Jacksonville's Architectural Milk Houses

June 4, 2017

The story behind what remains of Jacksonville's landmark Mid-Century Modern milk houses.

The bird building was small, elegant, not quite a Karmann Ghia but more than a Volkswagen Beetle, something like a hummingbird as a building, modest and lovely as a buckeye butterfly with its wings of 1960s hippie-Victorian wallpaper. Well, maybe that, or maybe not all that. Maybe a roofless building on Ricker Road, or a Riverside Avondale flower shop, or DJ’s Wings and Seafood on Tallulah Avenue.

DJ says, “Thank the Lord for another blessing.” When he opens his chicken wing and seafood store, DJ says, “To the people that know me I’m back plus I’m also detailing cars, pressure washing, floor care than includes stripping waxing and buffing tile floors. I have a mobile detailing service to keep your vehicle clean get with me to get pricing and schedule your next visit. On a personal note about me any questions feel free to ask. But ladies I must say one thing be real about what you say cause what u do in the dark will come to the light most women blame it on the men about them cheating but some of you ladies don’t really know what you want so just be real about what you want from a man and stop playing theses games. One love be easy.”

DJ’s Seafood and Wings (Wikipedia)

Henry Cordes Skinner died Sunday at a nursing home. He was the last surviving of three brothers who ran Skinners’ Dairy for several decades before it was sold in 1984. He was 94 years old.

She says, “There were many of days that I know when we were young back in the late 50s and early 1960s that a bottle of milk was on our doorstep in the morning and come from this family. May God bless you, Mr. Skinner.”

Save money on MILK! Only 94¢ per gallon at NEW SKINNERS’ Dairy Store OPEN 7 A.M. to 11 P.M. EVERY DAY! Location of our new dairy store at Arlington Road and Bernita St. OPEN NOW DRIVE-IN SERVICE: All dairy products Ice cream – Bread – Eggs 25¢ bottle deposit on gallon jug 15¢ bottle deposit on ½ gal. jug Free Orange Drink for Children Buy SKINNERS’ MILK—It Tastes So Good New square gallon jug takes up less refrigerator space HERE’S WHY FOLKS LIKE MILK IN BIG BOTTLES: 1. More Economical—A gallon of milk in a single jug is cheaper. 2. More Convenient—You’ll never run short of milk when you buy it in gallon glass bottles. 3. More Efficient—The new gallon glass bottles are designed to save space in the refrigerator. They are easy to pour from, easy to reseal. 4. More Appetizing—There’s something about a whole gallon of milk that stimulates appetites. 5. It’s Protected—Milk stays pure in glass—retains all of its original high quality.

In 1980, a little boy stays in the little yellow house on Randolph Street with his grandmother Ola. The little yellow house is not much bigger than a Skinners’ Dairy “milk house.” In the little yellow house is an old refrigerator, a 1950s model, and crates of Royal Crown cola in bottles. Also, there is a room that’s always closed in this two-bedroom house. He never sees inside it while she lives. In this room, everything is red, a red settee, a red armchair, a red-grained RCA Victor Victrola. Everything is old in the little yellow house. His grandmother is old too. She sits on the sofa with her Bible open on her lap, with her 1950s pocketbook and her 1950s couture. She sits attentively, encouraging her grandson. He stands before her, six years old, with his Bible open to Genesis or John, preaching a sermon to his grandmother. She sits attentively, her chin raised, her legs crossed, very proper. On one shelf is a bronzed-over shoe that he had himself worn in 1974, before he was one year old. And before the shoe was bronzed.


The boy and his frail grandmother walk down tiny Randolph Street. Years later, the street will seem barely bigger than the little house. But in 1980, the walk is a journey, and somewhere along the way is a footbridge that, years later, had been obviously only a few feet long, stretched over a creek that was really a ditch. But in 1980, the footbridge over the creek is a monument in the landscape.

The boy and his frail grandmother walk up Alpha Street and cross Cassatt Avenue to Skinners’ Dairy, where Ola buys a half-gallon of milk every other day, and then they return to the little yellow house.

Small walk is a great event. Small details are large when the vast self is much smaller and less aware of greater surroundings, though more aware of small details, when the tall man is still a little boy and the big world is the little yellow house on Randolph Street, the footbridge over the creek, and a half-gallon of milk at Skinners’ Dairy on Cassatt Avenue.

The Skinners’ Dairy “milk house” on Cassatt Avenue has become Bilko Truck Accessories, “Northeast Florida’s Number One Dealer in Truck Toppers and Lids.”

The footbridge remains, but all the coordinates it connected have changed.

One “bunch” of yellow daisies is $5.95. Marianne Thiesen says they opened the flower market 18 years ago, but every now and then someone still steps in and thinks it’s a Skinners’ Dairy and asks if they sell beer. They sell no beer, but offer red-stalked bromeliads, red-flowering kalanchoes, and sharp green mother-in-law’s tongues. Or you can buy a large arrangement of Jade Green Roses for $85.00. In April, they offer the loveliest selection of spring daffodils in the city.


Article originally published by Tim Gilmore on June 6, 2012. Tim Gilmore is the author of Devil in the Baptist Church: Bob Gray's Unholy Trinity (2016), Central Georgia Schizophrenia (2016), The Mad Atlas of Virginia King (2015), Ghost Story / Love Song (2015), In Search of Eartha White (2014), The Ocean Highway at Night (2014), Stalking Ottis Toole: A Southern Gothic (2013), Doors in the Light and the Water: The Life and Collected Work of Empty Boat (2013), This Kind of City: Ghost Stories and Psychological Landscapes (2012) and Ghost Compost: Strange Little Stories, illustrated by Nick Dunkenstein (2013). He is the creator of Jax Psycho Geo (www.jaxpsychogeo.com). His two volumes of poetry are Horoscopes for Goblins: Poems, 2006-2009 and Flights of Crows: Poems, 2002-2006. His audio poetry album Waiting in the Lost Rooms is available at http://eat-magazine.bandcamp.com/album/waiting-in-the-lost-rooms. He teaches at Florida State College at Jacksonville. He is the organizer of the Jax by Jax literary arts festival. www.jaxbyjax.com

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