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Jacksonville History Matters: NEWS & EVENTS

casket factory and old st lukes

The Casket Company Building and Old St. Luke's Hospital

The month of August brings terrific news about renovations to the Jacksonville Historical Society’s Florida Casket Company building, often called the “casket factory.” Through the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, the JHS has accepted a challenge grant from the Dolores Barr Weaver Fund. Mrs. Weaver’s grant of $50,000 is in honor of Emily R. Lisska, who retired in 2018 after 21 years as Executive Director of the Jacksonville Historical Society. Emily remains engaged with the mission of the Society, and with preserving Jacksonville’s and Florida’s history. Gifts to the Historical Society in support of this campaign will be matched dollar for dollar by Mrs. Weaver’s grant, up to $50,000. We are delighted to honor Emily’s legacy in this manner!

For more than twenty years, Dolores Weaver has generously supported the Jacksonville Historical Society. Her 1998 major gift to the capital campaign to restore the historic Old St. Andrew’s Church was instrumental to the success of that million-dollar campaign. Since then she has been a good friend to the JHS, and her Forever Fund, established in 2015, helps sustain the annual Gingerbread Extravaganza, hosted by the JHS each December at Old St. Andrew’s.

Thanks to the generous support of the Haskell Company, a feasibility report and budget are in hand. In order to demolish the interior of the second floor, repair ground-floor joists, make the building safe for occupancy, and to air condition as well as build-out and activate the second floor as an up-to-date archiving facility, we plan to raise $300K. For more information about the project or the fundraising campaign, please contact JHS Executive Director Alan Bliss, at 904-665-0064, or

To donate, make your check payable to the Jacksonville Historical Society and mark it “Casket Building Matching Gift,” or click on the Donate link below. Your gift to this campaign will honor Emily Lisska while helping raise the first $100,000 needed to reactivate the casket factory building.

This three-story brick structure, ca. 1920, is part of our historic campus at 314 Palmetto Street. Since its acquisition by the JHS in 2012, the building has been mostly unusable, owing to lack of air conditioning and life-safety infrastructure. We badly need space to expand and modernize our archiving processes, and to preserve sensitive photos, manuscripts, books and other material. With the growth of our collection, especially following the major gift of the photos of the Florida Times-Union, this long-awaited project can be deferred no longer.

Before renovations begin, heavy official records books and industrial steel shelving must be removed from a ground-floor section of the Casket building and temporarily stored elsewhere. Jacksonville’s Crowley Maritime has stepped up by providing a forty five-foot shipping container for this purpose. Thanks to the people at Crowley, and to Captain Scott O’Connor for facilitating this help!

Alan Bliss
Executive Director

Casket Factory duo

1) North Side of the Casket Factory on Duval Street. 2) Third Floor, Casket Factory Building. Credit: Wayne Wood

The Casket Factory Building is located in the neighborhood of East Jacksonville. Annexed by the City of Jacksonville in 1887, East Jacksonville is sandwiched between Downtown and the Sports and Entertainment District.

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Like many, the JHS staff spent most of Friday preparing our facilities and archives for the possibility of another Labor Day hurricane. Because most of our sensitive materials are housed inside Old St. Luke’s Hospital, heavy winds and rain can threaten the integrity of the old structure, especially near the large windows. For collections that cannot easily be moved, we use plastic sheeting to protect documents and books. This is just one more reason why we are anxious to relocate our archives to more secure space in the Casket building.

Thursday, September 5th, J. F. Bryan IV, will recount the exponential growth of the insurance industry in Jacksonville during the twentieth century, the conditions that fostered this growth and the impact it had on Jacksonville. Known as “The Hartford of the South”, our city became home to more than a dozen insurance companies, offering life, property and casualty, and title insurance. Among the first was the Afro-American Life Insurance Company, chartered here in Jacksonville on March 1, 1901 – two months before the Great Fire. From that beginning, the insurance industry came to be one of the dominant factors in Jacksonville’s economy and civic life. As former President of Independent Life Insurance Company, Mr. Bryan will lead us through an intriguing and exciting time in Jacksonville's history.

JHS Members receive free admission to this event. A suggested donation of $10 is recommended for non-members. Parking is available in the lot behind Old St. Andrews.

Please indicate your attendance at the Reservation link below.



Express your creative talents, architectural skills and engineering prowess in this edible building event! The Gingerbread Extravaganza is one of the most creative art and holiday events to occur in Jacksonville each year. Amateurs and professional present edible creations of all sorts from Harry Potter, to Sci Fi, to beach scenes to local historic buildings. Many builders find it to be a great team building experience. Find out how you can participate at this link, and HURRY! Space is limited.


Returning this year is the highly coveted Builders Workshop, September 14, where expert builders will share best practices and techniques for successful edible construction. This is a valuable experience if you are considering building for the 2019 Gingerbread Extravaganza. This workshop will give you the combined confidence of Martha Stewart and Sir Isaac Newton and prepare you for a joyful building experience. Mark your calendar and reserve a spot.<-


Impress your friends, clients or staff by hosting your holiday party in this magnificent 1888 deconsecrated Gothic Revival church surrounded by Gingerbread Extravaganza splendor. Our Venue Coordinators have catering resources available to provide a turnkey event for you! For more information, contact our Venue Coordinators:
Jade Stanley: 904-878-8122
Rob Jackson: 904-878-2241

Haskell lunch pics

On Tuesday, August 27th, members and guests of the Jacksonville Historical Society attended a Lunch and Learn event at Old St. Andrew’s devoted to the winning of Jacksonville’s major league football team. Guest speaker Preston Haskell was one of a group of Jacksonville citizens who worked tirelessly throughout the 1980s and early 1990s to convince the National Football League that Jacksonville could support a team. He was also a member of the original ownership group, and when the franchise was announced, it was the Haskell Company that took responsibility for preparing a major-league stadium in time for the first Jacksonville home-game kickoff. Preston’s story covered years of soaring hopes, maddening frustrations and near heartbreaking disappointments. Everyone knows that the story ended with the announcement that Jacksonville would become a major-league football city, but still, our audience of eighty-plus was spellbound by Preston’s rich narrative of people and personalities.

