2: Pablo Beach, 1886-1907
<< 1: The Setting || 3: Pablo Beach, 1907-25 >>
Figure 2-1 Sunrise
As the sun peeked over the eastern horizon in the
morning, the sky glowed pink, yellow, and orange. Waves lapped the shore.
Serene, the beach scene calmed the human heart. The beauty existed long before
humans came to enjoy it. The beach seemed to be the “World’s Finest Beach,"
at least to some.
A railroad created a town. It allowed people and goods to get to the ocean
shore cheaply and quickly when cars and, later, trucks were rare or expensive.
People in Jacksonville could and did establish summer residences. “Eagledune,”
the L’Engle-Barnett house was built in 1887 was one of a dozen houses scattered
near the railroad terminal. George Wilson, W. A. MacDuff, S. B. Hubbard, P. McQuaid, J. W. Shoemaker, and others
had houses. Tom Cashen was one of the early residents of Pablo Beach but built
a house on the oceanfront away from the others in what is now Neptune Beach.
General Francis Spinner, former U.S. Treasurer, lived at Pablo Beach in a tent
for about two years—1885-87—because he said it was good for his health.
Spinner was the father-in-law of Shoemaker, the first cashier of the First National Bank of Florida. By 1895, Jacksonville residents had summer cottages there.1
The City of Jacksonville only had
7,650 persons in 1880 but it grew rapidly in the 1880s and had 17,201 in 1890,
a 125% increase.2
Its economic diversity and wealth increased as well. The largest city in the
state, it housed the U.S. District Court, a customs house, and the other
paraphernalia of the most important city in the state . Naval stores and lumber
were important exports. Citrus fruits were important. The city had three daily
newspapers. Winter tourists flocked to the city. Some enjoyed steamboat
excursions on the St. Johns and Oklawaha Rivers. Entrepreneurs saw the ocean
front as another possible tourist destination and tourism from Jacksonville
quickly became a major source of employment and cause for settlement at the
beaches, first in Pablo Beach, later in Atlantic Beach. Even Mayport and its
immediate area was the site of tourism development.
Pablo Beach tourism began when John G. Christopher and his wife built the fabulous Murray
Hall Hotel in 1886 and equipped it for $150,000 dollars. Located a block from
the ocean at what is now the corner of First Street North and Beach Boulevard,
its 200-350 guests enjoyed fireplaces, water from its own artesian wells, and
electricity generated by the hotel’s power plant. The three-story building had
turrets and porches. As the image below indicates, it was luxurious.
Figure 2-2 Murray Hall Hotel Ad
The Murray Hall quickly became the
center of Pablo Beach even before it was finished. On July 2-5, 1886, state
troops encamped at Pablo Beach.3
Eleanor Scull reported that the post office was moved from her tent in
September to the hotel and the manager, Charles H.French, became postmaster.4
As people moved to Pablo, churches
were established to meet their spiritual needs. In 1886, St
Paul’s-By-The-Sea Episcopal Church was
created by congregants who met in the Murray Hall Hotel. The land was donated by
the J & A Railroad in 1887. The church building was dedicated on August 14, 1887
and still exists although it was moved twice, first in 1952 to 11th
Avenue North and Fifth Street in Jacksonville Beach and then in 1970 to the Central
Christian Church in Neptune Beach on Florida Boulevard. The congregation was
small; services were only held during the summer season for many year. The church ended by 1923 and was revived in 1925.5
Although never large, many prominent community members belonged. By 1890,
Father William Kenny established St Paul’s Catholic Mission on 1st
Street South. The Diocese of St. Augustine obviously hoped that the mission
would convert or attract many people even in a Protestant area.
Figure 2-3 St. Paul's-By-The-Sea Episcopal Church
Figure 2-4 St. Paul's Catholic Church
Very soon after Pablo Beach started
on its development path, efforts were made to grow Mayport and environs.
Mayport, which contained 600 people, was founded in 1830 by river pilots and
fishermen. Boats went twice a day to Jacksonville. The Mayport (Hazard)
lighthouse had been destroyed by a hurricane and a new one was built. The US
government began removing the sand bar at
mouth of St Johns River.6
In May, 1888, the Jacksonville, Mayport, and Pablo Railway and Navigation
Company opened a railroad from Arlington on the south Bank of the
St. Johns near Jacksonville to Mayport.
