Feeds:
Posts
Comments

bayard’s lost

Bayard is a small community in the southeastern section of Jacksonville, FL.  It is at the intersection of Philips Highway (US 1) and Old St. Augustine Road.  It is so small that you would never think that it was a community at all or that, at one time, it was actually its own incorporated town.

Bayard Florida Propery Map

Bayard Florida Property Map

 

Up until recently, the only way one would know Bayard even existed was from signs along US 1 reading “Bayard 5” and from the Bayard Country Store.  In fact, it was the Bayard Country Store that first attracted me to the area.  An antique shop in a three-story, white siding building that looked like it belonged on the main drag of an Old West town.  It used to be the oldest building found along US 1 between downtown Jacksonville and St. Augustine, FL.  It was even showcased in a local public broadcasting production called “Ghost:  North Florida Legends (2002)”.  Now it’s gone.  A developer bought the property in 2004 as the building was turning 105 years old.  The structure that became the face, the identify of Bayard for so many Jacksonville residents demolished in 2005.

Bayard Country Store Sign

Bayard Country Store Sign

 

Photo courtesy of Florida-Times Union

Front of Bayard Country Store - Photo from Florida Times-Union

 

I visited the Bayard Country Store on several occasions in the past.  As antique stores go, it was average with a hodgepodge of disorganized consignment booths.  You could tell the owners, who had the property for over two decades, left the interior spaces in whatever state they found it.  With exception of a staircase that the owner added sometime in the 1980’s or 90’s.  Antiques even spilled over into a modern, ugly and cheap addition that was added probably in 1971.

Rear of Bayard Country Store - Photo Courtesy of Florida Times-Union

Rear of Bayard Country Store - Photo from Florida Times-Union

 

The building underwent a lot of change in its 100-year history, but some amazing features still remained.  The original tin tiles were still present on the soaring first floor ceilings.  A sliding barn door on the side of the building spoke of the practical needs of early owners.  Upstairs, many of the once tiny boarding rooms still had their original all wood-paneled walls.  Most of the original windows remained, however, that might have been more a product of neglect than preservation.  A large patio and upper balcony also remained.  You could just imagine people sitting out on the patio, enjoying the evening breezes.

In the late nineteenth century during Bayard’s growing years, W. W. Wing and his family moved to Bayard to profit in the town’s burgeoning lumber industry.  Unfortunately, Mr. Wing was tragically killed in a sawmill accident leaving his wife to fend for herself.  Juliette Wing built the Wing Hotel from 1898-1899 with assistance from of her grown son, C.W. Wing.  Mrs. Wing ran the hotel to support herself and her children.

Wing Hotel (unknown picture date)

Wing Hotel (unknown picture date)

 

The structure’s top two stories of the main section housed 12 boarding rooms.  The first floor was a general store and post office with Mrs. Wing registered as Bayard’s Post Master.  The upper rear floor was the Wing’s personal residence.  Later, in the 1920’s, a tea room was added to serve the more gentile customers.  Business was bustling as the hotel remained a hub of activity and commerce for many decades.  It was reported that a great percentage of boarders would return year after year, practically live in the hotel for the entire vacation season.

Although the Wing Hotel suffered a decline in the Depression years, the opening of U.S. Highway 1 in 1938 helped to bring more travelers to Bayard.  At some point, the town became shrouded in a murky past.  The hotel, along with an adjacent motor hotel were rumored to have been home to a thriving prostitution industry.

Wing Hotel Postcard (unknown picture date - probably 1920's-1930's)

Wing Hotel Postcard (unknown picture date - Circa 1920's-1930's)

 

The doors were finally closed for all business in 1954.  That is until life was brought into the old hotel by Mr. and Mrs. Anthony in 1982.  The couple converted the structure into an Antique store, taking after the once motel turned Antique Village next door.  Renewed interest in the southside slowly increased traffic flow to the store.

In 2000, the property was first offered for sale in the Florida Times-Union.  News got out that the Bayard monument was endangered of being sold to a developer that might ultimately tear it down.  A concerned citizen requested the City of Jacksonville to designate the building as a historic landmark.  A landmarked structure is given legal protections that gives Jacksonville’s Historic Commission the authority to approve any physical alterations.  However, the Anthony’s refused their approval of the landmark status in fear that it could threaten future sale of the store.  Under owner protest, designation is extremely stringent.  And in 2001 the city was unable to prove the building was sufficiently significant.

The owners might have had some hope for the building to be saved.  Yet, they were well aware of McLamb Entereprises’ intentions when they sold it to them in 2004.  However, one can sympathize with the retirement-aged couple that probably just wanted to spend their remaining years with a hunk of cash.

