4: The World's Finest Beach, 1925-45
<< 3: Pablo Beach, 1907-25 || 5: After WWII >>
The “World’s Finest Beach” was on its way. The newly-named Jacksonville Beach
looked to the future with great optimism. After all, the Florida Land Boom was
going great guns in 1925. People were buying land, especially in south
Florida, as speculators, then flipping it in a few weeks to new buyers,
thus paying their initial costs and garnering a profit. Some would then do it
again. On a national scale, many people were doing the same thing with the stock
market. With so much demand, prices spiraled upwards. Land speculation was a
familiar phenomenon in U.S. history; that was how much of the West was settled. As long as there were willing buyers, the land speculation would
continue. In 1925, it was upwards and onwards for the Beaches. Not only had
Pablo Beach become Jacksonville Beach but Atlantic Beach had also been
Still, not many people lived at the Beaches.
In 1925, Jacksonville Beach housed 744 people. The Florida state census classified them as 544
"whites" (73.1%), 187 "blacks" (25.1%), and 13 of “other races” (1.7%). Racial
classifications are obviously inaccurate but one wonders what characteristics
caused those thirteen people to be classified thusly. Were they Asians? Mayport contained 644 people of whom 430 were
"whites" (66.8%). Atlantic Beach
was too small to be included within the category of “minor civil divisions of
the state census. The area of Palm Valley and what
would become Ponte Vedra Beach had once been Duval County but Duval had ceded
it to St. Johns Country. In 1925, Palm Valley had 162 residents of whom 117 (72.2%) were
"white" and (27.8%) were" black."
People in Palm Valley scratched out a living through subsistence farming,
hunting, trapping, and fishing. During part of the year they could earn cash by
cutting palm fronds to sell, taking them to the Durbin Station on the Florida
East Coast Railway west of the Intracoastal Waterway. When the Intracoastal
which was finished in 1912, they used it. There was a
one-room school. The census data also included the people who lived in Mineral City, the coastal
mining community which would become Ponte Vedra Beach. This totals 1550 without
Atlantic Beach. If it contained 50 people, the total for the Beaches was 1600.1
Jacksonville was booming as well. The Duval County
population, most of it in Jacksonville and its suburbs, was 123,481
persons of whom 72, 870 (59%) were "white" and 50,441 (40.1%) were
"black" in 1925. In 1930, Jacksonville, by itself, had a population of
129,549 whereas it had 91,558 in 1920, a 41.5% increase! Banks such as The
Atlantic National. the Florida National, and the Barnett National as well as
others made the city the financial capital of the state. The city has a team in
the South Atlantic League of professional baseball since 1904. The city-owned
electric system was constantly being extended and upgraded. Skyscrapers adorned
downtown. Shipbuilding spurted during WWI; Merrill-Stevens Shipbuilding
Corporation, Morey & Thomas, J. M. Murdock Company, etc. The port shipped
and received millions of dollars in goods. In 1924, the Ford Motor Company has
created an assembly and distribution plant in the city. Tourists both came to
the vicinity for vacations or passed through to reach more southern climes. The
building of good highways and the designation of a national system in the 1920s
helped. Trucks became important. A building boom meant new subdivisions such as
San Marco, Lake Shore, San Jose Estates, and Lake Forest were being built.
Millions were being spent.2 Prohibition of alcoholic beverages brought large profits to
those in the county who smuggled them from Canada and Cuba; bootleggers sold
them at large profits as well.
Given this prosperity, expansionism was characteristic of the
mid-1920s. The Casa Marina Hotel in Jacksonville Beach, begun in 1924 and opened in 1925,
was innovative for
the Beaches because it was not made of wood but stucco. In June, 1925, W. H. Adams,
Sr. opened the new Atlantic Beach Hotel, a 50-room stucco hotel. It became a
standard of luxury for many years and an icon. An outdoor swimming pool, at 100-by-50
feet swimming pool the largest in the state, was added in 1929. Eventually, the pool would be used
by the local high school's swimming teams. In 1928, the Beach roller coaster was
built by John Miller
of the Miller & Rose Amusement Company of Milwaukee between Pablo Avenue and First Avenue North. The coaster, an icon for the beaches., was
a 93-foot structure. The train reached speeds of 50 miles per hour. In 1933, Miller sold it to
W. H. Adams, Jr., who put Lake R. Peddy in charge.3 The Coaster Block complex included
restaurants, apparel stores, game parlors, and other amusements.