Alexander Wallace built it to develop the fish and phosphate business at
Mayport and tourism at Burnside Beach on the coast just south of the jetties.
Land developers from Chicago created Burnside Beach, Seminole Beach, and
Manhattan Beach (for African Americans).7
Wallace and the R. M. Haworth
Company also created East Mayport. Whereas Mayport was an island with shifting
sand, East Mayport had fertile fields. The
Jacksonville, Mayport, Pablo Railway & Navigation Company road (JMP) or
Jump, Man, And Push, as it was nicknamed, quickly ran into financial troubles.
The business with Mayport did not develop to pay the costs. Wallace died in
1889. The JMP went bankrupt but made earned some money hauling freight
and coal until its assets were bought by Flagler.8
The failure of the JMP was just one difficulty in developing Mayport. The San Diego Hotel,
the Beaches Pavilion, the pre-Civil War Burnside House, and the new 4-story Palmetto Hotel were destroyed by fire in 1889. In March, 1892 , the JMP was bought out and its terminus moved from Arlington to South. Jacksonville, but its financial troubles continued. There was not enough traffic for two railroads to Mayport and it could not compete with the Jacksonville and Atlantic Railroad. By 1895, all but mail delivery (by hand car) was all that was left.
Its rail bed became the original shell road into Mayport and remained only paved road until after 1940.9
Mayport, the little village at the mouth of the St. Johns River in northeast Florida, played a significant role in two fights by "heavyweights" in the winter of 1893-94. One is well-known, drawing international attention; the other was not. Victory for one; defeat for the other. Both are intertwined.
"Gentleman Jim" Corbett fought the English heavyweight champion, Charles Mitchell, for the heavyweight championship of the world on January 25, 1894 in Jacksonville, Florida. The fisticuffs were held in Moncrief Park under the auspices of the Duval Athletic Club. The club sold tickets for $25 each to pay the purse of $20,000 and meet expenses. The DAC had pulled off a coup in getting this championship match scheduled for Jacksonville both because other places wanted this "Super Bowl" of boxing and because the illegal fight met stiff resistance.
Corbett trained at Mayport less than twenty miles by train from the south part of Jacksonville. He and his crew rented the summer home of Claus Meyer and almost got arrested when one of Corbett's aides forgot to pay Meyer until he threatened arrest. Mitchell trained in St Augustine, well over thirty miles distant.
Both were distant from the furor in the state over the upcoming fight. The opposition seemed insurmountable. Opposed were Governor
Mitchell I. Mitchell, Jacksonville Mayor Duncan U. Fletcher, Duval Country Sheriff Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, churches and moralists, and the Second Battalion of Ocala Rifles which the governor sent to Jacksonville. They saw betting immoral and feared that the match would bring riff raff, whores, gamblers, the wrong kind of tourist, and such to the city. They feared violence.
They pressed public officials which seemed
to work. The Governor said no. The Mayor and the Sheriff each said no. One suspects they were not that opposed but were afraid to say otherwise. Sheriff Broward didn't complain that much when Circuit Court Judge
H. M. Call issued an injunction to prevent him from attaching the Duval Athletic Club's property or enter its grounds. Governor called up troops (the Ocala rifles).
Groups tried to get the railroads of H. B. Plant and Henry Flagler not to transport any spectators or gamblers or whores or boxing people to Jacksonville. Free enterprise prevailed, however. The railroads were not about to forgo profits. They refused to accept the argument that it was their moral duty and they should act as government. Moreover, they refused to transport the troops without cash payments in advance. The Governor conceded. When he threatened martial law in Jacksonville to prevent the Corbett-Mitchell fight, he went too far. Public opinion turned against him. Prominent merchant L. Furchgott protested; the business community had joined the pro-fight crowd. The troops that came were booed as they marched down Bay Street. As it turned out, their presence was a charade, a way of saying the Governor was serious about maintaining public order. The
fight would go on.
One who came to Jacksonville was a blond New York City woman who was wintering in Florida went to Mayport with her Jacksonville cousin to visit the training facilities of Jim Corbett. No doubt, they probably also wanted to see this very fine example of male beauty. As the New York Times reported on December 25, 1893, "Corbett's muscles stood out in perfect relief, and his skin glowed with perfect health."
He was worth seeing. He sparred and wrestled and ran. He weighed himself twice a day on the scales he used, scales which had to be accurate to satisfy boxing rules.