The Shoppes of Bayard

The Shoppes of Bayard

 

The Wing Hotel/antique store was not a terribly “gorgeous” building.  It was pretty unremarkable when compared to other turn-of-the-century architecture.  But it was the unique heart of Bayard.  It set the community apart from all the others, not only in Jacksonville, but  in all of Florida.  The loss of the building might have been easier to bear if an equally unique structure was built on the site.  Now it is just a run-of-the-mill, cookie cutter shopping center.  Further depressing the situation is the new center is over 80% unoccupied.  An empty blob of storefronts and parking lot.

Moral to this story?  I don’t know.  Make a lot of many and buy endangered properties?  Nice idea but not always possible.  What we all can do is try with all our mights to save what we truly and deeply care about with any myriad of actions.  Petitions, community action, fund-raising, etc.  That is why my next posts on Bayard’s old African-American schoolhouse is so important to me.

ash site schools

I want to preface this entry with a few comments. I will be talking a bit about race relations in the United States and I want to be clear that I am not an expert on the subject. The opinions that I give are just that. I have taken a few classes at UNF that have dealt with race issues, like the Civil Rights Movement and a sociology class or two, but it takes someone with years of experience to give an educated viewpoint. This obviously will not stop me from providing my ignoble observations. I certainly do not want to say that I am representing the views of my school or the City of Jacksonville. So enough of the paid program disclosures and on with the writtin’.

Back in the mid-twentieth century, Jacksonville used incinerator plants as means to rid the city of solid waste.  There were many plants around town and some were even close to residential areas.  After the plants closed due to more modern waste management methods, the land where the plants once occupied were often redeveloped.  Recent studies have shown, however, that these plants have contributed to ground and water pollution with deposits of harmful chemicals, including lead.  

One of the areas that was due to higher levels of lead was an elementary school called Forest Park in North Riverside.

mt. olive update

I decided to visit Mt. Olive Cemetery to see how many graves were unmarked. I thought that I could maybe catch something that the surveyors missed. Oh, the hubris of our young. Not only is the cemetery a large one but it has plot after plot of unmarked graves. It is a real tragedy. So many people have family members buried there without any headstones or markers. And it is not as though the families intended to forget these poor buried souls. For one, many of the half-above-ground graves received a surface mounted rubber marker. I assume it would have had the person’s name and dates on it. Many of the rubber markers are permantently destroyed by sun and weather deterioration. Secondly, it is clear that the cemetery has little funds for upkeep. You would think that the graves were extremely old by the looks of the place but most dates that I saw were from the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s. The following are photos of this cemetery.

Mt. Olive Cemetery: The front section looks quaint although overgrown a bit.

This photo shows a row of slightly above ground graves that have no markers at all.

These above-ground graves are concrete shells and have handles on the sides that, I assume, were to place the lid on the top. You can see near the top of the photo is a cracked, black rubber marker. At the bottom of the photo you can barely make out an outline of a cross that was once made of rubber.

This is a close-up of a rubber marker. This is one of the more intact ones and you still cannot decipher many letters (if any).

Something exciting did happen today. Yesterday I emailed a woman who I found one Rootsweb that was on the Mt. Olive Cemetery council. I asked if she had any information about the burial plots. I was hoping she would have had some old deeds or documents from Mt. Olive Cemetery Inc. She told me that none of the plots were purchased.  People just acquired an area to bury their relatives.  So there would not have been any deeds to record when or who bought the plot or where it was located. Which obviously explains why we couldn’t find a deed. However, I am still a bit perplexed because we discovered a few grave deeds related to Mt. Olive Cemetery at the records department.

But then again, I found a website just today that says that people don’t buy the land for a burial. The land is still the property of the cemetery. You can just reserve the right for burial in a certain place. Why would Joel have us look through deeds for a grave site if there was no way to be deeded a burial plot? There is something missing here. Why are there some deeds for Mt. Olive and some that obviously do not exist? Or, maybe cemeteries retaining ownership of the actual property is a recent phenomenon?  I really need to do more research into the death business.

I’m sure most people would think that this seems a bit trivial. But cemetery research is becoming a fairly big part of historic preservation. So I intend to find out. I just had an idea. Maybe I should go directly to the funeral home’s office. When I called their office to ask for information, the woman seemed to take very little time to find the information. Maybe she was just looking it up in a database. MAYBE, just maybe, they have a paper file that has more burial information. That pretty much would be the last hope. I think.

Hours: 8:15-6:00pm – 8.75 hrs

Today was our introduction in the Parks and Recreation department’s archival files. Last week I was informed that we, the other volunteer and I, are going to start recording the histories of the Jacksonville city parks into a state database. The database and history research for parks over 50 years old is on course for the historic preservation department. The parks and recreation department wishes to also complete the history research on the parks that a park historian painstakingly already began. Unfortunately, his position was eliminated when the city’s departments were reorganized after budget cuts.