4-2 Atlantic Beach Hotel
Figure 4-1 Casa Marina Hotel/Casa Marina Apartements
Figure 4-3 Down the Roller Coaster, 1930
Figure 4-4 Lifeguard Station, Roller Coaster, and
Penny Arcade , 1930s
Figure 4-5 Lifeguard Station, 1930
Not all plans worked out. In 1925, the Jacksonville Beach
Development Company was formed to build a $2 million amusement park but nothing
was built. That same year, Gabe Lippman purchased
half a mile of ocean front between Jacksonville Beach and Atlantic Beach; behind
that stretch of land, he owned 2,500 acres, including four miles of frontage
acres on the
Intracoastal Waterway. Lippman planned to build
a town with a golf course, hotel, pier, and yacht basin. To service his
development, he built Florida Boulevard from the ocean westwards and northward
to intersect with Atlantic Boulevard at Mayport Road. There was so much
low-lying land and marshes, that the contractors had to construct a miniature
railroad to haul land fill. The road was completed and a celebration held on July 2, 1925 at
the ocean front. Few structures had been erected, however. In October, Lippman,
who was in the pharmaceutical distribution business, sold the development to
Majestic Homes Corporation of St Louis. It planned to create a 25,000 person
city. Florida Beach was never developed, however.
Majestic Homes defaulted in June, 1926. Only a few homes had been built.4
The second half of the 1920s saw other problems as well.
Disaster struck in the very early morning of
July 29, 1926 in Jacksonville Beach fire struck businesses downtown. The Ocean View Hotel
burned down. The kitchen
fire in the two and one-half story, 60-room hotel on the boardwalk, spread
throughout the hotel and then attacked neighboring businesses such as
King Tut’s Restaurant, the Adams bath house, and various concessions. Had the
remnants of the hurricane which passed through the area had come earlier,
perhaps the rain would have extinguished the fire.
In 1928, a strong storm caused the loss of 200 feet off the end of the Jacksonville Beach pier.
The Ku Klux Klan active in the 1920s, reaching a fever pitch in 1928 when the Catholic Alfred E. Smith ran for President. Klansmen believed such nonsense
as a Catholic plot to install the Pope as the ruler of the United States or that
there was an international Jewish conspiracy or that African Americans were a
threat to civilization or some combination thereof. Popular Jacksonville Beach mayor Walter M. Phillips died of an accidental
fall on September 7, 1928. In 1917, he
Buckman and Pritchard, Inc. which had mined Mineral City until the National Lead
Company bought the mining project. When the mining became unprofitable, he became head of development
to turn the National
Lead property, eleven miles of ocean front property, into a site for a golf
course, dog racing, club house, and houses for winter residents. He also worked
to get a coastal highway built, A1A, from Jacksonville Beach to St. Augustine, a
move successful in 1929. Phillips' death did not stop the project, however.5
Things got worse. The Florida Land Boom died. The dying
began in 1925 but the 1926 hurricane in South
Florida scared potential buyers. The Florida economy started downward. Building
projects were stopped. People lost jobs. Testiness increased.
Then things got much worse. The stock
market boom ended in October, 1929; the market crashed. The crash revealed the
weakness of the national economy. Signs of
trouble in Jacksonville began emerging in Spring, 1928. Within a year and one
half, unemployment would be serious in Duval County. The economy, increasingly based on mass consumption to absorb mass
production, was financed on the "never never," credit, the belief that
incomes would rise fast enough to pay the bills. Advertisers, Madison Avenue in
popular parlance, were successful in convincing large numbers of Americans that
they needed what they desired. Income did not rise as fast as demand. The
1920s were a decade when the rich got much richer than the average person so the
latter started borrowing and borrowing. Mass consumption necessitates an income distribution that allows consumers to buy.
Without the appropriate income distribution, warehouses will burst at their
seams and production lines will clog. Racism and ethnic discrimination hurt the
economy not only because large numbers of people did not get paid what they
deserved but also because talent was denied. As the economy changed from coal to
oil and hydroelectric power and natural fibers to synthetics, large economic
dislocations occurred. The national government, under Republican Party control,
restricted the free market with high tariffs and other subsidies to business.
These weaknesses, unrelated to the speculative binge of playing the stock
market, would create widespread suffering.6 By the summer of 1932, the unemployment rate was 25% and the underemployment
rate approached 40%.
