A trip down memory lane: LaVilla
Eighteen rare historic photographs capturing the essence of Downtown Jacksonville's LaVilla community prior to desegregation and urban renewal.
A view of Ebenezer United Methodist Church, the former home congregation of James Weldon and John Rosamond Johnson’s mother. Ebenezer United Methodist Church was located on the northeast corner of West Ashley Street and Clay Street.
Located at 525 West Beaver Street, the Lawton L. Pratt Funeral Home was established by Lawton Pratt in 1900. The building, originally designed by Black architect Joseph Haygood Blodgett, is currently being renovated into apartments and ground floor retail.
The construction of the Second Missionary Baptist Church sanctuary at 954 Kings Road. The structures to the right of the church were razed during the late 1950s for the construction of Interstate 95.
Home of West Ashley Street, a strip that was open and live around the clock, LaVilla was known as Uptown to many residents who remember its heyday.
A musician performs at the Strand Theatre. Located at the intersection of West Ashley Street and Jefferson Street, the Strand was a major live performance venue in Uptown.
An exterior view of the Strand Theatre. Demolished during the late 1960s, the site is now a parking lot behind the LaVilla School of the Arts.
Operated by Fred and Brenhard Braren, Braren’s Bar was located at 829 West Ashley Street.
Members of Stanton High School’s band pose for a photograph at the then pristine Springfield Park.
A a view of a parade the intersection of Broad and Ashley Streets, from the second floor of the Clara White Mission building.
The 700 block of West Ashley Street was anchored by the Knights of Pythias Building. The fourth-floor dance hall was Uptown LaVilla’s primary performance venue during the 1930s. National acts that performed at the Knights of Pythias include Louis Armstrong, Earl “Father” Hines, Fletcher Henderson, Jimmy Lunceford, and Walter Barnes.
A night out on the town at the Knights of Pythias Building in 1932.
Prospect Cleaners was located at 607 Davis Street. Largely erased by urban renewal during the late 1990s, Davis Street was one of LaVilla’s major commercial corridors. Today, this block of Davis Street, between West Ashley and Beaver Streets, is occupied by a LaVilla School of the Arts parking lot.
The Middleton Hotel was located at 404 Davis Street. This block is now occupied by the UF Health LaVilla Medical Office Building.
Members of the National Negro Insurance Association pose for a group photograph in from of the Masonic Temple on Broad Street in April 1932. At its height, Broad Street was a major business hub for the LaVilla community.
Located across the street from the Masonic Temple, the 400 block of Broad Street was once home to the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, Reliable Shoe Shop and The Coffee Pot Restaurant.
The El Chico Bar & El Chico Package Store at 791 West Ashley Street was a popular entertainment and nightlife destination for several years in Uptown.
An interior view of Campbell’s Cafe at 735 West Ashley Street. This popular venue, known for its sizzling steak chops, was owned and operated by Gussie W. Campbell during the 1950s.
Photographs courtesy of the Ritz Theatre and Museum Archives.
Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at firstname.lastname@example.org.