The remains of Jax's ragtime, blues and jazz age
Modern Cities takes a look at the remains of the South's most overlooked substantial African-American entertainment district during the formative years of ragtime, blues and jazz in the early 20th century.
Built in 1909 by George and Alice Kilpatrick, the Richmond Hotel was once one of the finest hotels in the city for African-Americans during LaVilla’s blues and jazz era. Featuring 48 upper floor rooms, its famed guests included Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald and Billy Holiday. Many musicians would stand on the hotel’s balcony to woo the crowds that came to see their performances, including the Cotton Club’s Cab Calloway, who sang “Hi-De-Ho” to the ladies of Jacksonville.
Business declined following desegregation, and the Richmond closed for good in the early 1970s. Today, the hotel’s street level spaces are occupied by Delo Studios. Situated as a key destination on the Broad Street strip, the Richmond’s street level spaces were occupied by several jazz and blues era businesses and interesting historical figures as well.
In 1910, Daniel Danson owned and operated a saloon at 428 Broad Street (right storefront in above image). By 1915, T.E. Williams had taken over the saloon. However, for most of the building’s history, this space was occupied by a number of drug stores. During the 1950s, it also served as the black bus station for the Jacksonville Coach Company. In 1921, James “Charlie Edd” Craddock established the Little Blue Chip club at 426 Broad (left storefront in image above) after relocating to Jacksonville. Said to be a controversial character and recognized as a local bolita kingpin during LaVilla’s heyday, Craddock opened a bread line for the hungry during the Depression, giving him a reputation as a philanthropist on the black side of town.
“Charlie Edd” Craddock and his Uncle Charlie Edd’s store and loan office in LaVilla in 1942. (The Crisis - January 1942 Edition)
Growing out of this storefront, Craddock expanded his real estate empire to include several rental properties, the Charlie Edd Hotel, Young Men’s Smoke Chop, Uncle Charlie Edd’s Barber Shop, loan offices and pawn shops, with a total workforce of 500. He was also the co-owner of Manuel’s Tap Room on Ashley Street, a popular venue that was open 24 hours a day. However, his most well known business was the Two Spot nightclub at Moncrief Road and 45th Street. In 1942, the Two Spot was said to be “the finest dance place in the country owned by a Negro”.
Craddock’s clubs, bars and taverns were said to be protected by the local police and were hotbeds for bolita. Bolita (Spanish for Little Ball), was a type of illegal lottery gambling popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Cuba and among Florida’s working class Hispanic, Italian, and black populations. Littered with Cuban cigar companies, a crude form of bolita had arrived in LaVilla by 1911. Estimated at a total of $500 million gambled on the game annually, it may have been the city’s most profitable illegal business by the 1930s. Craddock was so successful that in 1942, he paid the federal government $35,000 in back taxes.
Inside 424 Broad Street. During the early 20th century, this space was operated as a pool hall inside of the Richmond Hotel Building.
Next door at 424 Broad, C.H. Hagan operated a billiard hall in 1910. For years, a barber named William Schenk operated a pool hall out of the same storefront and by 1960, its name was Bonner’s Pool Room. In the second half of the 20th century and up until recent years, Deloach Furniture operated out of the building’s ground level. Today, the first floor is occupied by Delo Studios.