Hard times affected the Beaches. The population dropped. Mayport city had 511 (399
in 1920 and 441 in 1910) and Atlantic Beach town had 164 but Mayport precinct
had 1,003; Jacksonville Beach area had 882 but city had 409 (357 in 1920 and
249 in 1910). Palm Valley had 63 people. In
1931, the Florida East Coast Railway went into receivership and
discontinued its service to the Beaches and Mayport. The tracks were removed; the right of way
sold; and the berm was
leveled. It could not compete with automobiles in its passenger service. The
switch to oil-burning locomotives from coal meant freighting coal from the
docks at Mayport was not economical. Developers converted land from the
right-of-way at the Beaches to residential lots between 1935 and 1937. Duval
County bought the right-of-way from the Spring Glen area out to the beach. No longer could one ride to or from Jacksonville for a quarter. In an age when
few had cars, this loss of transportation hurt. Tourism, the lifeblood, slowed
considerably. In February, 1931, the Jacksonville Journal reported
low morale and ill health among people in Jacksonville; surely people at the Beaches felt the same.7
Angry with the government of Jacksonville Beach because they
believed not enough services were being provided in return for taxes, a group of
citizens created Neptune Beach on June 10, 1931. By
November,1939, the town had 340 dwellings, a tiny city hall, a little business
district on the south side of Atlantic Boulevard, paved roads, a bulkhead, fire
and police stations, and a water and sewer system. In 1936-37, fifty-two houses
were built in the little town. Neptune renamed many of its streets in 1937 to
conform to the numerical system adopted by Jacksonville Beach that same year.
In 1938, Peter Jensen erected a commercial building (shown below) which housed a
number of businesses, including Pete’s Bar. Dwight Wilson, Archivist Emeritus of the Beaches Area Historical Society, says
the little town allowed Jewish people to live there when other communities would
Figure 4-6 Jensen Building
Prosperity for the Beaches' economy depended
upon tourism from the greater Jacksonville area, the Southeast U.S., and, to a
lesser extent, people from the Midwest and East Coast. Tourism was seasonal,
lasting from early May through Labor Day in September. Thousands would come for
a day or longer to enjoy the ocean and the various amusements. Forty thousand
people on a major weekend was common. The money earned fed those in the tourist
business and a large share of the Beaches' population. Although the Beaches were
a bedroom community for Jacksonville, the number of commuters was small. Even
smaller were the number of people who owned second homes on the beach, summer
residences. So Beaches leaders had to increase tourism to bring back
In an effort to promote the beach
area for tourism and settlement, the Chamber of Commerce published a pamphlet
in 1931 calling the Beaches
Finest Beach.” It said the strand was 40 miles long and bragged that it was 600
feet wide. The beach had beautiful dunes but the sand was so hard packed that
cars could park on the beach and airplanes could use it as a landing field. The
Florida land boom brought people and improvements such as new city hall, new
sewer system, new water system, and more paved streets. The pier provided a
place to sightsee or dance or fish. The Red Cross Lifeguard Corps provided
protection to swimmers. Getting to the Beaches was possible via Atlantic
Boulevard, a 32-feet wide, lighted road between Jacksonville and the Beaches. That same year, Walter Lees and Frederick A. Brossy fly a
Bellanca airplane from Jacksonville Beach and establish an non-refueling endurance
record of 84 hours, 33 minutes. The next year, 1932, the American Legion sponsored an automobile race
called "100 Miles of Ponte Vedra," in an attempt to ape the
success of Daytona Beach. The idea did not catch on.9
Figure 4-7 Bellanca on the Beach
Jacksonville Beach also tried to get the Duval County
government to build a road from South Jacksonville to Jacksonville Beach, a
project that would open up that little city and also provide much-need
employment. The efforts failed in 1933. On February 19th at the Southside Business Men’s Club,
Jacksonville Beach Mayor W. E. Montgomery, the guest speaker, opposed building
a boulevard that would go to close to Mineral City but said he would support a
road built on the FEC right-of-way. The idea of a new road had been broached
and, at a November meeting, the delegation of
Ben McCormick, Gene Zapf, and W. E. Montgomery held further discussions.
McCormick was the key developer of the Beaches. Duval Engineer J. A. Long spoke
at the meeting. The idea was to use emergency relief workers to build the road. At
the December meeting, the group resolved in favor of the FEC route. 10
City officials believed that getting more tourists would
stave off the worst effects of the Great Depression and then create economic
recovery. One effort to make the shoreline more attractive was to build a
concrete seawall. In 1934, the bulkhead at Jacksonville Beach was finished. The
city held a celebration because it increased tourism. Speaking in 1935, the mayor said Jacksonville Beach had done $2 million in tourism in
1934 and expected to do $9 million in 1935. At the end of the season, the Junior Chamber of Commerce staged three-day
"End of Season" festivities which included a baby parade with
judging, stunt flying, a swim marathon in the ocean, and a bathing beauty
contest. Thousands came. Babies, sex, sports, and spunk sold.11
Mayport and Palm Valley did not enjoy the luxury of a
beautiful beach, the "world's finest," with its amusement park,
hotels, bath houses, bars, and restaurants. When the economic slowdown
continued, some of their residents had to find a means to eke out a living. Moonshining became important in
Mayport and Palm Valley in the early 1930s;12 the New Deal repealed Prohibition in 1933 to stimulate the economy.
