The Courier December 2016Vol. II, Issue VIII ~ MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR ~ Hundreds of volunteer hours, generous sponsors and lots of history at t


The Courier


December 2016

Vol. II, Issue VIII


This image, found in the Jacksonville Historical Society Archives, is a wonderful representation of Christmas shopping in downtown Jacksonville in the late 1950’s.



Hundreds of volunteer hours, generous sponsors and lots of history at the Gingerbread Extravaganza -- only two days remain!

You have only days remaining to view the extraordinary Gingerbread House Extravaganza. I encourage you to do so. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday, December 23.

As Christmas rapidly approaches, I sit here with an undecorated home, gifts not yet purchased and behind in JHS work. But it’s difficult not to feel holiday spirit as hundreds, actually thousands, make their way through the Gingerbread House Extravaganza and the Merrill Museum House. Both are magnificently decorated for the holidays and offer exciting local history.

The event, the Jacksonville Historical Society’s only dedicated fundraiser, is also sustained through the Extravaganza’s sponsors. Our generous sponsors are listed below.

Nearly 70 gingerbread exhibits fill the society’s Old St. Andrew’s. While not tallied yet, we know more than 100 individuals participated and thousands of hours were lovingly donated to the JHS to create these confection marvels.

Volunteer hours don’t include the Junior League Sustainers Festival of Trees, also seen within the Gingerbread Extravaganza, and it doesn’t include volunteer hours from individuals who work the Extravaganza greeting tables and provide tours in the Merrill House.

School tours are part of the event in the early morning hours. As possible, the city’s 1926 firetruck arrives through the generosity of former firefighter Bobby Dopson. Ashley Charboneau-DiPaolo, from the Fire Museum, expertly leads a school group for the JHS while three part rotations provide experiences in the Merrill House and the Gingerbread Extravaganza. Teachers rave about the experience and how much their students learn while having great fun!

A thank you to all of these volunteers for the time and talent donated to the Jacksonville Historical Society. You truly make a difference.

I look forward to 2017 JHS activities and especially a great January 18, program on Florida broadcasting history—and an exciting monthly speaker series for 2017. I also look forward to seeing all of you.

Warm wishes for the holidays,

JHS GB Donor Sign.001


Board member Lisa Sheppard offers special background


Lisa Sheppard is a Senior Historic Preservation Planner with the City of Jacksonville, Florida. She has worked with the City’s Planning and Development Department for 18 years. After receiving her BA from the University of North Florida, she attended Savannah College of Art and Design for Historic Preservation post-graduate studies where she researched the issue of the continued use of historic school buildings. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.

As a historic preservation planner, she is responsible for reviewing the design of hundreds of projects, the administration of two local preservation incentives and hosting an annual preservation award ceremony. Her interest in recycling old buildings inspired her to achieve LEED, AP® accreditation. She has spoken on historic preservation issues at national, state and local events for the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions, the Florida Planning and Zoning Association, Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association and the U.S. Green Building Council.

Although not consecutively, Lisa has served as a JHS Board Member for more than a decade.

Editors note: Lisa generously sent along her mother's fruit cake cookie recipe seen below.

Christmas cookies an important part of local life

The Jacksonville Historical Society offers up a special Christmas gift his holiday. We’re including two Christmas cookie recipes, one for Christmas Fruitcake Cookies and another for Snowball Cookies. Both recipes have Jacksonville ties.

Fruit Cake Cookies

This recipe is provided by Arlene Sheppard, the mother of JHS board member Lisa Sheppard. Arlene has lived in Southside Estates since moving to Jacksonville as a child in the 1950’s. She insists that credit for this yummy recipe be given to Leo Hawkins, who was a friend and Sunday school teacher at Peace Presbyterian Church. The cookies were served to rave reviews at the JHS “Gingerbread by Candlelight” on December 14.

