The rise and fall of a streetcar suburb: Lackawanna

April 11, 2017

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




Commercial Lackawanna



During the early 20th century, McDuff Avenue and Lackawanna Avenue both developed as corridors lined with commercial uses to serve Lackawanna.  Both also happened to be a part of the streetcar network that connected the neighborhood with downtown Jacksonville.  Lackawanna Avenue is now known as Edison Street east of Mcduff Avenue. It is now known as Lenox Avenue west of McDuff Street.  Largely developed during an era before the car became popular with the working class, the neighborhood's older commercial buildings don't feature surface parking between their front doors and the street.

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The old commercial district along McDuff Avenue dates back to the early 20th century, when Lackawanna grew rapidly as a streetcar suburb for workers employed at the neighborhood's massive Seaboard Air Line Shops and Terminals.  McDuff Avenue was the western terminus of the Jacksonville Traction Company's Lackawanna Avenue (now Edison) streetcar line and main thoroughfare to the former West Jacksonville railyard.  Like the majority of urban Jacksonville's commercial districts, McDuff Avenue's popularity would decline during the mid-20th century as Jacksonville's autocentric suburbs began to grow.  McDuff's streetscape was upgraded during the late 2000s as a part of the Better Jacksonville Plan.  


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Housed in a building dating back to 1914, DJ's Record Store was started by Jerry West when he purchased 30 records in the 1960s. When one would sell, he would buy two more to replace it in his inventory. As of 2009, the store had more than 15,000 albums.


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Established in Lackawanna in 1915, Trinity Baptist Church grew from a small neighborhood church into a megachurch by the 1970s.  In 1972, Trinity moved to a 148-acre tract on Hammond Boulevard off Interstate 10 in Marietta. Two years later, it opened the Trinity Baptist College on its former 426 South McDuff Avenue location. Only allowed to admit 320 students, Trinity Baptist College was a fixture in Lackawanna until it relocated to the Marietta campus in 1998.  Today, the Lackawanna site is occupied by Christian Recovery Ministries. Christian Recovery uses the college's residential facilities, chapel and library as a facility to house women, children and its social services programs.

City Rescue Mission's Christian Recovery Institute Administrative Offices at 426 S. McDuff Avenue.  This campus is the site of the mission's LifeBuilder's program.  This program helps homeless people get off the streets and re-establish their lives through a 15-month program with classes and faith-building programs.

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The intersection of McDuff and Lenox is home to the remnants of a Pic N' Save-anchored 1940s-era shopping center.  Designed a decade after the closure of the nearby streetcar line, the retail center was designed with buildings adjacent to the street and surface parking in the rear.  Today, this style of site design has been labled "New Urbanism."  


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Pic N' Save was a Jacksonville-based chain of discount stores that was founded by Benjamin Setzer in 1955.  Setzer had previously operated a Springfield market, at Fifth and Silver Streets, that grew into a 40-unit grocery chain by the time it was acquired by Food Fair Stores in 1958.  The first store was located in Arlington's Town & Country shopping center and by 1969, the chain had expanded to 20 stores across Florida and Georgia.  Beset by family squabbles and intense competition from national retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Target Stores, and Home Depot, the 38-store chain filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in 1994.  Pic N' Save emerged from bankruptcy in March 1996 with 27 stores spread across Northeast Florida, Central Florida, and Southeast Georgia.  Nevertheless, in May 1996, the family-owned chain announced that it would shut down, putting 1,800 employees out of work.  Before its closing in 1996, McDuff Avenue's Pic N' Save was said to be the only discount store where inner city residents could purchase household goods at a reasonable price.


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Lackawanna Avenue (Edison) was the streetcar route connecting McDuff's commercial district to downtown Jacksonville.  Jacksonville's original McDuff Electronics store opened at the intersection of McDuff and Edison in 1944.  By the time McDuff's was acquired by Fort Worth-based Tandy Corporation in 1985 the chain had grown to 235 stores.  Tandy shut down the McDuff Avenue store and the entire chain in 1997, citing a competitive retail market and a lack of hot, new electronics products to drive the market.


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