The Courier May 2016Vol. II, Issue II ~ MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR ~ 115 Years after the Great Fire, pre-fire buildings and post-fire masterpieces


The Courier


May 2016

Vol. II, Issue II




115 Years after the Great Fire, pre-fire buildings and post-fire masterpieces are still threatened

May 3, is arguably the most important day in city history. It's the anniversary of Jacksonville's Great Fire of 1901. This year, Jacksonville marks 115 years since the conflagration wiped out 2,368 homes and buildings in eight hours. The fire began in the LaVilla area and rapidly spread east destroying most of the city's downtown.

The rebuilding effort was monumental. Within two years more structures dotted the city than before the fire. By the end of the decade, a magnificent business district showcased some of the state’s tallest buildings.

In the later 20th century, many of the grand post-fire buildings were demolished when it seemed their usefulness had died, but the city also celebrated “great saves” of local structures nearly lost; prime examples are the Jacksonville (train) Terminal and the St. James Building (Cohen Brothers), now City Hall.

Yet, today, significant post-fire buildings—and even pre-fire buildings that barely missed the fire’s wrath—are at risk, and some buildings are so compromised they seem beyond the point of return. On West Ashley Street are remnants of the 1895 Genovar's Hall with a few oddly propped up walls---a reminder of historic preservation gone wrong. The 1885 Brewster Hospital on Monroe Street was restored, yet sits empty, a terrible fate for an historic property since deterioration is typically most rapid in empty structures.

Downtown historic buildings have been demolished for promised construction that never materialized. A sad example is the loss of the 1902 Christopher Building on Bay Street. Its demolition was advocated many government administrations in the past. And what's in its place now? It's a half finished condominium complex, blighting the Jacksonville skyline.

The history community is desperately worried about the fate of three early 20th century buildings flanking Laura and Forsyth streets--the Bisbee Building, the Marble Bank and the Florida Life Building. Nearly 15 years ago, the JHS presented a program, The Most Important Corner in the Southeast, to highlight the importance of these structures. Now, added to that list is a neighbor, the 1926 Barnett Bank Building. Here we are years later, after many hopeful announcements about restoration and redevelopment of this corner, and we still have no solution, but the story gets worse.

Last week, JHS President Ed Booth discovered a group of teenagers skateboarding on the rooftop of the Bisbee Building. He viewed the shocking scene from his law office perched high in the sky. Now, we have an active destruction problem, a breaking and entering charge and even more serious and horrifying, a major safety concern. There is even talk that the Henry Klutho-designed building is so compromised it needs to come down. Such a loss would constitute a preservation tragedy.

In an ideal world, we would find a way to restore our most significant downtown historic properties. These special buildings when used and maintained would serve as a unique and magnificent backdrop for a vibrant downtown.



Kathryn Abbey Hanna

Dr. Hanna, Mrs. Kathryn Abbey Hanna and Governor Caldwell on March 20, 1948. Photo credit: State Archives of Florida.

Kathryn Abbey Hanna: Florida’s Forgotten Environmental Historian

by Danielle Kendrick

Editor's Note: Danielle Kendrick is a former JHS intern pursuing a master's degree in history at University of North Florida. Her article gives us a glimpse at Kathryn Abbey Hanna as "Florida's Forgotten Environmentalist."

Dr. Kathryn Abbey Hanna is the namesake of a Jacksonville city park, yet many people who visit the park do not realize it is named after a Florida historian. Over the course of her forty-year career, Dr. Hanna created and assigned cultural and social value to nature through her historical scholarship, her work as a public figure, and as a member of the Florida Parks Board. A study of her career demonstrates that her ideas about the environment were ahead of their time. Moreover, that the contributions of female scholars to the betterment of society, are often overlooked.

Through her historical scholarship, Dr. Hanna articulated a progressive view of the environment, one that encouraged the preservation and conservation of Florida’s landscapes and natural resources. Scholars argue that environmental sentiments emerged when ecology entered the vernacular. However, Dr. Hanna’s work conveyed an understanding of ecological concepts as early as 1941. In other words, she understood the relationship... [Read more...]


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Large group of volunteers, including the Tuesday Ladies. More images of volunteers to come!

"The Tuesday Ladies"

When Linda Householder left Northeast Florida many years ago, she would have never thought that fate would bring her back to the area. But it did and along with Linda Gail Fogg and Mary Anne Kapke, she volunteers every Tuesday morning at the society’s archives. "The Linda's", as we used to call them, until we realized that Mary Anne was not a Linda and we changed their name to the "Tuesday Ladies", have been active as archives and “everything else that needs to be done” volunteers since October 2014. They all live in Ponte Vedra and they take turns driving into town. They had formerly volunteered at the Beaches Museum but decided to follow Taryn Rodriguez-Boette, Associate Director and Archivist, when she started working at the society.

