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At the Jacksonville Historical Society, we’re making history every day. Our monthly Speakers Series offers in-depth information on surprising and diverse aspects of our city’s past, and our fun Pop Up events are designed to bring attention to the forgotten history buried in our own back yard. Throughout the year, we also lead countless school groups on “insider tours” of our city’s most significant landmarks and events. Why don’t you join us?

Halloween at the Casket Factory!
Oct 27 @ 7:00 am – 12:00 pm
Halloween at the Casket Factory! @ The Florida Casket Factory | Jacksonville | Florida | United States

On Saturday October 26, 2013, the Jacksonville Historical Society will stage what will surely be the greatest Halloween party in Jacksonville’s history. It will take place at the Casket Factory, a mysterious old brick building on the edge of downtown. It is 15,000 square feet, partially covered with vines, and thought by many to be haunted.

This event is a fund-raiser to support the restoration and maintenance of Old St. Luke’s Hospital, a National Register landmark constructed in 1878 and owned by the Jacksonville Historical Society.  Old St. Luke’s and the Casket Factory are located at 314 Palmetto Street, adjacent to the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

The party will include live bands, outstanding food, libations, dancing, a costume contest, performers, and a frightful Labyrinth of Terror. At midnight, the winner of the Totally Amazing Costume Contest will be announced, with prizes valued at $1,000.

Everyone must have a costume to enter.


The party will include three areas:

Casket Factory 3rd floor – live band, dancing, costume contest, social gathering, bar

Casket Factory 2nd floor – The Labyrinth of Terror, food tables, lounges

Lawn – large circus tent, with bar and performers

Attendance: Open to the public; limited to 500 people; must be 21 or older, with proper ID

Price: $48.50 per person [price includes two drink tickets]

Entertainment: Bands and a variety of performers, t.b.a.

Beer & Wine: Adult libations

Food: Gourmet bites from 15 fine local restaurants

Parking: On the casket factory grounds and at the city parking lot across the street

The Totally Amazing Costume Contest: the winner will be announced at midnight, with prizes valued at $1,000.

The Jacksonville Historical Society: a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that was founded in 1929. $25 of the price of each ticket may be considered a tax-deductible contribution.

Escape from Castro’s Cuba: Jacksonville’s Refuge for Cuban Children, 1961-1962
Nov 19 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Escape from Castro's Cuba: Jacksonville's Refuge for Cuban Children, 1961-1962 @ Old St. Andrews | Jacksonville | Florida | United States

When Castro took power in Cuba people became very nervous and wanted to leave the country, but were unable to leave.  It did become possible for unaccompanied children to leave and many parents made the agonizing decision to send their children to the United States alone.  In the end, 14,048 children came and their flight to this country became known as Operation Pedro Pan (Peter Pan.)  Father Walsh met these children in Miami and coordinated camps to care for the children all over the country. One such camp was Camp St. Johns near Switzerland, Florida, today known as Marywood.

Our speaker, Jose Ramirez, was one of the boys who lived there and attended Bishop Kenny High School, graduating in 1963.  He will be discussing his experience as a Pedro Pan and life at Camp St. Johns.

Quarantined from the World: Reflections on the City’s Yellow Fever Epidemic
Nov 20 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Quarantined from the World: Reflections on the City's Yellow Fever Epidemic @ Old St. Andrews | Jacksonville | Florida | United States

In February 1888, President Grover Cleveland traveled to Jacksonville with his new bride, half his age, to view an extraordinary undertaking, the Subtropical Exposition. The city’s citizens were so excited, a carriage was recreated to match the president’s Washington, D.C. rig. For months, visitors flocked to the city to view the largest undertaking at that time in Florida history. But late in 1888, a Yellow Fever Epidemic swept the city. Suddenly, Jacksonville was quarantined from the world, and the city plunged from its highest high, including a Presidential visit, to its lowest low, terrorized by “Yellow Jack,” with nearly 5,000 citizens stricken by the often fatal fever.

[The trains] were packed to the limit, even the roofs of the cars [were] crowded with terrified citizens…Some people in their haste left their homes with fires burning, food in preparation for the noonday meal, and doors wide open.

The Mad Atlas of Virginia King
Oct 8 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

The Mad Atlas of Virginia KingBook Launching and Signing at Old St. Andrews!

The Mad Atlas of Virginia King  by Tim Gilmore

with Hurley Winkler and Kiley Secrest


 Listen to Tim Gilmore’s interview with WJCT’s Jessica Palombo as they walk through Riverside and discuss Virginia King.