Much their paper files for the parks and recreation department are in the Jacksonville Armory building. The building was once used as a the headquarters for the National Guard of Florida. It was also used as a place to hold concerts and special city events. The parks and recreation department took over the building in 1973. Now their files are stored on the upper, open balcony of the auditorium where Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin once played and where Eleanore Roosevelt once spoke.

Jacksonville Armory Building

It seems as though the city reorganization has created arrested development in many of the city’s departments. Both the parks employee and the volunteer services representative remarked about how they couldn’t properly go ahead with some of their duties (be it writing new forms or organizing archives) because final organizational changes have yet to occur. If the departments put a lot of effort into a task that would only need to be changed in a few months, that would be wasting their own time and the city’s resources. Even one of the planners in the historic preservation section is in a bit of a tumultuous state because she is unaware of when or where the city will reassign her position. Take the once park historian who was reassigned to the library. The city cannot necessarily fire him but must move him to another open post where he could put his archival knowledge to use. Did he ask for that library position? I’m sure not. From what I hear he was very devoted to his research and enjoyed his work. But I’m sure that reassigning him would have certainly been better than laying him off. That is where a civil servant position differs from a corporate job. Is one type of job better than the other? I don’t know. Depends on ones own priorities and opinions on corporate versus public employment. But I divert. Let’s get back to the day’s duties.

Not only did we see where the files were located but we also discussed what the differing needs of the historic preservation office and the parks and recreation department. Joel would like to have a fairly detailed history developed while the parks and recreation department only needs a snippet or abstract for their records. We also got an introduction into the work that the former parks historian had already completed, which was substantial. Data entry into the databases will be the only need for those parks.

Joel also introduced Bryan and I to the real estate division office. That is where we will be able to access unpublished mortgages and other such information.

Bryan and I tried again to locate the cemetery plot eluded us last week. We tried looking for a deed under the funeral home’s name, we tried the cemetery itself again, we looked even further back in time with any name possible with no further success. We concluded that the cemetery company was just not very diligent with their records. We assumed that they failed to file the deed with the city. [Update: There might not have been any sold lots. See “week 2 update” post] I feel bad for the family. It must be upsetting to not know exactly where your loved one is buried.

After lunch Bryan and I did not have a lot of work to do. Joel was gone at a meeting and we have yet to get a sign-in for our computer station. Fortunately, I was able to get to know the planners in the office a little better. I was trying to find out how they gained their positions at the city. One of the more senior planners took the masters program in Historic Preservation at SCAD. (I am completely jealous of her. I would love to go to that school but I am poor and it ain’t cheap.) She obviously is passionate about historic preservation and I hope that I can learn more from her. One of the other planners has a BA in poly sci. I think that she is young and plans to develop her career further beyond preservation. But you know, it takes people of varying interests to offer any organization with a level of objectivity.

After Joel came back from his meeting, the office had their own little meeting to discuss the property action issues. This particular meeting was focused around the properties in Riverside that had been scrutinized by RAP. Our meeting was to discuss whether to add the suggestions made by RAP or not. Most them were used while others were deemed a little exorbitant.

In all, I feel as though I learned a lot about how the city operates. Which is important of course. Hopefully, I will be able to get into the nitty-gritty of research and productive work next week.

Hours: 8am to 5pm – 8hrs

Miles walked:  About 3 (in dressy shoes)

Tip: Don’t ever try to get away with only having a few hours of sleep on your first day of work. In a normal week I will make up the volunteer day away from my full-time job on Saturday but I will be going to a wedding this weekend. I was up until 3:30 am working on a project for my full-time job so that I won’t be behind at the end of the week.

The first order of the day on Wednesday was to get registered as a city of Jacksonville volunteer.  So I walked to the St. James Building to check in with the Volunteer division of the human resource center.  By the time I got back, the other volunteer, Brian, and the intern, Samantha, were at work.  After our introductions Joel informed us of our first introduction into real research. 

A local family is in need of finding their deceased mother’s grave marker.  Unfortunately, her marker could not be found in the cemetery’s directory nor in an earlier survey of the cemetery’s headstones.  The sad thing is that she passed away in the seventies and had a rubber headstone that probably deteriorated with the weather and sun.  So we were sent to the courthouse to find out if there was a deed for the burial plot.  We were told that the plot was bought only a few years prior to her death.  So the three of us headed to the court-house to search the grantor/grantee indexes.  We were unable to find anything to do with a burial plot under the deceased name, her husband’s name or the cemetery itself.

Next we tried to find her death certificate to confirm the year of her death.  We thought that maybe her family was unclear which year she died.  We thought that sounded a bit strange.  How can you forget the year a loved one passes away.  We couldn’t find her death certificate through ordinary online searched so we walked down to the library to look up obituary notices.  We were able to find her obit which gave us more information, specifically names of her children, funeral company and her church name.  We tried to call both the funeral home and her church, which, surprisingly enough still exist, but neither one had any other pertinent information on her burial plot.  That task was laid to rest for another day.