Our heroine made a bad decision, one that caused her to lose the battle to maintain her dignity. She sweet talked the powers that be to allow her to try Corbett's scales, to become more than a spectator. And she mounted them. Much to her horror, she weighed 138 pounds! Surely, she thought, she couldn't have gained weight on vacation in Florida; surely the scales were wrong. She searched the tiny windswept, sandy village for another scale, one that she was sure would show she wasn't that "fat."
A little grocery store nearby had scales to weigh its products, keeping them with hogsheads of molasses in a small annex. The hogsheads had a trough below for the drippings when drawn off. The trough was two by nine feet, more or less, and a foot deep. The annex was dimly lit and its floor was lower than the main building. Our heroine fell into the trough, for her eyes focused on the scales which would restore her reputation. But she was stuck! She was too fat to get out of the tough either by herself or with the help of the owner and his assistant. It took four men!
The defeated tourist, holding her head high, headed for the proprietor's house to get clean as small boys tasted her newly-acquired sweetness. She was even heavier.
The other heavyweight, Gentleman Jim Corbett, won twice. The "scientific glove contest," as the DAC termed the match, was held in Moncrief Park in Jacksonville before 1800 people. Corbett won in twelve minutes and became Heavyweight Champion of the World. The purse was awarded; Corbett
also collected the $10,000 he had in side bets; and the swells and "sports" settled up according to their
Corbett and Mitchell were arrested for assault and battery. Corbett was tried first and acquitted. The government gave up. The crowds left. The Duval Athletic Club disbanded. Life in Mayport settled down.
We don't know if the sweet woman ever recovered from the loss of face.10
By 1888, Jacksonville was a tourist
destination Presumably the beaches got some of this trade. Moreover, their were
summer residences at the beaches. That was a hard year for Jacksonville for it
suffered a Yellow Fever epidemic. There were 4,676 cases of yellow fever in
1888. The epidemic hurt city of Jacksonville but Pablo Beach still got aid from
Jack! That scourge of the tropics and subtropics visited Duval County, Florida
in 1888, coming on July 28th without warning, sickening rich and poor
alike, and killing and killing. R. D. McCormick, a business traveler, had
brought it unknowingly; he stayed at one of the best hotels, the Grand Union.
The disease spread cross the city within two weeks. Many died. There seemed to
be no stopping it, no cure. People fled if they could. Death was everywhere. The
city’s population dropped from 130,000 to 14,000. Dwellings flew yellow flags
to warn of the presence of yellow fever.
Other places tried to isolate Jacksonville. Roads were sealed. Guards stopped
people from sneaking out of town. Steamboat traffic was suspended. Trains were
fumigated or prevented from passing from Jacksonville to other towns. People
theorized what caused yellow fever. “Ironically,
when yellow fever broke out in Jacksonville in 1857, the railroad builders,
clearing and draining the marshy areas for the tracks, were accused of having
released malarial miasmas which brought on the dreaded plague.” The Florida
Dispatch explained the theory of “Wiggins, the Canadian weather prophet
crank” who said: “The cause of the fever is astronomical. The planets were
in the same line as the sun and earth and this produced, besides cyclones,
earthquakes, etc., a denser atmosphere holding more carbon and creating
microbes. “Mars had an uncommonly dense atmosphere, but its inhabitants were
probably protected from the fever by their newly discovered canals, which were
perhaps made to absorb carbon and prevent the disease.” Some from Jacksonville
exploded guns and cannons to “concuss the microbes.”
On August 14, 1888, the Florida Times-Union suggested:
indoors from an hour or more before sunset ‘til an hour at least after
Avoid the night air…
Avoid exposure to the sun…
Eat no meat…
Eat no cabbage…
Eat before leaving your house…
Have faith in your doctor…
American scientists did not know the causes or means of transmission.
They had not read the work of Dr. Carlos Finlay, the Cuban medical doctor who
had figured it out. It was not until the aftermath of the Cuban-Spanish-American
War of 1898 that Finlay’s work became known to U.S. scientists and experiments
were conducted to prove Finlay was right. Walter Reed was enough of a scientist
to understand Finlay’s theory, test it with experiments, and prove it.
Mosquitoes were the culprit. Those concerned with public health then sought to
control the mosquito population.
