Before and After: Downtown Jacksonville Retail

March 14, 2017

For much of the 20th century, downtown Jacksonville's Northbank was the premier urban shopping district in Florida. Here's a before and after look at spaces that were once key attractions of a forgotten retail era in the city's history.



Pruitt Tire Company


LaVilla's Pruitt Tire Company at West Adams Street and Jefferson Street on February 22, 1957. (State Archives of Florida/Fisher)


During the mid-2000s, the former tire shop was expanded and renovated into an office building.



Rosenblums


Rosenblums at the corner of Adams and Hogan Streets on September 23, 1938. Frank Rosenblum founded Rosenblum's in 1898 in downtown Jacksonville, selling pots, pans and linens from a horse and buggy. After the Great fire in 1901, Frank opened one of the first Men's clothing stores in the city at Duval and Main Streets.  In 1937, the store relocated to the intersection of Adams and Hogan Streets, becoming a luxury retailer competing directly with adjacent department stores, Furchgott's and Levy/Wolf.  (State Archives of Florida/Spottswood)


Rosenblum's would remain a downtown fixture until closing the Adams Street location in 1981 and focusing on their suburban stores.  Wachovia, the building's most recent tenant, abandoned the structure in 2004 as a part of a move to relocate 2,000 employees out of downtown.




Sterchi Brothers Furniture


The Sterchi Brothers Furniture on West Adams Street.  In 1929, at its height, Knoxville, TN-based Sterchi Brothers was the world's largest furniture store chain.  (State Archives of Florida/Spottswood)


The building at 20 West Adams Street is currently being renovated into a 60-bed dormitory for Florida State College at Jacksonville's downtown campus.




Western Union Telegraph Company


The Western Union Telegraph Company Building on Hemming Park in 1942. For many years, Joseph LaRose operated his popular shoe store in one of the building's retail storefronts.  LaRose’s designs were widely recognized and clients escalated from wealthy Jacksonville women to Jackie Kennedy, Joan Crawford, and actress Jane Mansfield, who was reportedly wearing LaRose Shoes when she died in a car crash in 1967.  Upon his success with movie stars LaRose was quoted saying, “shoes are like theater, and I try to give my customers a good show.” (State Archives of Florida)


The building opened as the UNF Downtown Center in 1978. The UNF Downtown Center offered both credit and non-credit earning courses Monday through Friday from 7 AM until 10 PM. Classes were drawn from the Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, and General Education university curriculum. Enrollment at the downtown campus  peaked at 2,247 students in 1981. The downtown campus closed in August 1987 with less than 500 students enrolled and the school struggling with rising building maintenance costs. Today, the building is occupied by Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville (MOCA Jax).





William Catlin and Son Studebaker


A night time view of William Catlin and Son Studebaker dealership at 301 Park Street in Brooklyn. (Catlin Truck Accessories)


Today, the former Catlin dealership is one of a few early 20th century buildings still standing on the east side of Park Street in Brooklyn.


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

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