Walkable commercial district: Edgewood Village
About Murray Hill & Edgewood Village
Named after a neighborhood in Manhattan, Murray Hill (Heights) was a 1907 transplant of the northern section of the Edgewood subdivision, which was plotted in the 1880s.
Many of the streets in the area, such as Cassat Avenue and Challen Avenue, are named after investors in the Edgewood Company that platted Edgewood in the 1880s.
Previously known as Murray Hill Avenue, Edgewood Avenue was designed with a wide landscaped median, similar to Springfield's Main Street, which featured a streetcar line in the median.
In this early photo, a semi-convertible streetcar with 'Union Depot' on the destination curtain is bound for the Myrtle Avenue loop, a portion of the Murray Hill Heights car line. Semi-convertible cars were introduced by the J. G. Brill Car Company in 1903 and were popular in the southeast for their removable windshields that easily converted the ends of the car into open platforms for balmy summers. Image courtesy of Florida State Archives.
In 1913, the Florida Military Academy was constructed two blocks North of the future Edgewood Village. In 1914, streetcar service was extended to Edgewood Avenue, connecting the Florida Military Academy with the City of Jacksonville. A year later the first commercial building on the First Block would rise.
In 1916, Murray Hill was incorporated into its own town with Hugh Lauder serving as its first mayor. Many early residents in the area were railroad workers who built homes in Murray Hill with its close proximity to the Seaboard Shops in Lackawanna.
Like the communities surrounding it, Edgewood Village would rapidly develop over the next decade, serving as a commercial district for both Murray Hill and Telfair Stockton's subdivision, Avondale. Edgewood Village's commercial counterpart, Shoppes of Avondale, would develop simultaneously with the growing residential districts surrounding it.
The First Block. Image courtesy of Murray Hill Preservation Association.
The August 3, 1923, Sunday edition of the Florida Times-Union (p 20) devoted 3/4 of the page under the headlines, "Electric Car Line Building to Big Academy," 'Myrtle Avenue Extension is Being Pushed Out Banana and Myra Streets," "Track Laying is Lively," and "Grading Gangs Pushing Work to Complete Job By October 1 - A Big Developer for Section."
The work was pushed South from the South-end of Myrtle Avenue turning West on Forest (Date Street) to Dellwood (Banana Street), to Margaret Street, where it jogged from Myra, to Stockton Street (Barrs Street) to College. On College, the line crossed the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad tracks, then ran along the West side of the railroad to Edgewood Avenue.
The first photo that accompanied the article in the Times-Union was of track gangs on Dellwood between Gilmore and Margaret. There are a couple of stately homes visible at the corner, a corner that is today exactly under the middle of the I-95 ramps. There was a short delay at the corner owing to City Engineering and the Jacksonville Traction Company trying to resolve a utility relocation conflict.
As a result, the track gangs were sent further South and they continued to push the railhead another 1/2 mile out. Just as every streetcar suburb before it, the newspaper boldly and correctly surmised that, "It is anticipated that the entire community will settle up rapidly."
With yet another reason given for the rapid sales and settlement, the newspaper reported that, "Murray Hill Heights is rapidly becoming a residential suburb. The Jacksonville Development Company Officials state that they have sold nearly $200,000 worth of building lots in this subdivision since last March, when the work of development began.
"There are now several miles of paved streets lined with shade trees and the company has a splendid artesian well from which it proposes to lay water mains to supply the homes of all who purchase lots from the company. The plans for development also include a modern sewer system. An immense septic tank will be used, similar to the one in New Springfield, which takes care of all the sewage of that suburb.
"New houses have been built and others are in course of construction, and the company announces that it will build twenty bungalows of attractive design during the next few months."
While the commercial district's residential neighbor, Avondale, was being marketed by Stockton, the Town of Murray Hill was officially annexed to the City of Jacksonville in 1925. Nevertheless, rapid growth in the area would continue with houses being built at a rate of one every two days in 1928.
Rapid growth spurred by the electric railway dictated changes to the Traction Company's scheduling in the Murray Hill area. The newspaper reported that, "Riverside and Murray Hill service will be increased. All Riverside cars will run to Talbot Avenue in Avondale, maintaining a six-minute headway. Murray Hill cars will observe a seven-and-a-half minute schedule to the railroad crossing on College Street. A fifteen-minute headway will be run to the end of the line."
And of course the end of this line was in what we call “Edgewood Village” in “Murray Hill” today. More specifically the line ended with a double track platform station in the median of Edgewood between Mayflower and Colby Streets.
Edgewood Theater image courtesy of Florida State Archives.
By the 1930's, Edgewood Avenue was known as the "Avenue of Progress,” featuring a large number of specialty shops and four grocery stores. One of the last structures built in Edgewood Village, now referred to as the First Block, was the Edgewood Movie Theater, which opened in 1947. This structure is now the campus of Jones College.
Edgewood's peak years were between the late 1950's and mid 1970's. In 1975, the academy building was demolished to make way for the Florida Christian Home development.
The First Block Today
The First Block remains a vestige of an era when the Murray Hill Heights streetcar line was popular. If commuter rail returns to the CSX A-Line, one of Jacksonville's original commercial transit-oriented developments will again be linked with fixed mass transit and the economic vitality it brings.
The two-story structure in the center of the image was completed in 1919. Tillman Dry Cleaners occupied the ground level in 1940.
1171 Edgewood Avenue was completed in 1933.
Edgewood Village (The First Block) is located on Jacksonville's Westside along Edgewood Avenue, just west of the Roosevelt Boulevard interchange.
Article by Ennis Davis and Robert Mann
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