Some twenty miles from the city lay the little village of Mayport,
sitting at the mouth of the St. Johns River; its residents were not so concerned
with the cause of the disease. They wanted to keep this scourge away from their
little resort and fishing village. Vacationers and working people conspired to
prevent those westerners from spreading the disease to Mayport. Residents of
Pablo Beach to the south were scared off by men with guns, “shotgun
protection,” as they called it. There were so few people, even vacationers, in
Pablo Beach, they were not much of a threat. To counter Jacksonville to the west
was the problem. People could cross the river from Jacksonville and take a train
to Mayport; “Yellow Jack” might take the train as well.
Mayport residents wanted supplies so they became sneaky about when the
train made its loop. People would make “contrary statements” about when the
train would run between Mayport and Jacksonville, that is, they only relayed the
train departure times from Jacksonville to those they trusted. In other words,
the wealthy and the permanent residents knew the fluctuating train schedule but
hid it from others. They would ride the little train to and from Arlington, just
across the river from the city only when absolutely necessary. They refused help
from refugees. Mayport successfully isolated itself and survived the epidemic.
Frost came on November 25, 1888 and killed the mosquitoes. The epidemic
died; the crisis passed; and no one in the U.S. understood why.11
Pablo Beach, with its 282 people,
257 in the town in the 1890 census, struggled to survive. The Murray Hall Hotel
burned on August 7, 1890. Spinner, its most famous resident, died on December
Florida was dealt a second
economic blow in the winter of 1894-1895 when the "Great Freeze"
effectively destroyed its citrus industry. The cultivation, processing, and
shipping of oranges had been an important staple of trade along the St. Johns
River since the 1870s. In north Florida the business evaporated in the winter
of 1895-96. Earlier, in September,1892, entrepreneurs got the county government
to use convict labor to cut a road through the wilderness to Pablo Beach. The
“road” was primitive. Later county commissioners did not want to make it a
viable road.12 As it was,
it took an entire day to travel from Jacksonville to Pablo.
Figure 2-5 1895 map of Duval County
Pablo Beach played a role, albeit
minor, in the Spanish-American War. Before the war of 1898, Napoleon Bonaparte
Broward had been helping the Cuban rebels by running filibustering expeditions
from Mayport and Pablo Beach.13
After the war began in 1898, some of the troops sent to Jacksonville
recuperated from typhoid fever at Pablo Beach. Eventually, some 1,400 soldiers
were stationed there. Most famous was William Jennings Bryan, the Populist
Party and Democratic Party presidential candidate in 1896 and 1900, who was there in September
with the 3rd Nebraska Regiment. Pablo Beach had become more than a few summer
cottages but it was still very small and isolated.
Figure 2-6 U.S. Army on Pablo Beach
Figure 2-7 Army Marching on the Beach
Figure 2-8 Showing the Pavilion in the right
Figure 2-9 Colonel William Jennings Bryan
The beaches and Florida came into their own because Henry Flagler,
a multimillionaire from the Standard Oil Company of John D. Rockefeller,
developed a personal interest and spent some of his personal fortune to pursue
a whim. In winter, 1878, he
Jacksonville because of his first wife had tuberculosis. She died a few
years later on May 18, 1881. He remarried
and made another trip to northeast Florida, this time to charming St.
Augustine. Bored with his Standard Oil duties and seeking a new life, he became
interested in the possibilities of the frontier state. He returned in 1885 and
built the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St Augustine. He also bought the Jacksonville,
St. Augustine, and Halifax Railroad which ran between Jacksonville and St.
Augustine. Thus, the Florida East Coast Railroad (FEC) was born. He then began
buying other railroads and building luxury hotels on the east coast of the
peninsula. One of these was north of Pablo Beach in what became known as Atlantic
Figure 2-10 Henry M. Flagler
Flagler bought the Jacksonville and
Atlantic Railway Company in 1899 and changed the narrow gauge, light rail road
to standard gauge with 60-pound rails, thus making it compatible to the
railroads in the country. In other words, he made the beaches railroad part of
the FEC system and the national train network. He extended the line to Mayport;
built a spur to Mineral City when mining began there; and built a railroad
bridge across the St. Johns River between Jacksonville and South Jacksonville.
Moreover, he built a luxury hotel, the Continental, in Atlantic Beach, opening
up that part of the beaches. In 1900, on March 9th, the first FEC train, which had taken
over from the Jacksonville & Atlantic Railroad, arrived in Pablo Beach. The engine burned wood until the railroad was
extended to Mayport where it could get coal. In 1915, the FEC began converting
to oil fueled engines but also ran a gas electric to Pablo beach but that
service stopped in 1920.14
Figure 2-11 The Beach in 1900
On June 1,1901, Flagler opened his
Continental Hotel in Atlantic Beach. The yellow hotel was 47 feet by 447 feet
with a six story rotunda and five story wings.
