Lost history: Saving what's left of Sugar Hill

February 7, 2017

In honor of Black History Month, here's rare images and the story of Jacksonville's Sugar Hill neighborhood. Prior to largely being destroyed by desegregation, highway construction, medical center expansion, and urban renewal, Sugar Hill was the epicenter of black prosperity in Northeast Florida.

Sugar Hill Today


The Julius Guinyard Park and Pool, at 1358 Jefferson Street, was completed in 1951 and is considered to be one of the oldest public pools in the city.


The JTA Flyer BRT's green line connects Sugar Hill to the rest of the city with 10 to 15 minute bus service.  The VA Clinic BRT station is located at Jefferson Street and West 6th Street.


Historically, Springfield Park and Hogans Creek served as the dividing line between Sugar Hill and Springfield. Continued medical related development has eliminated the row of stately Sugar Hill residences that once fronted Springfield Park.


Completed in 1933, 1439 Davis Street is one of a few historic structures still standing on Davis Street, between West 8th and State Streets. During Sugar Hill's heyday, Davis Street was a streetcar route and the neighborhood's commercial epicenter.


The St. Stephen's African Methodist Episcopal Church is one of a handful of historic buildings that still remain on Davis Street, south of West 8th Street.


Today, Darnell-Cookman Middle/High School is an "A" school in the State of Florida's school grading system and a National Blue Ribbon School as designated by the USDOE.  In the years following the Great Fire of 1901, the Cookman Institute selected this location for its new educational campus. Founded by Reverend S.B. Darnell in 1872, the Cookman Institute offered classes from elementary through high school, and "specialty" courses in normal training, music, domestic science, sewing, public speaking, shoemaking, printing, business, and agriculture for African-Americans. In 1925, the school merged with the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute, relocating to Daytona Beach. Today, the college is known as Bethune-Cookman University.


Located directly across the street from UF Health Jacksonville, 1940 Davis Street was completed in 1922.


UF Health Jacksonville is one of the largest employment centers in Jacksonville.  UF Health Jacksonville was established as Shands Jacksonville Medical Center, as a result the 1999 merger of University Medical Center (UMC) and Methodist Medical Center (MMC).  Located east of Jefferson Street, UMC originally opened in 1926 as the Duval Hospital and Asylum and was called the nation's oldest publicly supported hospital.  MMC began as George A. Brewster Hospital and School of Nurse Training in 1901 to care for victims of the Great Fire. It was the first African American hospital in the country.  Due to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Brewster closed in 1966 and reopened in 1967 as the not-for-profit Methodist Hospital. It's former facilities straddle both sides of West 8th Street between from Jefferson to Boulevard.  Brewster's original hospital in Sugar Hill (photo on page one) was demolished in recent years to make way for the new Jacksonville VA Clinic on Jefferson Street. Prior to Brewster's conversion to Methodist, the NW corner of West 8th and Boulevard was occupied by St. Luke's Hospital.


2028 Davis Street is a 2,520 square foot residence completed in 1933. (#3 on previous page)


The S-Line Urban Greenway forms the west and north border of Sugar Hill. Organized as the Jacksonville Belt Railroad, it was former rail corridor was established in 1886 to connect the Fernandina and Jacksonville (F&J) Railroad to the Florida, Atlantic & Gulf Railroad at Honeymoon Yard. Both became Seaboard properties in the early 20th century.  The Belt Line was abandoned upon completion of the new Milldale Junction in the mid-1980s. In 2007, the Belt Line's former ROW was converted into the S-Line Urban Greenway rails-to-trails project.


2203 Moncrief Road was completed in 1909 along the NJSRYT⁣ streetcar line. This abandoned 2,300 square foot structure sits just south of the S-Line Urban Greenway.


2106 Moncrief Road is a 1,395 square foot house that was built in 1922. During the 1920s, while Avondale and San Marco catered to Jacksonville's growing white population,  Sugar Hill rapidly developed to accommodate the city's black population.


2048 Moncrief Road was completed in 1922. At the time, Moncrief Road was an important thoroughfare connecting Northwest Jacksonville with downtown Jacksonville. This connectivity was permanently altered with the construction of the Jacksonville Expressway during the 1950s.


The former residence of Bishop Henry Y. Tookes is one of the last large residential structure on West 8th Street in Sugar Hill. Located at 1011 8th Street, the structure is now a sorority house. (#2 on previous page)


1049 Scriven Street is a 2,820 square foot residence completed in 1936. Originally Scriven Street extended to Davis Street. The Jacksonville Expressway eliminated that connection during the 1950s.  While the expansion of medical facilities has largely eliminated residences east of I-95, the expressway has indirectly served as a buffer, protecting this intact 10-block residential enclave of Sugar Hill.


The Simpson United Methodist Church's fellowship hall at 1114 Cleveland Street was completed in 1923.

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