Walkable Jacksonville: Myrtle Avenue

Jacksonville's urban core is home to a number of historic walkable neighborhood commercial districts. Many are a direct result of the city's former electric streetcar network that operated between 1880 and 1936. Today, The Jaxson highlights a remnant of the “Colored Man's Railroad”: Durkeeville's Myrtle Avenue.

Completed in 1945, this building’s early tenants included a Walker Vocational & Commercial College sewing room, a variety store owned by Henry C. Anthony and Lee’s Dry Cleaners.

Built in 1945, 1801 Myrtle Avenue North was originally a grocery market operated by Jason T. Cattar. Still a market, it is now home to Durkeeville & Company.

Located at 1701 Myrtle Avenue North, the Eugene M. Glover Playground is named in honor of Eugene Glover, who spent 42 years working for the Parks and Recreation Department, most of them at J.P. Small Park. A former Stanton High School and Florida A&M University athlete, Glover was the brother of former sheriff, Nat Glover.

Long before the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville or Wolfson Park, J.P. Small Memorial Stadium was the home of Jacksonville’s professional baseball community. Amazingly, it’s still standing today. Once called Durkee Field and dating back to 1912, this ballpark once served as the home of the Negro League’s Jacksonville Red Caps. Some of the first teams to play here include the Jacksonville Tars and the Jacksonville Athletics, a team on which James Weldon Johnson was a member of. Baseball legends who played here over the years include Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Henry Aaron. Aaron also lived in Durkeeville during his brief stay in Jacksonville.

In 1937, the Public Works Administration completed the 215-unit Durkeeville public housing development just south of J.P. Small Park. At the time, the development was intended to provide housing for Jacksonville’s Black middle class during the Great Depression. Discriminatory public policies that fueled white flight following World War II, also turned housing projects like Durkeeville into places of despair and poverty by the late 20th century. The old Durkeeville projects were replaced by The Oaks at Durkeeville in 1999, as Florida’s first redevelopment under the HOPE VI program. The development, in the heart of Durkeeville, consists of 164 apartments, 28 market-rate single family homes, and a 36-unit senior living facility featuring retail space along Myrtle Avenue. Shortly after its completion, the development was identified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as one of the top public housing projects in the country for bringing new businesses to a neighborhood.

1519 Myrtle Avenue North was built as a residence for Alex Skinner in 1934. Since the 1950s, the ground floor retail space has been occupied by Skinner’s Florist, once of the city’s oldest continuously operated Black-owned businesses.

Looking east down West 5th Street from Myrtle Avenue North.

This collection of storefronts date back to 1929. Businesses occupying spaces here prior to 1960 include the Isaac Abraham grocery market, a barbershop by David Roundtree, Nash C Paul Interior Decorator, and Wedge’s Confectionery and a restaurant owned by Chris Toliver.

A restaurant owned by Chris Toliver was one of the first businesses at 1477-79 Myrtle Avenue North. The building was completed in 1945.

The two small houses at 1476 and 1480 Myrtle Avenue were built by Joseph Haygood Blodgett after the Great Fire of 1901. Born into slavery in Augusta, Georgia, Blodgett moved to Jacksonville during the 1890s with one paper dollar and one thin dime to his name. Initially working for the railroad for a dollar a day, Blodgett went on to start a drayage business, a woodyard, a farm and a restaurant before becoming a building contractor around 1898. The Great Fire of 1901 changed the fortunes of Blodgett. With Jacksonville’s black population rapidly increasing during the rebuilding boom, Blodgett not only designed and built 258 houses, he kept 199 to rent, which eventually made him one of the city’s first black millionaires.

1464 Myrtle Avenue North was completed in 1925. F. Henry and Emmi C. Stacey were its original occupants. Stacey was a porter with the Pullman Company. After the Staceys, E.C. Roberts and wife Lula, moved into the residence. Roberts was also employed as a Pullman porter.

Located at 1446 Myrtle Avenue North, Wing is a popular hole-in-the-wall eatery. Dating back to 1947, the space was then home to the Cut Rate Bakery and the Chicken Shack Restaurant in 1958.

Like many residential structures along Jacksonville’s former streetcar routes, 1440 Myrtle Avenue North is a multifamily structure that was built in 1934.

Founded in 1882 , the Mount Olive Primitive Baptist Church is located at 1319 Myrtle North. According to the building’s cornerstone, construction on this structure started in 1950.

This building at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue North and Kings Road was completed around 1947. In 1950, Charlie’s Confectionery, Lewis Poultry & Fish Market, and Abras Grocery & Market were the tenants. In 1958, they had been replaced by Beauregard Gallon Beer (1958), Larson’s Meats and Launder-Coin Laundry.

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com