The dining room could seat 350. There were 186 sleeping apartments (later
200) and 56 baths. It had numerous outbuildings.15
It was spectacular as these images show.
Figure 2-12 Continental Hotel with Beach
on the Right
Figure 2-13 Continental Hotel Rear View
Figure 2-14 Veranda of Continental Hotel
To promote the Continental Hotel as
well as Pablo Beach, the FEC ran excursion trains to the beaches every weekend.
People came from neighboring states to the beaches. On Labor Day, 1901, many people from Jacksonville went to the beaches. H. H. Buckman, a developer
associated with the JMP and then with
Flagler, sold some of his property to the FEC. He promoted lots in Atlantic
Beach but the community remained very small.16
Figure 2-15 Buckman Atlantic Beach Ad
Figure 2-16 Buckman 1925 Map
Flagler’s interests lay farther
south so, in 1911, his company leased the Continental Hotel for ten years to A.
S. Stanford who represented the American Resort Hotel Company. In 1913, the
hotel and 4,000 acres north to the south jetty were sold by the Florida East
Coast Hotel Company to E. R. Brackett and a consortium of New York capitalists
who formed the Atlantic Beach Corporation and renamed it the Atlantic Beach
Hotel. This corporation, headed by Harcourt Bull, sought to develop the
community. On May 17, 1917, the hotel property was sold at public auction and
bought in by the FEC Hotel Company for $167,000. In November, 1917, it was
leased to W.H. Adams, Sr. It burned on September 20, 1919, a loss of $300,000.17
Figure 2-17 W. H. Adams, Sr.
Figure 2-18 Atlantic Beach Hotel Brochure
In 1901, John G. Christopher
built a house at 11th Street and
Oceanfront in Atlantic Beach. The Christopher-Bull House, as it was eventually
known, still exists. Christopher had brought telephones to Jacksonville in
1881, built the Murray Hall Hotel, and operated steamers on the St. Johns to
Palatka. At his new home, he entertained numerous guests, making it the social
nexus of the beaches. Then he sold it in 1917 to Harcourt Bull, who pioneered
Atlantic Beach and raised a family there. George Bull, Sr. and Mary Bull lived
there 29 years after WWII.18
Figure 2-19 Christopher-Bull House
There was a separate development in
north Pablo Beach, just south of Atlantic Beach, by 1902. S. F. Myers bought
land there and named it Neptune. He planned to create a middling development,
not as nice as Atlantic Beach but above Pablo Beach. Myers planned to build a
hotel but did not. 19
So, at the turn of the 20th century, the coast of Jacksonville was being
populated. Mayport was still the largest settlement; it had a better economic
base as a port, railroad hub, and fishing village. Atlantic Beach had begun as
a luxury hotel and only a few dwellings served by a railroad. Pablo Beach
showed the most promise because it not only contained vacation houses but also
would become a tourist destination. Tourism, primarily day trippers from
Jacksonville, would cause the town to grow. Hotels, rooming houses, amusements,
bath houses, food purveyors, bars, whore houses, a pier, and a dancing pavilion
were some of the aspects of tourism. And they would require more and more
year-round residents—cooks, cleaners, clerks, carpenters—skilled and unskilled
labor, in other words, as well as owners and managers. African-Americans as
well as “whites” settled albeit not in the same neighborhoods.
African-Americans were an important part of beach life even though they were segregated into
their own community. In 1900, a census taker noted fifty-one African-Americans
within eleven families in Pablo Beach, an average family size at the time. They
did much of the hard and/or dangerous work as well as running businesses for
other African-Americans. By 1905, there were enough African-Americans at the
beaches for the founding of
Andrews African Methodist Episcopal Church by Mother Rhoda L. Martin in Pablo
Beach. This was the section known as “The Hill.” Initially, the church met in
her home at the corner of Shetter Avenue and 7th Street South and
south of the FEC railroad tracks. She also began teaching school there.20
Her “school” became the Jacksonville Beach Elementary School for "blacks."
Education was not considered important
in Duval County for “white” children and even less for “black” children. In
1900, the Duval County school system spent $12.08 per white child and $5.47 per
"black" child. In the system, 51% of the students were “white.”
