Lost Jacksonville: A Slice of the Midwest

Metro Jacksonville shares the history of Moncrief's Seaboard Allied Milling Corporation, which was the first flour mill constructed in Florida.

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The history behind Florida's first flour mill begins 1,166 miles west of Jacksonville in the small town of Atchison, Kansas. There, in 1916, Otto Bresky started his career as a flour broker leading him to purchase his own mill two years later. In 1928, Bresky's company became known as Rodney Milling.

After acquiring Ismert-Hinke Milling in 1938 and Consolidated Flour Mills in 1950, Bresky merged his company with Hathaway Industries, Inc. in 1959. As a result of the merger, the company became known as the Seaboard Allied Milling Corporation.

Grain elevator diagram courtesy of http://www.grit.com/multimedia/image-gallery.aspx?id=4294977010&seq=1

Encouraged by post World War II modernizing transportation facilities, a trend in the industry to mill flour close to areas of consumption rather than production led to Seaboard implementing this strategy in the 1960s. Already operating flour mills in Kansas City, Topeka, and McPherson, Kansas, Seaboard's first mill east of the Mississippi River was completed in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1962.

Two years later, in September 1964, the company announced its intentions to invest in Jacksonville. The purpose of the Jacksonville mill would be to distribute flour exclusively to industrial bakeries in North Florida and South Georgia. The selected five-acre site was at the new Expressway Industrial Park along Moncrief Creek in Northwest Jacksonville.

A 1960s Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce image of new Wiesenfield Warehouse Company and Seaboard Allied Milling buildings.

The 100-acre Expressway Industrial Park was developed by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, which had a continuing program of acquiring land along its tracks to encourage rail-served industrial development. The 100-acre site had the benefit of having ACL rail frontage on the north end of the property and access to the Jacksonville Expressway Authority's new 20th Street Expressway (now MLK Parkway) to the south.

Along with the Wiesenfield Warehouse Company, which opened a 200,000 square foot building across the street, Seaboard Allied's Jacksonville mill would serve as the initial anchors of the new industrial district.

This 1988 image illustrates a much larger milling operation than the original 1966 facility. Image courtesy of bdh408 at http://www.panoramio.com/photo/51618519

Opening in 1966, Florida's first commercial flour mill was designed to be highly automated at the time. The milling of flour was accomplished by grinding grain between stones or steel wheels. Grain would come to the Jacksonville mill by truck or train and be transported by conveyor to the head house at the top of the elevator.

From there, the grain would be distributed to one of several ten story reinforced concrete storage bins capable of holding as much as 422,000 bushels. Running at full strength, the four story mill could produce up to 250,000 pounds of flour a day. 

Over the next decade, Seaboard added more South and East Coast mills in Virginia, Louisiana, and New York. In addition, the company agressively expanded overseas with new mills in Ecuador, Sierra Leone, Guyana, Liberia, and Nigeria. However, by the 1982, the industry had become increasingly competitive causing Seaboard to sell the Jacksonville Moncrief facility, along with all of its domestic milling operations to Cargill, Inc. for $40 million.

Out of the flour milling industry, the company changed its name to the Seaboard Corporation and moved into the poultry and pork processing industries. Today, still owned by heirs of Otto Bresky, the company now ranks among the top five U.S. pork producers.

Article by Ennis Davis, Edited by Kelsi Hasden


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