Franklin Roosevelt's New
Deal spent huge sums of money for Relief, Recovery, and Reform. U.S. Senator
Duncan U. Fletcher of Jacksonville made sure that Duval County got its share.
Such programs as the
Civilian Conservation Corps at Camp Duncan U. Fletcher, the Civil Works Administration,
the Federal Relief Emergency Administration, and the Works Progress
Administration hired the unemployed using the principal of workfare.
Construction of Duncan U. Fletcher Junior-Senior High School was begun in 1936;
it opened the next year. In 1938, the U.S. government helped finance the construction of the Main Street Bridge,
opening another way to the Beaches. In 1939, Atlantic Beach Elementary School
(for "whites") was completed using New Deal monies. And there were more efforts to
Perhaps no project of the government in Washington
had as great an impact as the building of Fletcher. The junior-senior high school
unified "white" people at the Beaches, for 7-12 students from Mayport south to
Ponte Vedra-Palm Valley and west to beyond San Pablo Road went to school
together for the first time. The age span was important because it meant
that kids went through puberty together, experiencing fears, opportunities,
self-discovery, raging hormones, sports, the arts, and so much more. The school
provided a sense of being something larger than oneself, of belonging to a
tribe, a nation as it were, with its own traditions, songs, and warriors.
Seventh graders stood in awe of seniors who "tolerated" their or their
friends little brothers and sisters. The community had a focal point as
Fletcher's athletic teams defended the honor of the Beaches. No longer did
students have to commute to Landon in Jacksonville. From the first class
graduated in 1938 until the school was divided in 1964, Fletcher joined the
ocean in providing commonality to the Beaches.
Figure 4-8 Fletcher's First Graduating Class
In spite of
the hard times of the Depression, the beaches thrived in time. Part of it was because
land was cheap and people who had money took advantage of the low real estate
prices. The Arnot Building, a movie theatre, and the Wave Crest Hotel
as well as lesser buildings went up in
Jacksonville Beach while the Lovett Building graced Atlantic Beach. Arthur
Penman built a house on Florida Boulevard in his Neptune Forest subdivision in
1936, expanding the development of Neptune Beach. Then, in 1939 and 1940, he
built two houses in the Pine Grove subdivision in Jacksonville Beach. Penman
was honored by both towns with a road named for him. Amusements, bars, and other tourism provided income as
people from Jacksonville, north Florida, and south Georgia sought relief from
daily life. People came to the Boardwalk for relief. Jacksonville Beach was more “open” than Jacksonville, thus giving
it an economic advantage in the amusement business. Atlantic
Boulevard, paved and lighted in 1925 made it easier to get to the Beaches.
The end of prohibition in late 1933 meant the bars reopened. The pier became
more popular. Government money gave people spending power.14
Jacksonville grew from 129,549 in 1930 to 173,065 in
1940, a 36.6% increase but Jacksonville Beach grew much faster. In the 1930s, Jacksonville Beach experienced fantastic
growth, going from 409 people in 1930 to 3,566 people in 1940. People flocked to
the easier life in a warmer climate. Land at the Beaches was cheaper,
so people moved there. Houses and apartments were built to supply the demand.
Many dwellings. As late as 2003, we know that 67 structures, mostly
single-family dwellings, still existed in South Jacksonville Beach and 63 in north
Jacksonville Beach. Of these 130 structures, five were commercial, 71 were single-family dwellings,
35 were duplexes, 10 triplexes,
quadraplexes, and 2 with 5 or more apartments. Because of development over
almost seventy years, the total number built in the 1930s was much higher. By 1935,
Jacksonville Beach had 1,094 people, an increase of 695 since 1930. Of these
797 were "white" and 297 were "black." Outside the city limits, there were an
additional people of whom 359 were "white" and 43 were "black." Mayport had 511 and Atlantic Beach had 164.15
We get a glimpse of life at the Beaches by looking at the 1935 telephone
directory below. Although the list is truncated, almost all of it is shown.
Telephones were expensive in 1935 so few people or businesses had them. Earl
Roberts was the only physician and there was no hospital. The list does not include Mayport.
The number of residential telephones shown is eighty-five; the total was less than
Figure 4-9 1935 Telephone Directory
Then, in 1937, Jacksonville Beach changed many streets names
in the belief that doing so would make it easier for visitors to navigate. Most
avenues became numerical with Pablo Avenue serving as the boundary between
avenues north and south. Streets such as Mundy
Boulevard. Pablo Avenue and Shetter Avenue remained the same. Neptune Beach also
changed some street names.