School lasted only 101 days. Salaries were
low but were less than $40 per month for "black" women. School was only for five
African-Americans at the beaches had no public school, only the one taught by
Mother Rhoda L. Martin in her home. The elementary school for “whites” was
located at 2nd Street South and Orange Avenue now 2nd
Avenue South. This photo, taken from The Beaches Leader newspaper, was
typical of the elementary school in those days.
Figure 2-20 Pablo Beach Elementary Students
People did not go to beaches
because of education; they went to have fun and they did. Some went because
they had no choice. On August 21-25,1900, there was an encampment of the
Jacksonville Light Infantry and Atlanta Artillery at Pablo Beach, Camp Wheeler.
The hard packed sand on the beach was conducive to transportation when the tide
was out. The strand was 600 feet wide and the tides changed every six hours.
Wagons had traveled the strand to transport goods south from Mayport but rich
people soon found another use for this hard surface.
The Beaches had brief fame for
automobile racing even though there were only 17 in Jacksonville and 296 in
Floirida in 1906, the year when Joe Lander broke the stock car speed record on the
Atlantic-Pablo Beaches Course. He drove 5 miles in 4 minutes and 55 seconds. The
course started at the Continental Hotel. People who had both the
inclination and the money came from Jacksonville by way of Mayport to watch.
Within less than a decade, automobiles would cease being a rich man’s toy. By
1913, there were 15,000 autos in the Jacksonville area. Races were held again in July, 1910. In March 1911,
however, monster cars from around the world came to race for four days. Thousands
attended to see if any of the cars could exceed the 75-mile-an-hour speed
record. Races were held again in 1917. Then the U.S. entered the First World
War, suspending beach racing.22
Figure 2-21 Race Car, Pablo Beach, 1906
Figure 2-22 Cycle Racing, Atlantic Beach, 1915
Some men had special needs met. In
1908, Cora Taylor Crane, widow of Stephen Crane, the famous author of Red
Badge of Courage, operated a brothel, Palmetto Lodge, at Pablo Beach. It
was on the west side of First Street North between 8th avenue North
and Ninth Avenues North.
For African-Americans in this
bigoted age, in 1907, Manhattan Beach, north of Atlantic Beach and south of the
jetties, opened with pavilions, cottages, and playgrounds. Some years later, it
would be replaced by American Beach in Nassau County to the north.23
Fire Insurance Company created maps so it could minimize risks and Pablo Beach
maps exist.24 The Web
server does not allow a viewer to get a large full map. One can download
snippets of some size, which I have done to illustrate the appearance of
Pablo Beach. On the maps, the buildings are color coded; yellow indicates a wooden building; red equals brick; blue equals
stone; gray equals stone; and brown equals fire proof. East-West streets In
1903, all the buildings were coded yellow. The maps also give dimensions.
This general map provides a glimpse
of the layout of the little town. To the modern reader, the maps can be
confusing because if name changes over time. In 1903, Putnam Avenue became
Pablo Avenue; Duval Avenue became Mundy Avenue and then Beach Boulevard. In
1937, the east-west streets north of Putnam and south of Duval were numbered.
Leon Avenue became Dickerson Avenue and then 1st Avenue North; Shockley Avenue became 1st Avenue
South. The creek shown on these maps was Bonsall Creek which ran towards the southeast until it turned east around
Greiner Avenue and went to the ocean. It was eventually eliminated. In south Pablo Beach but close to Railroad
Avenue/Mundy Drive there were a number of important institutions. One was the
Pablo Hotel on 2nd Street South and Orange Avenue (2nd
Avenue South). St. Paul’s-by-the Sea occupied the northeast corner of 2nd
Street South and Orange Avenue (2nd Avenue South). The public school
was on the northwest. On 1st Street South between Suskind (4th
Avenue South) and Mann (5th Avenue South) stood St. Paul’s Catholic
Mission. The maps shows other important structures. Summer cottages lined the
shore. There were public bath houses and dressing room. The open-air dancing
pavilion between Putnam and Duval was very popular.
