The Courier March 2016Vol. II, Issue I ~ MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR ~ Rescheduling required: New April program date is April 26 Program scheduling


The Courier


March 2016

Vol. II, Issue I




Left to right: Taryn Rodriguez-Boette, Meghan Powell and Emily Lisska.

Rescheduling required: New April program date is April 26

Program scheduling is typically among the most daunting tasks at the Jacksonville Historical Society. Available dates for programs are scarcer each year. The upcoming month of April is an example. The April 13 program on William Pope DuVal must be rescheduled. Instead, we’ll present an April 26 program on the history of Jacksonville’s railroads.

A competing event, across the street at the Veteran’s Memorial Arena, headlining the popular rock group Pearl Jam is the immediate issue. We’re keenly aware of difficulties caused by crowds and limited parking. Another issue, area events, particularly concerts, are announced on short notice. We juggle the few dates that remain when there is an absence of football, baseball, or a soccer game, not to mention, an event at the fairgrounds or the closure of streets.

New ideas are surfacing to deal with scheduling, including exhibit openings—several openings were held in the past year—and the addition of daytime programs. In a trial run “of sorts” this month, the JHS featured one of our graduate student interns, Danielle Kendrick, in a lunchtime presentation that highlighted Women’s History Month and focused on Kathryn Abbey Hanna. Thirty people, all regular volunteers, attended the St. Luke’s located event. Agreement seemed unanimous that daytime programs should be added to the schedule. We’ll continuing nighttime programs with the inevitable rescheduling, but also work toward establishing a daytime program series offered to all.

In the meantime, I look forward to seeing you on Tuesday, April 26, at the next program, Jacksonville: Rail Gateway to Florida. Retired CSX Vice-President of Engineering, Tom Schmidt, will present on Jacksonville’s railroad history.

To celebrate women in North Florida history, this newsletter highlights the accomplishments of Ruth Law, aviatress, and Viola Muse, whose collection at the society provides a capsule of Jacksonville 1930s African-American life.

And as Women’s History Month comes to a close, I celebrate the wonderful women I have the opportunity to work with everyday, Associate Director and Archivist Taryn Rodriguez-Boette and Office Administrator Meghan Powell. They finally pacified me with the photo above.




Florida’s first female pilot gave “hops” for people daring enough to go up!

More than a century ago, Ruth Law made area history when she became the first woman to fly a plane in Florida skies. The aviatress again made history when she set the nation’s flight distance record—for a man or a woman. She was also among the first licensed female pilots in the nation and eventually among the most fearless and best known.

In 1912, at age 24, Law purchased her first plane from Orville Wright. Then she made her way north of Daytona Beach to the Hotel Clarendon in Seabreeze where Law gave daily exhibitions and provided “hops” for individuals daring enough to go up. Often her flights took her to Jacksonville’s Pablo Beach, later known as Jacksonville Beach.

When Jacksonville’s Metropolis newspaper of Jan. 3, 1913, announced a scheduled race from Pablo Beach to Seabreeze between Law and noted race car driver John Smith, Lubin Studios, part of Jacksonville’s fast developing silent film industry, decided... [Read more...]




As you can see above, Viola Muse would take notes on anything, including "scraps" of paper. Jacksonville Historical Society Collection.

Documenting the African American Community:

Viola B. Muse and the Federal Writers Project in Jacksonville

The Federal Writers Project (FWP), a division of the Work Projects Administration (WPA), provided employment to many of the people working in cultural fields that found themselves unemployed during the Great Depression (1929-1939). The FWP (1935-1941) embarked on the creation of the “American Guide Series”, a series of guidebooks for each state that included customs and folklore.

Dr. Carita Doggett Corse (1891-1978) was the state director of the FWP in Florida. She was a Jacksonville native with an incredible zest for documenting the lives of all the citizens in the state. The FWP was based out of Jacksonville; their “Negro Unit” was located at the Clara White Mission run Eartha M.M. White on Ashley St. Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) was in charge of that unit, although she mostly worked out of her home in Eatonville. Viola B. Muse worked as one of the African American fieldworker for the FWP between 1936 and 1937.

The responsibility of the fieldworkers was to interview and document the common folk, and the "old-timers”. These fieldworkers were able to collect an enormous amount of firsthand information, about the lives and lore of the people. Among the categories sought after were customs concerning birth, courtship, marriage, and death; songs; religious practices; community festivals; art; literature and publications.