Private enterprise played a role in bringing the Beaches
out of the Depression; the fancy resort and housing development called Ponte
Vedra Beach was developed from Mineral City in St. Johns County. The
building of Ponte Vedra would spur growth in Jacksonville Beach because money
was being spent within a small economy and because part of the development would
in south Jacksonville Beach. In October, 1928, men meeting in the office of National Lead,
Inc. decided to hire Telfair
Stockton Company of Jacksonville to create a grand design for its seventeen
miles o property in Mineral City. The mining was no longer viable but the growth
of the Beaches as a resort gave National Lead an alternative use for the
From the first, they did not want the development to have the
honky-tonk atmosphere of the Boardwalk area of Jacksonville Beach and they
wanted it to be a higher class resort than Atlantic Beach. In short, they
wanted to create an upper-middle class and upper class resort and development,
one that would be an exclusive private club. So they chose Joe Davin as the land
engineer and Jim Stockton as the designer, planner, and manager of the resort.
Stockton was a graduate of Princeton in 1916 so he recruited upper-class
clients in 1937 by using his
Figure 4-10 Mineral City, 1928
The property had a club house and nine-hole golf course;
National Lead has built them for its managerial employees, their guests, and
visiting executives. For half of the year it was much more pleasant than New
York or other eastern cities. The log cabin built in 1927 was temporarily used by guests until The Inn
opened in 1937. The Stockton company removed the shacks and mining equipment.
It commissioned landscaping to beautify. It pressured the state to build a
coastal highway, A1A, to St. Augustine to entice settlement. Equally important,
they initially sold lots cheaply to get
people there. They built attractive edifices befitting their proposed
clientele--a Bath Club (which had a dance floor), a swimming pool for those who
wanted to avoid the ocean, and then The Inn and guest cottages. The golf course
was expanded to an 18-hole course. The 130 acre golf course was built in 1931-32 with 100 mules
doing work. Lagoons were dug out of swampland. Talented employees were hired. The key to
the good domestic service and maintenance was Collis Quarterman, a "black" man,
recruited and supervised a large staff. Over a half million dollars in
construction monies were spent, money which surged through the Beaches' economy
multiplying as it did so. Mineral City was renamed Ponte Vedra Beach, a Hispanic
name chosen to reflect the "European" character of the resort.
Stockton wrote to his fellow Princeton University alumni to
encourage them to visit and, perhaps, buy property and membership in the Ponte
Vedra Inn & Country Club. It worked. The resort saw the likes of the famous
radio commentator Edward R. Murrow and the film star Dana Andrews as guests in
addition to the ordinary well-to-do and wealthy. National Lead sold its interests in
1942. Ponte Vedra was self-sustaining. The Ponte Vedra Inn & Club was
successful enough that Tommy Sabin bought 600 feet of oceanfront further south
and built the 32-room Innlet in 1940. In
1944, the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club bought it. In 1947, thirty
apartments were added.16
Other developments made the Beaches a better place to live.
“On October 17, 1937, fifty-nine dedicated
worshipers gathered in the old Beach Theater in Jacksonville Beach to form
Rising Tide Methodist Church – the forerunner to today’s Beach United
Methodist. “17 St.
Paul’s Catholic Church bought a city block of land and, in 1940, started
building a church and parish hall. St. Paul’s would create an elementary
school. In that year, “Pogy” people from the Carolinas brought five boats
and their crews
to Mayport, creating
employment. The Pogy or menhaden, fish factory produced fish oil and fertilizer
and paid 10
cents/hour to men who shoveled processed pogy ten hours a day ($1/day). Women
worked in a crab processing plant.18. In 1937, Duval County paid FEC
$8,500 for right-of-way to Jacksonville Beach. Became State Road 376. County
used WPA money to clear right of way, put in drainage, etc. Cost $1,576,000 of
which over $500,00 was federal. WW II killed project in 1941.19.
By 1940, the Beaches had become prosperous and continued to grow. By 1940s, Duval County’s population increased
37% between 1920-30 and 35.1% between 1930-1940. Atlantic Beach went from 164
people to 468 people. Neptune Beach, which was part of Jacksonville Beach in
1930, had 1,363 citizens by 1940. The Palm Valley precinct, which included Ponte
Vedra Beach, had 341 in 1940. Jacksonville Beach grew the most spectacularly from
409 persons in 1930 to 3,566 persons in 1940, an increase of 872%.20
Much of the growth was spurred by the creation of military
bases by the New Deal, for President Roosevelt and Congress reacted to World War
II even though the U.S. was not involved for over two years. The war had begun
in September, 1939. In fact, the Japanese had taken a chunk of China in 1931,
then launched a brutal all-our war with China in 1937. Germany invaded Poland on
September 1, 1939; soon thereafter the United Kingdom and France, guarantors of
Polish sovereignty, declared war on Germany. The U.S. government watched these
events closely and moved to strengthen the nation's naval defenses. Jacksonville
leaders, for their part, had been lobbying Washington for a naval base, arguing
the geographical location of the city made it advisable.