In 1903, the Ocean View Hotel, owned and managed by W. H. Adams,
Sr., was located on
Putnam Avenue and had an adjoining public bath house the photo below
This wood frame structure was very popular, the successor of the Murray Hall
Figure 2-23 Ocean View Hotel
Figure 2-24 Schematic Map of Downtown Pablo Beach
Figure 2-25 Ocean View Hotel Post Card
One of the most striking features
in town was the FEC train station a few blocks west of the ocean. Arriving
passengers only had to walk a few blocks to a hotel or bath house or restaurant
bar or amusement. The train ran north to Atlantic Beach and Mayport along what
is now 2nd Street North. Other than landing by boat at Mayport and
traveling on the beach at low tide, taking the train was the most convenient
mode of travel so it was the lifeline.
Figure 2-26 Pablo
Beach Railroad Depot
Figure 2-27 Pablo
Beach Showing Summer Cottages
Figure 2-28 Just South of Pablo's Downtown
Given that most of the buildings were made of wood and were lighted by candles or kerosene
lamps and heated by fireplaces or kerosene heaters, fires threatened their
existence. How devastating they could be was brought home with a vengeance on
May 3,1901 in Jacksonville. The great Jacksonville fire destroyed 146 city
blocks and 2,368 buildings. The fire slowed the development of Pablo and
Atlantic Beaches because funds were devoted largely to rebuilding Jacksonville
but the new Jacksonville would be more dynamic.26
For people in east Duval County
though, life was a beach. The ocean, a very wide strand cooled by breezes which
could serve as a highway, sand dunes, creeks, homes—seasonal and
permanent—places to eat, drink, play, mail service, maid service, and people
dedicated to serving one’s needs and desires made it delightful. The little
brought passengers and supplies
eight times a day. One could take trips to Jacksonville or Mayport for profit
or pleasure. People could stay at the Ocean View or Pablo Hotel or cottages,
rooms, flat, or tents if they weren’t doing a day trip. If they had money, they
could stay at the Continental Hotel in Atlantic Beach. There was plenty to do
besides dipping in the surf. The small permanent population of several hundred
swelled to thousands during the summer season. One could live at the beaches and earn a
living. There was a public school for “white” children and those so inclined
and whose parents could afford to keep them out of the workforce could take the
train to attend Duval High School in Jacksonville.
The following photographs and
postcards depict the was casual, pleasant life on the beaches.
Figure 2-29 Palmetto Avenue, Pablo Beach
Figure 2-30 Ocean Front, Pablo Beach
Figure 2-31 The Shore
Figure 2-32 Pablo Avenue, Looking East
Figure 2-33 First Street, Looking North
Far to the north on the banks of
the St. Johns, Mayport thrived. The village was not actually a part of the
beaches although it served a very useful function for Pablo Beach and the cluster
of buildings in Atlantic Beach. Mayport existed long before its southern
neighbors and was more oriented towards Jacksonville. Although necessarily
small, there were churches, stores, schools, and the other accoutrements of “urban” civilization. It even had its
own baseball team for adolescents. East of Mayport, Elizabeth Worthington
bought two oceanfront lots in 1914. She expanded her holdings to 300 acres. She
and her new husband, Jack Stark, created Wonderwood-by-the-Sea.27
Figure 2-34 Mayport Docks
Figure 2-35 Railroad Station and Wharf, Mayport
Figure 2-36 1901 Mayport Baseball Team
Pablo Beach was finally organized
as an official town in 1907; before it had just been a post office. To run the
town the Governor appointed local citizens.
H. M. Shockley was named mayor; J. Denham Bird as treasurer, and G. W.
Wilkerson as city clerk. The town council members were
J. E. Dickerson, E. E. Willard, William
Wilkerson, E. E. Suskind, Alexander Stevens, W. H. Shetter, C. M. Greiner, T.
H. Griffith, and C. H. Mann.28
They had lent their names to the avenues long before. In 1908, they began paving some streets with shell. Most
streets were just sand.
Figure 2-37 Dickerson Avenue and 1st St. North
1 “Ancient History at Beaches Is Recalled As
Landmark Will Be Razed for Modern Buildings,” Florida Times-Union,
1935; S. Paul Brown, Book of Jacksonville: A History, (Poughkeepsie, NY:
A. V. Haight, 1895), p.144.
2. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Population
of the United States by Minor Civil Divisions. Washington, 1891, p. 7. This
figure does not include such suburbs as Fairfield and South Jacksonville.
3. Davis, 175.
4. Davis, p. 493; Scull interview; Ed Smith, Them
Good Ole Days at Mayport and the Beaches. Luxury hotels are unlikely
places for U. S. post office and, as Scull reported, hotel guests complained.