Virginia King wrote an 8,448-page highly inaccurate book about her hometown of Jacksonville. The title was almost as long. She said her brother was dead. He said he’d never heard of her. Always dirt poor, she called the wealthiest people in the city “my little friends.” From 1915 to 2001, Virginia lived in 18 different residences, mostly in Riverside, and residents who remember her call her a “Riverside character.”

Virginia King in front of the Carnegie Library as the Hayden Burns Library is under construction.

Virginia King in front of the Carnegie Library as the Hayden Burns Library is under construction.

This new nonfiction novel about Virginia King includes reminiscences from local residents Helen Lane, Wayne Wood, Sarah Van Cleve, Pokey Towers Lyerly, Elizabeth Towers, Charlie Towers, Jerry Ferguson, Joel McEachin, and many others. The book celebrates the strange treasures of the Jacksonville Historical Society archives.

The book includes meaningful musings by Hurley Winkler, of Perversion Magazine and Swamp Radio, and hand-drawn maps by Springfield resident and architectural portraitist Kiley Secrest. Though she got so much of Jacksonville’s history wrong, her work touches innumerable aspects of it, and her devotion and commitment are perhaps unmatched. When Reverend Tom Are gave Virginia’s eulogy, he said, “It seems to me that Virginia King served as something of a prophet in our town.”

The reception and book signing will begin at 6:30pm. Dr. Gilmore will present his findings on Jacksonville’s unique character, Virginia King, at 7pm.

Dr. Gilmore is the author of several books, including In Search of Eartha White, Storehouse for the People (2014), Stalking Ottis Toole: A Southern Gothic (2013) and This Kind of City: Ghost Stories and Psychological Landscapes (2012). He’s the creator of Jax Psycho Geo, which features nearly 250 stories about significant places across Jacksonville, Florida. He teaches Literature and Composition at Florida State College at Jacksonville.


This program and the 2015-16 JHS program series is generously sponsored by Retina Associates, P.A., Dr. Fred H. Lambrou, Jr.

Jacksonville’s Greatest Landmarks — Past, Present, Preserved and Endangered
May 31 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

In honor of National Preservation Month, Wayne W. Wood, the “godfather of Jacksonville History,” is speaker for the Jacksonville Historical Society annual meeting. Dr. Wood’s presentation explores Jacksonville’s greatest architectural gems, including amazing landmarks that are long gone, and his 25 favorite buildings existing in Northeast Florida. You” hear dramatic stories of local significant structures that have been rescued and preserved. Also covered during the presentation are Jacksonville’s most endangered buildings, which include some big surprises!



About the speaker

Dr. Wood, a retired optometrist, is author or editor of numerous books exploring Jacksonville’s history, including the best selling, Jacksonville’s Architectural Heritage: Landmarks for the Future (currently out-of-print). Other publications include, but are not limited to The Jacksonville Family Album: 150 Years of the Art of Photography, The Great Fire of 1901, The Architectural of Henry John Klutho: The Prairie School in Jacksonville, The Broward Family in Florida: From France to Florida, and The Living Heritage of Riverside and Avondale. A few remaining copies of The Jacksonville Family Album will be available for sale at the May 31 program along with other books by Dr. Wood, or purchase them online by clicking on the highlighted book name.

Emerging Florida and the Women Who Changed the World
Sep 14 @ 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm

Join the Jacksonville Historical Society and speaker and JHS Past-President Susan Caven on Thursday, September 14th at noon at Old St. Andrew’s for Emerging Florida and the Women Who Changed the World.

Ximenz-Fatio House in the mid-1880s. Image belongs to the Ximenz-Fation House Museum.

In 1821, when Florida became part of the United States, northerners began traveling to St. Augustine to see the exotic new territory. Margaret Cook, an entrepreneurial widow, purchased the solidly built Ximenez building and operated it as an elegant inn. She was the first of several refined female owners who, with good household management skills, accommodated a sophisticated northern clientele. Speaker Susan Caven will talk about the women associated with the one-time inn, now a museum, who helped create the foundation of the hospitality industry and modern tourism—the backbone of Florida’s economy.

The property today, the Ximenez-Fatio House Museum, is proudly owned and operated as a museum by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Florida; Susan Caven is a Past President of the formidable and insightful group of women. Susan is also Past-President of the Jacksonville Historical Society, Greenscape and Scenic Jacksonville. She is a former Chair of the Jacksonville Landmarks Commission.

Desserts and drinks will be provided. Please feel free to bring a brown bag lunch.

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