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.
The Masonic Temple at 410 Broad Street was envisioned to serve as a meeting center for the black community. After a decade of fundraising, the five-story Prairie School building was completed in 1913. Designed by architects Earl Mark and Leeroy Sheftall, the first floor was for retail space, the second and third for offices and the fourth and fifth for the Most Worshipful Grand Union Lodge. Early upper level occupants consisted of African American physicians, attorneys, insurance agents and dentists. In 1926, the Negro Blue Book described it as “one of the finest buildings owned by Negros in the world.”
After the building’s completion, Charles Anderson established the city’s first black-owned back in the storefront on the northwest corner of Broad and Duval Streets. Born in Jacksonville in 1879, Anderson’s first business venture involved peddling fish on a street corner in 1902. He eventually turned that business into the Anderson Fish & Oyster Company. In order to encourage the growth of more black-owned businesses, Anderson established the Anderson Tucker & Company banking institution with a business partner in 1914.
Over the years, other storefronts contained black owned restaurants operated by Henry Baxter, Rebecca Mitchell and David Reid. The longest continuously occupied storefront was a tailor shop established by Cuban-born Pedro Mendez, Sr. in 1927. The shop was operated by his daughter Padrica through the early 2000s at 408 Broad Street.
Photograph courtesy of Timothy Gilmore