5. Johnston, Architectural Resources, p. 43.
6. Wanton S. Webb, “Duval
County,” Webb's Historical, Industrial and Biographical Florida, Pt. I., 1885,
7. “Mayport Naval Station,”
8. Helen Cooper Floyd, In The
Shadow Of The Lighthouse: A Folk History of Mayport, Florida. (Jacksonville,
1994), pp. 2, 16.
9. Davis, pp.189, 353-54.
10. To see Corbett fight, click on the following iinks.To see
Corbett, follow these links: Bob
Fitzsimmons and Jim Corbett (1894); Jim
Corbett v. Bob Fitzsimmons (1894); Quick
Jim. John W. Cowart, “Gentleman
Jim Corbett’s Big Fight,” http://www.cowart.info,
2005. Foley, Bill. “Jacksonville's
boxing title match had real sideshow,” Florida
Times-Union, February 23, 2000. “The Vanity Of A New York Woman
Wintering in Florida Got Her In Trouble,” New York Times, January 28, 1894.
“Corbett in Active Training,” New York
Times, December 25, 1893 “May Declare The Fight Off,” New York Times, January
20, 1894. “The Fight Still In Doubt,” New
York Times, January 25, 1894.
11. Davis, 175-77; Webb, “Duval
County,” 43; Davis, 102, 180; Margaret C. Fairlie, “The Yellow Fever
Epidemic of 1888 in Jacksonville,” Florida Historical Quarterly 19:2 (
October 1940 ), 96-109. John W.
Fever in Jacksonville,” says: “On July 28, 1888, Yellow Jack invaded
Jacksonville, Florida;” “Yellow Fever’s Victims, New
York Times, September 17, 1888; and Herbert
J. Doherty, Jr., “Jacksonville As A Nineteenth-Century Railroad Center,” Florida
Historical Quarterly, 58:4, p. 374.
12 Johnston, Architectural Resources, pp. 45-47; Davis, p.
13 George Buker, Jacksonville:
Riverport-Seaport (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1992). Pp.
103-7. See "Three Friends Ready," New York Times, December 6, 1896. Broward later became Governor of Florida.
14 Davis, 351.
15. Simon, p. 11.
16. James B. Crooks, Jacksonville After
The Fire, 1901-1919: A New South City. Jacksonville: University of North
Florida, 1991, p.27; Herbert J. Doherty, “Jacksonville As A Nineteenth-Century
Railroad Center,” Florida Historical Quarterly 58:4 (April, 1980),
17. Davis, 494. The Adams family
played an extraordinary role in Beaches history. Some still live there. The cost
of living calculator of the American Institute for Economic Research
converts this figure to $2,546,750 in 2005. See my "A Man and Three Hotels".
18. Christopher F. Aguilar; “A
Party to History,” Beaches Shorelines, February 2, 2002. The story of Harcourt Bull's involvement in Atlantic Beach is told in my
"Harcourt Bull's Atlantic Beach, Florida.
19. Bill Foley, “Neptune Was Born
As A Buffer to Atlantic”, Florida Times-Union, June 21, 1997.
20. Johnston, Architectural Resources, p. 57; Kathy
Nicoletti, “AME celebrates 100 Years at Beaches,” The Beaches Leader/Ponte
Vedra Leader (October 28, 2005). In 1949, it was moved to 125 Ninth Street
21. Crooks, p. 13.
22.Davis, 218; Bill Foley, “Millennium Moment: March 25,
1911,: Times-Union, March 25, 1999; Michael
Gannon, Florida, A Short History. Gainesville: University of Florida
Press, 1993, p. 7; Davis, 232. York Times,
January 29, 1911; “Florida
Beach Races,” New York Times, March
14, 1911; New York Times, January 29, 1911. John W. Cowart,
“Jacksonville’s Motorcar History.” http://www.cowart.info/Florida%20History/Auto%20History/Auto%20History.htm,
23. Russ Rymer, American Beach: A Saga of Race, Wealth, and Memory. (NY: HarperCollins, 1998).
Fire Fire Insurance Company, San Pablo maps.
25. Johnston, Architectural Resources, p. 52.
26. James B. Crooks, Jacksonville
After the Fire, 1901-1919: A New South City. (Gainesville, University of
Florida Press, 1991).
Village," City of Jacksonville Web site. In 1940, the U.S. Navy took the
property for the base it was building
28. Davis, 233; Johnston, Architectural Resources, p. 52.
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