Overlooked black history: Durkeeville

Jacksonville's Durkeeville neighborhood
Jacksonville's Durkeeville neighborhood

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Situated on the opposite side of Interstate 95 from downtown, Durkeeville is a historic neighborhood that's not as well known or promoted as its neighbors to the east and south. Also known as Mid-Westside Jacksonville, this neighborhood is the result of the growth and prosperity of Jacksonville's African-American community during segregation.

Durkeeville largely owes its existence to the establishment of the North Jacksonville Street Railway, Town and Improvement Company in 1902. Called the "Colored Man's Railroad," this black-owned streetcar system connected Northwest Jacksonville with downtown utilizing Kings Road, Myrtle Avenue, 13th Street and Davis Street to form a transit loop north of LaVilla. Opening ceremonies were held on August 24, 1903, at Mason Park with several dignitaries, including Mayor George M. Nolan and former Mayor Duncan Fletcher, giving speeches.

Owned by the streetcar company, Mason Park was situated at the present day site of Stanton College Preparatory School near Myrtle Avenue and West 13th Street.

The streetcar routes grew to be one of the city's most used, stimulating African-American transit-oriented development along their path in Durkeeville, LaVilla, Sugar Hill and Hansontown. Within a few years after its opening, the Cookman Institute (now Daytona Beach-based Bethune-Cookman University) and Edward Waters College had relocated their educational campuses near the line. By the end of the Florida Land Boom, the portion of the neighborhood south of West 8th Street had largely built out as a walkable district filled with a large collection of small multifamily dwellings.

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