After lunch we got an introduction into how to record and file received publications.  Then Brian and I were sent to the Library to look up a woman who was once a renowned nurse at Shands Hospital.  In fact, her bio states that fellow nurses and physicians would call her Doctor.  We were there to verify her address in the Jacksonville city directory.  Of course we found her but I think I was getting a bit over zealous.  I started to write everything I could find such as her husband’s name, his occupation, her children’s names, their occupations etc.  I think all they needed was an address confirmation but oh well. 

Art Moderne Home (example)

Back at the office and ready for the office meeting.  Brian and I were there just to sit in and observe but I had a few moments of opinion diarrhea.  The meeting was to go brainstorm the preservation issue brought to the department by COAs (Certificates of Appropriateness) or by district violations.  One of the buildings was an Art Moderne house with jalousies windows that the owners were wanting to replace.  The staff members decided to let the historic commission rule on the window issue.  Of course I got a bit obnoxious with my suggestions after Joel thought one of my ideas was plausible.  I am really going to have to be more respectful of my lowly, volunteer position in the future.

In all, I think it was a great day.  I learned more about doing research in the court records and library archives.  I also feel as though my experience in an architectural office, past schooling and personal interests will provide the office with a degree of practical input.

Florida Theater Building

I met with Joel McEachin on Thursday for our interview in the historic commission office. The majority of the Planning and Development department’s administrative offices, including the historic section, are located in the Florida Theatre Building. Joel informed me that the planning and development department will eventually move into the Ed Ball Building next to Hemming Plaza. That will allow them to have all of their offices on one floor. Which, after taking a tour of the office, I can completely understand the merit in moving. We had to travel around a few different offices on two floors to see all of the historic section’s files and document archives.

One of the filing rooms is in an old projector room.  When the theater was in its heyday, the staff would use a small screening room (about half the size of San Marco Theatre) to view prospective entertainment.   The projector room had to be fireproof so it was surrounded in concrete walls.  And because the the person running the projector could not leave his/her post during a screening, there was a built-in, single restroom.  It looked like the restroom hadn’t been used in forty or fifty years.

Joel informed me about the projects that he hopes that I and the other volunteer, Brian, will be able to work on.  The Parks and Recreation department requested ther Historic section to research the history of all Jacksonville parks.  Fortunately, a man had already done extensive research on many of the parks.  Joel would like for us to continue the work.  He also mentioned a project on local cemetaries as well.  Other office duties (mundane but necessary) will be filing publications, helping set up for the commission meetings and data entry. 

I am very excited to get started.  I’m a little nervous to meet the rest of the historic section’s employees.  Although given Joel’s laidback, accepting nature I just don’t see how anyone in that office could be super uptight.

Wing Hotel ca. 1930’sMy first visit to the historic commission office was in the fall of 2006 when I researching the town of Bayard, FL for a class project. My professor of Public History, Dr. Carolyn Williams, referred me to Mr. McEachin for assistance. At the time, I was only slightly aware of the historic commission’s function for the city.  I gleaned a lot of knowledge in that first visit.

I knew that they wielded some degree of local authority over the city’s designated historic areas and landmarks. Areas like Riverside/Avondale, Springfield and downtown  were certain historic districts.  But, I was surprised to find out that San Marco and Murray Hill have not been given such designations.

Some of the functions that I learned about in that first visit was documentation and historic appropriateness. They keep a library of archival files on thousands of historic structures and landmarks in town. The information they had on Bayard became my primary source of reference for my project. (Side note: Before having to go to a city office, I would recommend researching structures at local libraries (of course), historical societies and preservation associations first.)

It was also interesting to overhear a conversation one of the planners had with a contractor. Apparently the contractor was trying to replace some windows on a house in Riverside with a modern style sash. The planner was trying to work with him on alternate window options that would meet the historic board’s approval. If you have ever had to submit architectural plans to the city for permitting, you might have had a similar encounter with a plans examiner. Not only are they there to approve or disapprove plans but they are also available for consultation. The planner in the historic commission seemed to work in a similar sort of fashion. It makes sense that the administrative arm of the historic commission is housed in the same overall department as building inspections and permitting offices.

I will be meeting with Joel McEachin, big boss man in the historic commission office, on Thursday to discuss my internship/volunteer job. Hopefully, everything will go well and I won’t make a big fool of myself like I did in my interview with his boss. (For some odd reason I kept saying that I “loved” everything. My neighborhood, my house, my professors. I think I was a bit nervous and couldn’t get my brain to come up with any other verbs.)