Linda Gail was born and raised at the beach. She taught in the Duval County Schools Special Programs for 41 years. She loves archaeology, fishing, boating, collecting fossils, and adventures. She also documents everything we do at the archive. If you ever want to know what really happens at the archives on any regular week day, befriend Linda Gail on Facebook and follow her (and our) adventures. In her own words, "I have a love for Florida history and a passion for studying its indigenous people. I enjoy working with local archaeologists...digging, sifting and sorting artifacts. I enjoy people, learning new things and working with the JHS staff, who are the best! “

Mary Anne describes herself as a “Jacksonville native who was born in Savannah.” Her mother was a Georgia native and went home to have her babies, but returned to Jacksonville to raise them. Mary Anne attended Venetia School, St. Paul’s Riverside, St. Matthew’s grade school, and Bishop Kenny High School. She has lived on both sides of the river--Venetia and Empire Point. She finally made the move to the beach in 1980, where she worked as a dental hygienist for many years. Mary Anne likes the archives, but loves the artifacts. She is the point person when setting up an exhibit!

Linda Householder lived as a child in St. Augustine. Her father was a professional baseball player and since he traveled a lot, the family moved to St. Augustine where her grandparents, aunts and uncles resided. Her family, the Godwin's, lived in Dupont Center, St. Augustine (property from a Spanish Land Grant given to an old St. Augustine family, Cornelius D. and Lenora Carter DuPont) for many years. When Linda’s father quit the baseball league, they moved “up north” and, she moved many more times with her husband Bill who was in the Navy. A few years ago they returned “home” to St. Johns County and since then Linda has become active in the community and in researching history.

Come and visit the Tuesday ladies and learn more about the Jacksonville Historical Society and how we preserve history every day!




Hotel Duval and Post Office, 1904.

Before Twitter, there were postcards!

Before Twitter ever existed, if you wanted to communicate very briefly and inexpensively you would send a postcard. The first mailing cards, as they were called at that time, were issued in the 1840s. The postcard format we recognize today was authorized by an Act of Congress on May 19, 1898. Postcards not only became quick ways of communication, but also items collected by enthusiasts.

The collection of postcards at the Historical Society consists of hundreds of postcards that document the area from the 1890's to the 1980's. From amusements to the zoo, the Jacksonville Historical Society postcard collection gives historical evidence of the various activities in the area.

At times, postcards are the only remaining image of Jacksonville in a particular place and time. Postcards were sent around the nation from tourists who delighted in all Jacksonville had to offer. The past can still be viewed today in these postcards--a picture or rendering of what Jacksonville looked like at a moment in time, so we may see it now.



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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.

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Historic Springfield Tour of Homes is May 21 & 22

Seven unique venues are open for the Springfield Tour of Homes, showcasing the classic architecture and character of the Springfield Historic District, with some modern surprises. Venues include:

A majestic 1909 Colonial Revival residence featured in Jacksonville’s Architectural Heritage book, noted for its superb two story, wrap around porch.
A new construction, ultra-energy efficient “green” bungalow.
A three-story 1911 Queen Anne with elaborate woodwork.
A gorgeously renovated 1914 commercial loft space.
An eclectic 1912 bungalow with grand fireplace and hen pasture.
A fresh renovation of an historic 1905 home with bold modern elements.
An updated 1920's red brick quadruplex.

The venues are within walking distance of each other, but some guests may wish to bicycle or drive.

Saturday, May 21st, from 12:00noon to 5:00 pm
Sunday, May 22nd, from 12:00noon to 5:00 pm
Click here for ticket information.




Jacksonville’s Jewish History

Join the Jacksonville Historical Society and Marcia Jo Zerivitz, Founding Executive Director of the Jewish Museum of Florida, on Tuesday, May 24th, for her presentation entitled, Jacksonville's Jewish History.

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



Hemming Park

The Prettiest Part of Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Historical Society Postcard Collection.

Jacksonville parks celebrate area history

Good urban planning includes green spaces that allow the city to “breath” and open public spaces that allow the population to congregate. By 1857 Isaiah D. Hart, the founder of Jacksonville, had already designated a space as a park or a public space. Mr. Hart's decision to designate this space as a town square was probably influenced by urban planning dating back to Medieval Europe where cities were planned around plazas.