Speaking of Haskell, that company’s community partnerships are widely known in Jacksonville, and the JHS is grateful to be among them. From the renovation of Old St. Andrew’s church to the annual Gingerbread Extravaganza to the planned renovation of the Florida Casket Co. building, Haskell has been with us!

Alan Bliss
Executive Director

JHS August pic collage
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So many drawers!

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Long before the Landing, 1968

The Jacksonville Historical Society is grateful for the donation of fifty years of aerial photographs, as well as nine cabinets of map drawers, from the Jacksonville firm Aerostar SES. The images offer a historical bird's eye view of changes that have unfolded across Duval County since consolidation, making a fascinating addition to our collection of historic maps and images. The map cabinets will be put into service as the JHS archives expand into the Florida Casket building. Thank you Aerostar SES for generously helping the JHS to preserve and share Jacksonville’s many stories!


Confrontation in Chicago

This year is the centennial of the “Red Summer” of 1919, a term coined by Jacksonville’s own James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938), at that time field secretary for the NAACP. Johnson was describing the wave of violence that swept the nation that year. Upon returning from the Great War, white military veterans found many jobs previously available to them had been taken by blacks, immigrants and women. Black veterans, having risked their lives in combat in the cause of democracy, were frustrated to find injustice at home. Mutual resentments bred fresh racial tensions, and between April and November of 1919, twenty-five racially motivated riots took place across the U.S. – not only in the South, but in places such as Pennsylvania,Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Oklahoma, and California. Dozens of African-Americans were lynched by white mobs, including at least thirteen veterans.

On August 20, 1919 in Jacksonville, two black men were arrested for the murder of George DuBose, a white insurance manager. DuBose had tried to hail a cab in an African-American neighborhood, and had been refused service by two drivers. Due to recent incidents in which two black cab drivers had been murdered in white neighborhoods, black cab drivers protested by declining to transport white passengers. DuBose became agitated and the altercation became violent. As others come to the drivers’ aid, DuBose drew a gun and fired into the crowd, which threw rocks and other objects at Du Bose. By the time the police arrived, the crowd was gone and Du Bose was dead. Two suspects were arrested and charged with his murder, Bowman Cook and John Morine, both war veterans.

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Atlanta Constitution, (Sept. 8th, 1919)

A few weeks later, police arrested a black man, Ed Jones, for allegedly molesting a thirteen year-old white girl. Anticipating efforts to lynch Jones, the Duval County sheriff transported him to a jail near St. Augustine for his safety. As the sheriff had feared, on September 8, 1919 a mob arrived at the jail, and overpowered the only guard on duty. Later, the guard claimed that he was unable to identify any members of the mob because they wore masks. Upon learning that Jones had been moved to St. Augustine, the mob seized Cook and Morine instead. The two were taken north along Main Street to the vicinity of Evergreen Cemetery, where they were shot dead. Their bodies were then dragged behind cars through the city streets. Cook's body was left in front of the Windsor Hotel on North Hogan Street, across from Hemming Park.


Entrance to Evergreen Cemetery, where Cook and Morine were shot dead

Such incidents took place across the South and beyond, aimed at intimidating local African-American communities. A century later, Americans of all races are troubled to acknowledge these threads in our national history. Without acknowledgement, however, there can be no reconciliation. That is the impetus for the Museum of Science and History’s latest exhibition, “The Legacy of Lynching, Confronting Racial Terror in America,” developed by the MOSH in collaboration with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and the Brooklyn Museum. Within the first three months of opening last year, the EJI’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice, in Montgomery, Alabama drew more than 100,000 visitors. Inspired by such success, Jacksonville’s Community Remembrance Program (JCRP) has met regularly over the past year, considering how best to represent the local legacy of lynching. Our friends at the MOSH deserve appreciation for addressing this difficult topic, thus helping to preserve and share Jacksonville’s chapter of a challenging story. Their powerful exhibit is on display through December 8. The Jacksonville Historical Society is honored to support this exhibit with images and information from our collection.

Jacksonville is a city with many stories, this is sadly among them.

Alan Bliss
Executive Director

Mitchell Hemann
Head Archivist


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.

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Thank you for your support!



Alan Bliss, Ph.D. , Executive Director | Mitch Hemann, Archivist | Susan Prattos, Administrator | Imani Phillips, Archives & Office Assistant | Sherrard Ceglia, Archives Assistant | Anna Verney, Archives Assistant | David Woodard, Facilities Manager

2018-19 JHS Board

Michael Fackler, Esq., President | Frederick H. Kent III, Esq., Vice-President | Jeffrey K. Graf, Treasurer | Charisse Thornton, Secretary | Pat Andrews, Immediate Past-President | J. F. Bryan IV | Ed Booth, Esq. | David Chauncey, Esq. | Drew Haramis | Hon. Gary Flower | Larry Kanter, M.D. | Doug Milne, Esq. | Maggie Means | Harry Reagan | Skip Willbach | Wayne Wood, O.D. Hon. AIA


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