Bases were built. Jacksonville Naval Air Station on the St.
Johns River across from Mandarin was opened in October, 1940, having been
authorized the year before. Local money had joined national money to acquire the
requisite and construct buildings. By June, 1941, sailors were frequenting the
Beaches for fun and games.
Cecil Field, an auxiliary naval air field, was commissioned west of Jacksonville
NAS in June, 1941. The Mayport
Naval Station was selected as an auxiliary station in 1939; in December,1942, the
Mayport Naval Section Base was commissioned. In 1943, it became a Sea Frontier Base. In April, 1944, the Naval Auxiliary Air Station
was built adjacent to the frontier base. Thus millions, if not billions, of
dollars were poured into the Duval County economy during World War II
stimulating the economy and creating permanent wealth. The U.S. government spent
much of the Gross Domestic Product on the war, raising taxes and borrowing to
pay for it. More distant but within traveling distance of the Beaches was
Green Cove Springs, home of Lee Field and then the Atlantic mothball fleet, 1946-61.
The Navy became an essential component of the Jacksonville area economy.
The Beaches benefited from sailor tourism from all three
bases but more directly from Mayport because of its proximity. Naval and
civilian personnel bought, stayed, and played at the Beaches. When the war ended in 1945, the two
Mayport bases were decommissioned, a blow to the economy of the Beaches.
The Navy took much of the old villages of Mayport,
East Mayport, and Wonderwood.
Navy bulldozed St Joseph’s Catholic
Church. The Lighthouse property was swallowed by the base. In the1930s, there
had been a school for African-Americans in East
Mayport , a grades 1-6 school where Miss Short taught. The Navy took the property.
In time, the Navy would acquire more property to meet its needs and desires.
World War II was a direct experience for Beaches residents.
1942, a German submarine sank the tanker S. S. Gulfamerica off the coast. People could see
the fire. Some made an effort to rescue the survivors. Security measures were
adopted. Residents were required to use blackout curtains, car headlights were
hooded, and beach
barriers were erected so that ships would not be silhouetted against the
shore. Residents had to carry passes.
A few months later, on June 17th, four German saboteurs landed at Ponte Vedra Beach
Pastorius. For others had landed on Long Island on June 13, 1942. The Florida group
included Edward John Kerling, 33; Herbert Hans Haupt, an American citizen;
Werner Thiel; and Herman Neubauer. They had boxes of incendiary devices, bombs,
and money. They walked to Jacksonville Beach and then took a bus to Jacksonville.
After a large breakfast, two checked into the Seminole Hotel, two into the Mayflower
Hotel. Kerling and Thiel went to New York City and were arrested on June 24;
Haupt and Neubauer went to Chicago and were arrested on June 27th.
they had been ratted out by one of the Long Island party before the Florida group had
landed. After a secret military trial, the Ponte Vedra four were executed on August 8, 1942
The Beaches saw other war-related changes. In
1942, the Army built a Combat Team Camp in Atlantic Beach on 150 acres.
In 1943, the Casa Marina Hotel was leased to the US government to house
immigrant workers and converted into forty-nine apartments. The first hospital
at the Beaches was founded in a former motel on 1st Avenue South.22
Beginning in 1943 and then again in 1947, B. B. McCormick & Sons started
constructing 48 buildings from Fifth Avenue South to 16th Avenue North which
would contain 354 apartments. Ben McCormick acquired much by barter, trading the
work of his construction company for property. He had obtained land from the City of Jacksonville Beach in 1937, filling it in when
necessary, to make it suitable for building. 23 Thus, affordable housing was provided for civilian and military families. All
was done through New Deal programs.
Although the Beaches community had grown, the shore still
remained relatively small. One indicator is the size of the 1943 Fletcher High School
graduating class of 57. Another is the student population of two other
"white" schools at the Beaches.
Figure 4-11 Fletcher 1943 Graduation
Figure 4-12 Beaches White School Enrollments, 1940-44
Fletcher Jr.-Sr. HS
Jacksonville Beach Elementary
Atlantic Beach Elementary
Fletcher grew almost 23%, Jacksonville Beach 41%, and Atlantic Beach almost 72%.
The three combined grew 37.6%, a healthy increase.