5 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 cups cake flour (or all purpose)
½ lb butter (2 stick softened)
4 cups nuts (chopped)
1 lb candied cherries (cut in small pieces)
1 lb candied pineapple (cut in small pieces)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
Coat cut-up-fruit with flour (additional, not part of 2 cups).
Add chopped nuts to fruit and flour mixture. (set aside)
In a separate bowl combine eggs, sugar and softened butter.
Add remaining flour to the eggs/sugar/butter mixture.
Add egg/sugar/butter/flour mixture to fruit/nut/flour mixture.
Mix well.
Drop by teaspoon on lightly greased or Pam covered cookie sheet.
Bake 15-20 minutes (till light brown on bottom)
If your oven is too hot the cookies will run, so adjust accordingly.

Snowball Cookies

Although Jacksonville has only one recorded White Christmas on record, 1989, why not celebrate all things winter, especially if not found here! This Snowball Cookies recipe is found in the Jacksonville Sesquicentennial Cooks’ Book, a book so popular it enjoyed numerous editions and reprints. The book celebrated the city’s 150th birthday. This recipe was submitted by Deborah A. Werner.

1 cup of butter or margarine
1/3 cup of powdered sugar
2 teaspoons of water
2 teaspoons of vanilla
2 cups of shifted all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Cream butter and sugar. Add water and vanilla. Blend in flour (dough will be thick) Mix well. Blend in nuts. Shape into balls about one teaspoon of dough. Place one inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 for 20 minutes. Remove from pan and cool a few minutes and roll in more confectioner’s sugar. Makes three dozen.


75 years ago: Jacksonville's response to Pearl Harbor attack


In the early days of December 1941, cool weather and a festive spirit filled the streets of Jacksonville. The Florida Times Union was packed with news and advertisements highlighting the Christmas holidays. Stories detailed holiday events and warning notices on the Post Office’s usual mail onslaught.


The Main Street Bridge (as it was initially called before renamed the John T. Alsop Bridge), shown here, under construction was completed months before the U.S. entered WWII.

Only days into the month, overshadowing the December flurry of activity, was the shocking and sobering news of the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

Within days of Pearl Harbor, Christmas parties were cancelled and American Red Cross Training classes were at full throttle throughout the city. Also, within days of December 7, Times Union carrier boys were tapped as official U.S. Defense Department agents, selling defense stamps to customers along their newspaper routes. Local Boy Scouts also mustered into action bombarding stores, gas stations, and barber and beauty shops, with ominous cards bearing the words: “Air Raid Warnings” and detailing what citizens should do in the event of an attack on the city.

Boy scouts

The local Boy Scouts were quick to collect metal for the U.S. war effort.

Ten days following the Pearl Harbor attack, Jacksonville merchants, still in the midst of their busy Yuletide sales season, agreed that store blackouts were a necessity—making it difficult for the enemy to spot the city by air or sea. And these were the days that a major hotel sat on nearly every downtown block; so, a “hotelman’s blackout committee” was appointed and they soon agreed that their neon signs must be turned off to “keep the city from being lit up like a Christmas tree.”

Red Cross volunteers at the YMHA

Soon after the U.S. entered WWII, Jacksonville women volunteered for the area Red Cross.

Jacksonville citizens had carefully watched the ravages of war in Europe and points east mindful of preparation on the home front—just in case.

In fact, as far back as June 1936, it was the War Department that issued a permit for construction of a second bridge crossing the St. Johns River at Jacksonville–vital in the event war came to our shores. Construction of a bridge at Main Street was underway by 1938, and was dedicated on July 17, 1941, by Governor Spessard Holland, only months before the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor.

nas construction

Construction at NAS Jacksonville was underway prior to Pearl Harbor.

In a great patriotic act by Jacksonville voters, a 1.1 million dollar bond issue was passed in 1939, leading to the purchase of Black Point. The citizens then presented the property as a gift to the U. S. Navy, establishing Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, the only base in the nation at that time established in such public spirited manner.

The first plane actually landed at NAS fourteen months before that fateful day of December 7. So, when Pearl Harbor was attacked, the base had actually graduated pilots at a breakneck speed for nearly a year.

On the Sunday afternoon of the Pearl Harbor attack, as crowds emerged from the row of theaters on downtown’s Forsyth Street and heard the shocking news, life suddenly changed for their city, their nation and their world. And for the next four years, Jacksonville, Florida, played a vital role in a long and gallant effort.



Photos are the most popular items in the JHS Archives and what's more fun than old Christmas photos in December?