Through her interviews and writings Viola B. Muse gives us a capsule of what life was in Jacksonville’s best known African American neighborhood in the mid-1930s. Often referred to as the Harlem of the South, Lavilla was Jacksonville’s first suburb. It was annexed by the City in 1887 and, during its height it was considered "a mecca for African American culture and heritage" in Florida.

Viola Muse was born in Alabama in 1898 and according to the 1940 census ... [Read more...]



1938 waterfront 8x10 picmonkey

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

Missing Downtown

When: Spring 2016
Where: Old St. Luke's, JHS Archives

The Historical Society Archive is gearing up for another splendid exhibit of our collection! The exhibit will open in the spring. Please stay tuned for more information!




Swerving and curving tracks led to the majestic Jacksonville Terminal. Notice the train bridge to the right. Jacksonville Historical Society Collection.


Rail Gateway to Florida

Tom Schmidt presents on Tuesday, April 26th at Old St. Andrew's, 317 A. Philip Randolph Blvd.

The 2015-16 JHS program series is generously sponsored by Retina Associates, P.A., Dr. Fred H. Lambrou, Jr.


The Impact of 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, to discuss the impact of Jacksonville's Jewish history.



CIT 0016

City Hall, early 1900s.

March 3, 1903: New City Hall opened on Forsyth and Ocean Streets. Prolific local architect, Henry John Klutho, won design competitions for this commission.


The Moorish-designed Dixieland Park opened in 1907 as a center of amusements on the South Jacksonville riverfront. Jacksonville Historical Society, Leah Mary Cox Collection.

March 9, 1907: Dixieland Park opened in South Jacksonville. It was Jacksonville's version of a fantasy land, a Shangri-La for pleasure seekers. The park had wide boardwalks flanked by a roller coaster, giant slide, shops, skating rink, dance hall and resturants, among its many attractions. The Park was lit at night by thousands of electric lights, which made Dixieland even more magical than it was by daylight. Even a giant oak, now known as Treaty Oak, was illuminated by electric lights! Though originally well-attended, the novelty wore off after fires in 1909 and 1910, the park eventually closed.

 1206 BaySt1875

A dirt paved Bay Street, c. 1875. Jacksonville Historical Society Collection.

March 18, 1886: Although the first paving project in Jacksonville was in the 1850s, the paving of Bay Street by way of laying cyprus "blocks" began on March 18, 1886. Jacksonville citizens were divided as to the kind of paving to use and as blocks were laid, comments ranged from "the pavement wasn't worth a d--n" or "that it would rot out in two years and cause all kinds of sickness". Nevertheless, the paving was completed the first week of June 1886. Unfortunately, the "blocks" bobbed up and down in the mud after heavy rain and made walking, for humans and horses alike, very difficult -- "the surfaces became uneven and rough and hollowed in the center... and were uncomfortable to ride over and impossible to keep clean."

In 1893, an ordinance passed the City Council for the brick paving of Bay Street. The work of removing the wooden blocks started in June 1893 and the first brick was laid June 30, 1893. Bay Street was finished and opened, from Broad (then called Bridge) Street to Market Street, on June 1, 1894, known as "the finest paved street in Florida" at that time. This was considered the first brick paving in Jacksonville.


FDR toured NAS Jax in March 1941, stating he found the station "perfectly fine". The Florida Times-Union.

March 20, 1941: President Franklin D. Roosevelt toured the $25 million Naval Air Station Jacksonville on this day. According to the Florida Times-Union, "there was no equivocation in the clear ring of his voice...when he stated that he found the station perfectly fine". Captain Charles P. Mason, the base commanding officer, accompanied the Commander-in-Chief.


March 25, 1922: The Garden Club of Jacksonville was founded on this day and organized by Mrs. Ninah Cummer with twenty members. The declared purpose of this organization was to encourage interest in gardens, their design and management; to cooperate in preserving wild flowers and native plants and trees and to promote civic planting in general.

Today, the club continues to be a self supporting, non-profit organization dedicated to education, beautification, and conservation citywide with projects such as the gardens at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens, and Tree Hill.

Ft Caroline Ceremony 169a

1958 Dedication at the Fort Caroline National Memorial. Jacksonville HIstorical Society Collection.

March 30, 1958: The Ribault Monument was relocated to Ft. Caroline National Memorial on Monument Road and the road named in honor of the monument’s placement. The relocated monument was a replica of the 1562 French monument dedicated at Mayport on May 1, 1924 by the Daughters of the American Revolution, Jacksonville Chapter.


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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