In 1939, the Duval County Board of Education began building a four room
elementary school for African-Americans on a two acre lot on the corner of 3rd
Avenue South and 10th Street South in Jacksonville Beach. The
number of African-Americans increased so a building was constructed in 1946 for
"blacks" in 1946. That year, it had 86 students in grades 1-6.
Population growth, it had 217 students in grades 1-6 in 1956, necessitated the
addition of two classrooms and a cafeteria in 1952.. There was a
"black" school in Atlantic Beach in 1946 which had 26 students.
Presumably, this school also served Mayport. Nevertheless, there were not
We can glimpse the Beaches through aerial photographs taken in 1942 and 1943.
Most of the houses and commercial buildings hugged the shore. Jacksonville Beach
was the most highly developed whereas Palm Valley was the least.
Figure 4-13 Aerial Photo #1
This photograph shows southern Jacksonville Beach and Ponte Vedra Beach
(where the lakes or lagoons are) in 1942. The island in the lagoon (lower right)
is the Ninth Hole of
the golf course. The left side of the photograph shows marsh land and part of
Pablo Creek/San Pablo River.
Figure 4-14 Aerial Photo #2
North of Ponte Vedra lies south Jacksonville
Beach. The scale of these photos is not the same. The small lake/lagoon at the
top Aerial Photo #1 can be seen towards the bottom of Aerial Photo #2. At the
top right of #2, one can see a square with walks in an X-shape; City Hall
is located there.
Aerial Photo #3
One sees the pier just north of the X-shaped square. This was
and is the downtown. Just to the left of the square one can see the remnants of
the Florida East Coast Railroad which was removed in the 1931-32.
Figure 4-16 Aerial Photo #4
The lower right shows the downtown square
and pier. At the upper left, underneath the numerals, is Fletcher Junior-Senior
High School. North of it is Neptune Beach.
Figure 4-17 Aerial Photo #5
The pier was part of the Atlantic Beach Hotel complex owned
by the Adams family.
Figure 4-18 Aerial Photo #6
This photo shows Seminole Road running through northern
Atlantic Beach through Burnside/Seminole/Manhattan Beach to Mayport. At the top
of the photo one can see part of the Village of Mayport, Wonderwood, and sand
Figure 4-19 Aerial Photo #7
The St. Johns River jetties channel the mouth of the river.
The white in the photo is sand. The road is Seminole Road. Ribault Bay, which
became the Mayport carrier basin is barely visible in the center left.
As the aerial photos show better than words, the Beaches
were sparsely populated; one did not have to travel very far west from the ocean
to encounter empty land and then low-lying terrain and marshes. Several city
blocks north and south of downtown Jacksonville Beach were the most settled. As
one went north or south, population density declined. Although the argument was
made that the political jurisdictions in this north-south strip should be
combined because they all faced common problems and opportunities and had a
common school in Fletcher, they remained separate. Some of it was social class.
Mayport and Palm Valley did not have the same prestige that Atlantic Beach or
Ponte Vedra Beach had. Some of it was the fact that Jacksonville Beach was the
workplace of the Beaches, the source of much of the income, the tourist center
with its carny-style Boardwalk, bars, whorehouses, and such. One could live in
Jacksonville Beach and completely ignore the entertainment business; most people
World War II ended with the August 15, 1945 and the Japanese signing the
surrender documents on September 2,1945; the Beaches had grown substantially. Population
figures demonstrated it. The Palm Valley precinct had 561 people of whom 406
were classified as “white” and 155 "black" (27.6%). Mayport had
1,236 of whom 881 were “white” and 881 were "black." Neptune Beach had 1,298
“whites” within its city limits and another 402 persons outside the city
limits of whom 391 were "white" and 11 were "black." Atlantic Beach had 956 (921
“white,” 35 "black"). Jacksonville Beach had 5,943 people (5274
669 "blacks" (11.3%) and there were another 779 “whites” outside the city
Historical Text Archive
1. State of Florida, Department. of Agriculture, The
fifth census of the state of Florida taken in the year 1925: in accordance with
the provisions of Chapter 6826, Laws of Florida, Acts of the Legislature of 1915.
(Tallahassee: T. J. Appleyard, Inc., 1926, p. 20, 49. Johnston, Architectural Resources,
p. 70 says
there were 620 persons in Jacksonville Beach in 1925; in 1875, the area where
Palm Valley and Ponte Vedra Beach are now was transferred to St. Johns County.
Michel Oesterreicher, 1996, pp. 14-15.
2. Ward, Old Hickory, pp. 208-10.
3. Johnny Woodhouse, “First Coaster at Beach Had Pedigree, “
Times to Remember: A calendar for 2004, Jacksonville Beach, FL: The Beaches
Leader, 2003. Peddy lived at 222 First Street South; for a time, he was an uncle
of the author. In 1950, the coaster was taken down. All the remained was the
Coaster Bath House as a reminder that it was there.
