The rise and fall of a streetcar suburb: Lackawanna

April 11, 2017

The rise and fall of an overlooked historic Jacksonville streetcar suburb: Lackawanna.




The southern section of Lackawanna in 1943 (left) and in 1960 (right) after the completion of Interstate 10.

However, the 1960s would also usher in the era of Lackawanna’s economic downfall.  The first domino to fall was the construction of Interstate 10 in 1960. Running parallel to Edison Avenue/Lenox Avenue (formerly Lackawanna Avenue), the expressway severed the neighborhood from Murray Hill and siphoned traffic and visibility away from its main commercial corridor.

A few years later, Lackawanna made the national news for the wrong reason in 1964, when the New York Times reported the bombing of Donald Godfrey's home by the Ku Klux Klan.  Six at the time, Godfrey was the first black student to attend the previously all white Lackawanna Elementary School.  In 1968, Jacksonville’s consolidation led to the entire neighborhood finally being within city limits.  However, by this time, Lackawanna was considered an aging inner city neighborhoods as areas  further west boomed with autocentric growth and development.

Due to mergers within the industry, the opening on Rice Yard in Waycross and massive post regulation abandonment within the industry, Lackawanna’s West Jacksonville yard  and shops ceased operations in 1985, instantly becoming the biggest and most damaging punch to the neighborhood’s economic gut.  


McDuff Avenue in 1957. (State Archives of Florida)

The 1990s didn’t get any better with the closure of Lackawanna Elementary School in 1993, Jacksonville-based discount store chain Pic N’ Save filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1994 and Trinity Baptist College relocating its campus from the neighborhood in 1998.  Beset by family squabbles and intense competition from national retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Target Stores, and Home Depot, at the time of Pic N’ Save’s 1996 closure, the McDuff Avenue store was said to be the only discount store where inner city residents could purchase household goods at a reasonable price.

Time hasn’t been kind to Lackawanna. 32 years have passed since the closure of the neighborhood’s Seaboard Air Line Shops and Terminals. Yet, the massive property remains fenced off and silent with little future redevelopment potential due to contamination.  It’s neighboring West Jacksonville Yard is primarily used for storing rock trains for Honeymoon Yard’s Conrad Yelvington terminal off Dennis Street.


Lackawanna's DJ's Record Shop

Nevertheless, Lackawanna remains a working class neighborhood with residents and businesses full of pride. While SAL is gone, CSX houses its train dispatchers and crew callers and a TRANSFLO terminal on portions of the historic West Jacksonville property.  It’s also home to a number of companies such as Reddy Ice Company, Burris Logistics and Waste Pro USA. If you search hard enough, you’ll also discover some unique long time businesses such as DJ’s Record Shop still in operation.  Established in the 1960s by Jerry “DJ” West, this McDuff Avenue record store may be the last place in town where you can find 8-tracks, turntables, cassette tapes and vinyl records.  While Lackawanna may not be seen as ritzy as nearby Riverside/Avondale or up-and-coming like its neighbor Murray Hill, it’s about as authentic as Jacksonville can get.


Lackawanna Neighborhood Photographs



Page 3: Industrial Lackawanna

Page 4: Commercial Lackawanna

Page 5: Residential Lackawanna

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com

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