Abandoned & Forgotten: Moncrief Road Cemeteries

Closing in on 900,000 residents, Jacksonville is a bustling Sunbelt city with a bright future. However, a visit to its Moncrief Road cemetery district suggests it is a community that does not respect or value its African-American heritage or history. Once operated and maintained by Florida's first African-American millionaire, the current condition of this cemetery district makes it one of the most disturbing places in the city.

Sunset Cemetery

Situated at the southwest corner of Moncrief Road and Edgewood Avenue, land for Sunset Cemetery was acquired by the Memorial Cemetery Association in 1913. Sunset Cemetery was known as a “fashionable” burial location for wealthy African-Americans in Jacksonville prior to desegregation. Sunset is dominated with cedar and arbor vitae trees planted in the 1930s as a part of a formal landscape plan. Despite burials taking place as late as the 1990s, this cemetery is in a deplorable condition.

The Art Moderne-inspired Craddock Mausoleum was built in the late 1930s to mid 1940s by James “Charlie Edd” Craddock. Craddock was a controversial character who established the Little Blue Chip nightclub at 426 Broad Street (Richmond Hotel) after arriving in Jacksonville in 1921. He opened a bread line for the hungry during the Depression, giving him a reputation as a philanthropist in the city’s African-American community.

Over the years, he acquired and owned several rental properties, the Charlie Edd Hotel, Young Men’s Smoke Chop, Uncle Charlie Edd’s Barber shop, loan offices, pawn shops, employing as many as 500. 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”. He was the part owner of Manuel’s Tap Room on Ashley Street and was recognized as a local bolita kingpin.

“Charlie Edd” Craddock and his Uncle Charlie Edd’s store and loan office in LaVilla in 1942. (The Crisis - January 1942 Edition)

The Langley Mausoleum is an Art Modern/Art Deco structure constructed between the mid-1930s and mid-1940s. It was built for the family of William Edward Langley. The Langley family operated a prominent taxicab operation during segregation.

Historical research courtesy of Adrienne Burke

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Davis is a certified senior planner and graduate of Florida A&M University. He is the author of the award winning books “Reclaiming Jacksonville,” “Cohen Brothers: The Big Store” and “Images of Modern America: Jacksonville.” Davis has served with various organizations committed to improving urban communities, including the American Planning Association and the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. A 2013 Next City Vanguard, Davis is the co-founder of Metro Jacksonville.com and ModernCities.com — two websites dedicated to promoting fiscally sustainable communities — and Transform Jax, a tactical urbanist group. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com