Neighborhoods of Jacksonville: Baldwin
The Jaxson shares the history of an independent town within the city limits of consolidated Jacksonville: Baldwin, Florida.
Baldwin’s small commercial district is centered around US 90, the modern incarnation of the road that has been the town’s lifeblood since it was first established. Residential streets are located to the north and south.
Baldwin Town Hall
Everybody’s Restaurant, a popular eatery on US 90.
Residence on US 90.
The Coleman House and Gazebos
Located at 150 South Center Street, this historic house was built in 1879. In 1881, it was purchased by William Coleman, owner of the town’s general store. In subsequent years it served as a boarding house for railway passengers and workers. In 2000, when the house was falling into disrepair, the town government bought the property in order to preserve it. The restoration project commenced in 2006 and wrapped up three years later. The property takes up a full block, with gazebos on either side of the main building. The Coleman House is now rented out for events and parties.
Hotel Oliver circa 1960. Courtesy of Florida Memory.
This house at 110 Chestnut Street was built sometime before 1919, and in 1925 it was purchased by Seaboard Air Line Railroad employee Lonnie C. Oliver and converted into a hotel. Starting out as a station clerk at 16, Oliver worked for the railroad for 53 years, and also had a long career in politics in addition to his railroad and hotel duties. He was elected mayor in 1932 and remained in office until 1967, becoming one of Duval County’s longest serving elected officials. He operated Hotel Oliver until his death in 1979.
Baldwin Market’s unassuming appearance belies its unusual story: it is one of the only markets run by a town government anywhere in the United States. The town government owns the property, and contracted IGA to operate the market until they pulled out in 2018. The town was unable to find a replacement among either other grocery chains or independent operators, leaving residents without any grocery store closer than Macclenny, 10 miles to the west.
In 2019, Mayor Sean Lynch and the Baldwin Town Council opted to try a radical solution: the town government would run the market themselves, paying for staff and goods. According to The Florida Times-Union this may be the only example in the country where a town government operates its own grocery store.
Old Spanish Trail
This building on US 90 (Beaver Street) just east of Baldwin has gained a reputation as one of the most mysterious spots in the Jacksonville area. The oldest sections are said to date to 1839, though most of the current facade is from a much later period. The building’s name comes from US 90’s precursor, the Old Spanish Trail, built between 1915 and 1919 to connect San Diego to St. Augustine. The transcontinental road, in turn, got its name from a claim that it followed the path blazed by Spanish conquistadors centuries before. In reality, the Spanish never had a trail, old or otherwise, that spanned the coasts.
The Old Spanish Trail building has accrued many stories over the years, some more credible than others. Reportedly it served as a boarding house in the early 20th century and became a brothel in the 1940s and ’50s. In 1959 it was bought by Joseph Menendez and his family, who turned it into a grocery store with their home on the second floor. The Menendezes added many of the Spanish and New Orleans-inspired architectural features visible today, as well as the Mardi Gras coloring. Joseph Menendez’s son Carlos and his wife Shirla later operated an art and antique store in the building until retiring in 2002.
The Menendez family sold the building to new owners in 2014, but due to its deteriorating condition it has continued to sit vacant. Today, the Old Spanish Trail is a well known local “legend tripping” spot for those out looking for ghosts, or simply a spooky adventure to talk about.
The Old Jail, built around 1935 by the Works Progress Administration
Baldwin Post Office
Commercial building housing a barber shop on Center Street
Established in 1929 and rebuilt in 1949, Baldwin Junior-Senior High School is Baldwin’s local school
Article by Bill Delaney. Contact Bill at email@example.com.