While the City of Jacksonville owns and manages over 400 parks, below is a list of some of the historic parks in Jacksonville:

A. Phillip Randolph Heritage Park
Confederate Park
Friendship Fountain Park
Huguenot Memorial Park
Hemming Park
James P. Small Park
Jessie Ball duPont
Henry J. Klutho Park
Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park
Landon Park
“Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” Park (Watch this great video to learn more!)
Memorial Park
Riverside Park
Walter Jones Historical Park

We welcome comments on your favorite Jacksonville park. Let us hear from you at




DeSoto Sanitorium, organized in 1906 and located at 5th and Boulevard in Springfield, was understaffed, deeply in debt and most of the 42 beds were empty despite the critical need for health care in 1916. Jacksonville Historical Society Collection.

May 1, 1916: St. Vincent's Hospital is founded by the Daughters of Charity in Maryland.

Sisters Rose Hopkins, Dorothy Hartlove and Andrea Willemor were sent to Jacksonville on April 25, to help the overwhelmed 42-bed DeSoto Sanatorium, located at 5th and Boulevard. In less than a week, on May 1, the sisters took over operation of the sanatorium and changed its name to Feast of St. Vincent's Hospital (on July 19, the name was changed to St. Vincent's Hospital).

By 1925, the hospital announced plans for a 200-bed facility that would cost a million dollars. The citizens of Jacksonville were asked to pledge $250,000 towards the construction on a site known as the "King property" on the waterfront in a Riverside residential neighborhood. The cornerstone was laid by Rt. Rev. Patrick Barry, Bishop of St. Augustine, on May 12, 1927, and in less than a year, St. Vincent's opened as the largest hospital in Jacksonville.

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Great Fire map of city-blocks destroyed.

May 3, 1901: On this day, Jacksonville, the largest and most important city in Florida, burned with a fury. The conflagration wiped out 146 city blocks, and every public building, except the U.S. Post Office. The eight hour fire destroyed 2,368 buildings and homes. Black smoke clouds from the fire were seen in North Carolina. A glow in the sky could be seen in Savannah; a “second sun” was reported in the northern sky from the little berg of Miami. An estimated 15,000 of Jacksonville’s 28,000 citizens were in the fire path that day.

The fire began at the Cleaveland Fibre Factory at Davis and State streets where fibers, and particularly Spanish moss, were cured for mattress stuffing and other uses. At 12:20 p.m., sparks from the chimney of a nearby house landed in the factory’s 200-foot long outdoor drying rack filled with moss.

Factory workers breaking for a noonday meal tried to extinguish the blaze, but it soon got out of hand. Fueled by wind, the fire rolled into the three-story Cleaveland Fibre Factory, collapsing the structure in short order and sending thousands of burning particles into the city’s major business district.

To read more about the Great Fire of 1901, and to view more images of the fire's destruction, you can purchase a copy here or visit us at Old St. Lukes.


Hammering the lid on stills seized in a stepped-up war on bootlegging in the closing years of Prohibition. The Florida-Times Union Collection.

May 14, 1918: Duval County was moved into the "Bone Dry" column by a vote of its citizens 3,136 to 2,386, more than 18 months before national prohibition!

According to T. Frederick Davis' History of Jacksonville, Florida, and Vicinity, "when Camp Johnston was given to Jacksonville in 1917, it was with the understanding that Duval County would keep liquor away from the soldiers. A great deal of complaint arose that this was not done, which resulted in agitation that developed two parties, known as "Drys" and "Wets". The "Wets" tried to prevent or delay an election by counter-petitions and injunctions. On one occasion $100,000 worth of liquor was seized by the government, prompting people to call Jacksonville a "booze oasis". ,


Laurie Yonge steps from Curtiss Robin and delivers flight recorder to Dr. Ralph N. Greene (Official NAA Timer) showing 25 hours and 10 minutes aloft. Jacksonville Historical Society Collection.

May 20, 1929: On this day, Laurie Yonge, Jacksonville's "Mr. Aviation", beat the world's light-plane endurance record by twelve hours with his twenty-five hour and 10 minute flight at Jacksonville Beach.

Yonge's plane, a 90 hp OX Curtiss Robin, was fitted with special tanks to hold 156 gallons of gasoline. He drifted over the beaches until thunderstorms drove him inland towards the Municipal Airport. The next morning he flew to Palatka and back.

It was calculated that had he flown a direct course eastward, he would have nearly reached the African coast.

The record stood until 1939, and put Jacksonville (not for the first time) and its beaches in the world aviation limelight.


City of Jacksonville

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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| Robert Hughes, Facilities Manager

2015-16 JHS Board Ed Booth, President| Jeffrey Graf, Vice-President| Maggie Means, Secretary| Jeff Bryan, Treasurer | Pat Andrews| Elizabeth Hohl Asbury| Alan Bliss| Jean Grimsley| Cora Hackley| Robert Hennigar| Zilla Hillin| Doug Milne| Christina Parrish| Harry Reagan| Robin Robinson| Lisa Sheppard| Reecy Thornton| Wayne W. Wood

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