While current city records indicate Florida Machine and Foundry's West Church Street facility dating back to 1953, its history actually begins in the early 20th century, paralleling the development of several major businesses in the vicinity of downtown's railroad terminal.
The foundry was originally known as the Florida Machine Works and was established by E.C. Dearborn and R.W. Limbaugh in 1899. A short time after the Great Fire of 1901, Franklin Glazier Russell, Sr. of Howell, Maine relocated to Jacksonville and became the sole proprietor of the Florida Machine Works, which was located near the Acosta Bridge at 40 Riverside Avenue.
In 1912, Russell purchased the West Church Street site to eventually relocate his business from the downtown waterfront. With the help of his son, Franklin Russell, Jr, the foundry opened in 1924. For the next sixty plus years, the factory would buzz with activity employing hundreds of Jaxons, including Mitch Raikes, the founder of Larry's Giant Subs.
However, by the 1990s, the foundry was no more. For a brief period in the late 1990's the site was occupied by National Wire Southeast. Some of the industrial complex's oldest buildings are being demolished in preparation of converting a portion of the property into a scrap yard.
The Machine Shop
Fronting West Church Street, and completed in 1924, the machine shop was the only building constructed of brick.
Dawkins Building Supply Company Building
Now demolished, this warehouse dated back to 1924 as well. Between 1924 and 1929, it was occupied by DeWitt C. Dawkin's Dawkins Building Supply Company. In 1929, Dawkins relocated to the intersection of West Beaver Street and Myrtle Avenue. Still in operation today, the company is now known as the Big D Building Center.
Steel Fabrication Plant
The steel fabrication plant was added during the 1950s and is currently in the process of being put into use again.
The remains of a Seaboard Air Line Railroad rail siding inside the fabrication plant.
The foundry was the life valve of the industrial complex. Constructed in 1924, it is in the process of being demolished.
Article by Ennis Davis Photographs by Daniel Herbin
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