4. Miller, Land Boom, 91-92 , 119ff. He cites the Florida
Times-Union and the Jacksonville Journal.
5. Foley, “What Next After Fire? Beaches Partied On”, Florida Times-Union,
Aug 16, 1997; Oesterreicher, p. 92; Jacksonville Journal,
September 7, 1928; Elaine B. Koehl, The Ponte Vedra Club;
Johnston, Architectural Resources, pp. 81-84.
6. Ward, Old Hickory's Town, pp. 210-216; Donald J. Mabry,
"The Great Depression and Herbert
Hoover," Historical Text Archive.
7. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Report of the 15th
Census, Florida 1930 ) (Washington: US Government Printing Office, 1931), pp. 142, 154; Johnston, Architectural Resources, pp.
70-71; Floyd, Lighthouse, 30.
8. Johnston, Architectural Resources, pp. 73-76.
9. Jacksonville Beaches Chamber of Commerce, The World’s Finest Beach, Pamphlet Advertisement,
1931. The development was Ponte Vedra Beach, of course. Bill Foley, “Disgust
With Big-City Rat Race Gave the Beaches Life in the 1880s,” Florida
Times-Union, August 20, 1997.
10. "Civic Organizations, Public Officials And Individuals
Joined In Fight For Four Lane Super Highway To The Beaches," Beach
Boulevard Dedication Pamphlet. 2 pp.
11."Civic Organizations." The Florida Times-Union
published an article with photographs on the end of the season in September,
12. Floyd, Lighthouse, 34-35; Oesterreicher, pp. 128-33..For moonshining in north
Florida, see John J. Guthrie, Jr., "Hard Times, Hard Liquor, and Hard Luck:
Selective Enforcement of Prohibition in North Florida, 1928-1933." Florida
Historical Quarterly, 74:4. (April, 1994) p.435-452).
13 Johnston, Architectural Resources,
p. 76, says the school cost $75,000; Floyd, Lighthouse, p. 32; Ward, Old
Hickory's Town, pp. 112-117; Johnston, Architectural
Resources, p. 78. "Black" citizens were bussed into Jacksonville. A few
Roman Catholics went elsewhere. See John J. Guthrie, Jr., “Rekindling
the Spirits: From National Prohibition to Local Option in Florida, 1928-1935,”
Florida Historical Quarterly 74:1 (Summer 1995, 23-40; Michael Gannon, Florida,
A Short History. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1993, pp. 89-92
points out the importance of New Deal spending and the revival of tourism in
14. Johnston, Architectural Resources, pp. 73-75, 78,
15. Florida, State of. Department of Agriculture. The
sixth census of the state of Florida, 1935: taken in accordance with the
provisions of chapter 17269 Laws of Florida. Winter Park, Orange Press,
1936, pp. 25, 77.
16. Koehl, The Ponte Vedra Club
United Methodist Church web site.
18. Floyd, Lighthouse, p. 32.
19. Arthur N. Sollee. Official dedication program for Beach
Boulevard and the B. B. McCormick Bridge. 1949. pamphlet.
20. US Dept of Commerce, Florida census for 1940, reprinted by
Agriculture Department, Florida, 126-27, 140.
21. Leon O. Prior,” Nazi Invasion of Florida!” Florida
Historical Quarterly 49:2 ( October 1970 ),129-140; Stan Cohen and Don DeNevi
with Richard Gay, They Came to Destroy America: The FBI Goes to War against
Nazi Spies and Saboteurs before and during World War II ( Missoula, MT:
Pictorial Histories, 2003); see also Michael Gannon, Florida, A Short History.
Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1993, pp. 105-107.
22. Johnston, Architectural Resources, pp. 95-96.
23. Bill Foley, “Jacksonville Beach goes future modern, “ Florida
Times-Union, August 13, 1999; Johnston, Architectural Resources, pp. 96-97, 100.
24. Florida, State of, PALMM Project, Aerial
Tiles from Flight 1C over Duval in 1943.
25. Simon, 5, 17, 19, 26. On page 29, he says that there 15,000
people at the Beaches. Simon did not include Mayport and the
African-American elementary school in Jacksonville building. Council of
Social Agencies, Jacksonville Looks At Its Negro Community (Jacksonville,
26. Florida, Dept. of Agriculture, The seventh census of the
state of Florida, 1945: taken in accordance with the provisions of chapter 22515
Laws of Florida, Act of Legislature of 1945. (Tallahassee, 1946), pp. 25,
49.Department of Agriculture, Florida Seventh Census, 1945, pp. 25, 49.