Five historical facts about Murray Hill

Located five miles southwest of Downtown Jacksonville, the neighborhood of Murray Hill has a long and colorful history. It is the birthplace of Lynyrd Skynyrd founding member Gary Rossington, the place where convicted serial killer Ottis Toole burned down his mother’s house and was once a city of its own. Here are five interesting historical facts about this Westside neighborhood.

The Town of Murray Hill Heights

Community Loaves, at the intersection of Edgewood Avenue South and Trask Street.

Murray Hill is one of a few urban core Jacksonville neighborhoods that was once an incorporated town of its own. An attractive destination for workers employed at the Seaboard Air Line Railway’s locomotive shops near McDuff Avenue, the town of Murray Hill was incorporated in 1916. Hugh Lauder served as the first mayor of the town bounded by Fishweir Creek, Lenox Avenue, Gilmore, Nelson and Kingsbury streets. The initial fanfare of Murray Hill being its own incorporated community didn’t last long. Within a decade after electing Lauder, the young city became known as “Murray Bottom.” $300,000 in debt.

Murray Hill’s residents desired annexation into neighboring Jacksonville. At the time, Jacksonville had its problems as well. Long known as the largest city in Florida, Tampa had just surpassed it in population. Adding Murray Hill’s residents would be just enough for Jacksonville to one-up Central Florida’s largest city. Thus in 1925, the Town of Murray Hill was annexed by Jacksonville.

The First Block

The section of Edgewood Avenue South, between Plymouth and Mayflower Streets is known as Murray Hill’s First Block. The First Block rapidly developed as Murray Hill’s original commercial district following the 1914 extension of a streetcar line that connected the area to Downtown Jacksonville.This area was originally called Edgewood Village. Edgewood was the name of a subdivision platted in 1884 by a group of northern investors led by James Randall Challen of Cincinnati, OH, William Harksheimer and Union veteran Colonel John Talbot. Despite being marketed to northern visitors seeking to take advantage of Florida’s mild winters, growth did not take off in the area until the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1901.

The Avenue of Progress

The Murray Hill Theater at 932 Edgewood Avenue South

Between the 1930s and 1950’s, featuring a large number of specialty shops and four grocery stores, Edgewood Avenue became known as the “Avenue of Progress”. New businesses in the bustling commercial strip included the Murray Hill Theater, where in August 1949 opening night guests paid fifty cents to see John Wayne and Montgomery Clift star in the classic Western film “Red River”.

Jacksonville’s First Woman Architect

4560 French Street was designed by Henrietta Dozier and built in 1925.

Born in Fernandina Beach to Henry Cuttino and Cornelia Ann (Scriven) Dozier, Henrietta Cuttino Dozier (1872-1947) is recognized as the first female architect in the state of Georgia and the city of Jacksonville. Through her career, she primarily designed churches, schools, government buildings, apartments and houses. To overcome discrimination, she was known to disguise her gender with various male-sounding or gender-neutral names such as Cousin Harry, Harry and H.C. Dozier. Murray Hill is home to the highest concentration of houses designed by Dozier. At least six houses designed by Dozier survive on the 4500 block of French Street.

Four Corners Park

Four Corners Park

Murray Hill is home to several large parks located in various parts of the neighborhood. The neighborhood’s open public spaces include Four Corners Park. Taking its name from its location at the four corners of the Lawnview Street and Lamboll Avenue intersection, Four Corners Park is a 7.38-park featuring a lighted walking and jogging trail, benches, playground equipment, irrigation spigots, trash receptacles and a mature landscape.

Editorial by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at