historical interest, please visit www.jaxhistory.org and follow news of the Jacksonville Historical Society through our social media channels. Thank you for continuing to support the work and educational resources of the JHS!

Our Mission

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

JHS is thankful for the many organizations that support us in our mission!

Logo collage rev June 2020


Alan Bliss, Ph.D. , Chief Executive Officer | Mitch Hemann, Senior Archivist | Kate A. Hallock, Marketing & Communications Director | Silvia Romero, Office Administrator | Sherrard Ceglia and Susan Williams, Archives Assistants | David Woodard, Facilities Manager

2020 JHS Board

Frederick H. Kent III, Esq., Chair | David Chauncey, Esq., Chair-Elect | Jeffrey K. Graf, Treasurer | Charisse Thornton, Secretary | Michael Fackler, Esq., Immediate Past-President | Pat Andrews | David Auchter | Kristanna B. Barnes | J. F. Bryan, IV | Rev. Canon Dr. J. Allison DeFoor | Hon. Gary Flower | Drew Haramis | David J. Jamison, Ph.D. | Larry Kanter, M.D. | Maggie Means

Historian At Large

Wayne W. Wood, O.D., Honorary AIA


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