Local photographer William Elsner captured this Depression-era image on Forsyth Street.

The most popular items in the Jacksonville Historical Society Archives are undisputedly the images. The image collection consists of thousands of photographs. Also included are thousands of glass plate negatives. These images are actively used by the media, researchers, authors, local restaurants and businesses, and individuals who enjoy showcasing the area.

Many of the images arrived at the JHS Archives in large groups, including the Merrill Family Collection, the Cohen Brothers Collection, the Leah Mary Cox Collection and the William Elsner Collection. And those names cover only a few of the image collections.

Professional photographer William Elsner’s photos of 1930’s Jacksonville are among the JHS Archives most popular. His images include active street scenes, presidential motorcades, city skylines and more. An early Elsner photograph, show here, dates to December 1929, the Christmas less than two months after the stock market crash. The scene is on Forsyth Street in front of the Florida Theatre. While the photograph is not researched in detail, it appears a Christmas party is underway for some of the city’s children. The children are likely holding large gift bags. And the shaggy Santa? We don’t know who he is. (Well, he’s Santa).

Santa in car pp

Santa Claus in Jacksonville December 1933.

It’s likely the same Santa or at least the same Santa outfit is found in a Jack Spottswood Christmas photo also located in the JHS Archives. That photo, also shown here, appears to date to 1932. Excited citizens and an official party greet Santa at the Jacksonville Train Terminal. Seen left to right: Eddie Squires, P.W. Zacharias, Frank H. Owen, Mayor John T. Alsop shaking hands with Santa, and E.P. Owen, Jr.

It’s all another reminder of Jacksonville’s past, the excitement of the holidays and the one of a kind treasures found in the society’s archival repository.

Editor’s note: Many of the JHS images are easily accessible online. The easiest way to do so is to visit our online collection.




When: Through Friday, December 23rd

Time: 11am - 5pm

Where: Old St. Andrews, headquarters of the Jacksonville Historical Society, 317 A. Philip Randolph Blvd.

DBWEvent-logo 2016

The JHS is proud to present this beloved holiday tradition for three weeks each December.

Visitors enjoy creative gingerbread houses built by chefs, bakers, architects, engineers, culinary school students, families, young people and other individuals. These tasty creations are placed on display at the Jacksonville Historical Society headquarters, historic Old St. Andrews, immediately across the street from the Veteran’s Memorial Arena.

The Gingerbread House Extravaganza showcases some of the most creative art exhibited during the year in Jacksonville. Gingerbread and confection creations from traditional houses to historic structures to fairy tale themes offer holiday magic. Hundreds of hours are required for the construction of these edible structures – amazing sights to behold!


New this year: City skyline is added to the Jacksonville holiday ornament series

The Jacksonville Historical Society’s Ornament Series now boasts a city skyline. It’s currently available at the society’s gift shop set up at the Gingerbread House Extravaganza at Old St. Andrew’s. We’ll be there from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except Sunday, through December 23.

Other ornaments in the series include the Jacksonville Train Terminal, the city’s Andrew Jackson statue, the Treaty Oak at Jessie Ball DuPont Park, a meeting of the French and Timucua, Memorial Park’s Life statue, San Marco Square and Old St. Andrew’s.

All ornaments are centered in a wreath and are priced at $22. A beautiful series to collect, let us hear ideas on ornaments to add in the future.



Towers in the Sand

January program offers a look at Florida’s broadcasting history

When: January 18
Reception: 6:30pm
Program: 7pm
Location: Old St. Andrews, 317 A. Philip Randolph Blvd.

The January program at Old St. Andrew’s features former broadcaster Donn R. Colee, Jr., author of Towers in the Sand: The History of Florida Broadcasting. Towers in the Sand is the only comprehensive history of Florida’s broadcasting industry 1922-2016. The book explores the people who brought Florida broadcast stations to life, and the events that saw Florida grow from boom to bust and back again to now, the nation’s third most populous state.

This program is presented by in partnership with the Jacksonville Historical Society, Friends of the Jacksonville Public Library, and Jacksonville Public Library.


City of Jacksonville

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Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville


Our Mission: Educate and inspire the greater Jacksonville community to value its history, by fostering understanding of how the region’s past shapes our present.

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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