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This is the intersection of Main and Forsyth in downtown Jax during a drizzly day, January 3, 1938. Source: Florida State Archives.
In 1940 or '41, these mostly African American workmen crowded the intersection of Main & Forsyth, even using a small shed for storage or some other purpose. This downtown spot is close to today's Main Public Library and the 11 East Forsyth Apartments (Lynch Building). The laborers took out the old streetcar tracks, since the trolleys had stopped serving Jacksonville in 1936. Notice the bricks that used to run along the rails. Lots of bricks covered the Main and Forsyth corner, the busiest streetcar place in town. These materials made the crossing slippery and dangerous, so no doubt many pedestrians and drivers were glad to see them go from this site.
The photo harkens back to an era when downtown Jax buzzed with shoppers. The Boyd's Shoe Shop operated in the Woolworth Building, constructed in 1917 and still in use as an office building. The small white storefront next to Woolworth was a Lerner Shop, part of a chain of women's clothing outlets. The structure dates from about 1908, and it first housed a grocery store and then other businesses, including a saloon, a cigar store, and a billiard parlor. Shortly Lerner moved in, it remodeled the building in about 1929. The now-abandoned structure stands as a fine example of Art Deco. The dark building to the right of Lerner is an old Kress store, situated at the intersection of Main and Adams. When this outlet opened in 1912, Kress claimed that it ranked as the chain's largest branch and the world's third biggest "five, ten and twenty-five cent store." The structure is occupied by law offices today.
Here's the newly repaved Main & Forsyth corner, following the removal of bricks and trolley tracks in 1940 or '41.
These twisty-turvy tracks used to run through the intersection of Main and Forsyth streets, two blocks west of the Florida Theater. They were dug up after the demise of Jacksonville's streetcars during the mid 1930s. Looking northward on a brick Main Street, this picture dates from about 1920. In the distance to the left is the old Rhodes furniture building. (It's the structure with "RE" on it, from the sign "Rhodes Furniture"). This building was imploded in 2002 to make way for the new Main Library. On the right side stands the Savoy Theater, at the northeast corner of Main & Forsyth. This is the pillared structure fronted by what appear to be movie posters on easels. The showplace operated on the spot of today's seventeen-story Lynch Building (11E Forsyth Building), built in 1926.
This South Jacksonville photo dates from March 15, 1949, four years after World War II and one year before the Korean War. This spot is located just southwest of the giant oak tree that is in the Jessie duPont Park. The street used to called Miami Road, but it is known today as Prudential Drive. To the right is the two-story Embassy Hotel, now long gone. This Mayberry-like scene began to change just a few years later, with the building of the nearby Prudential Building. Nowadays, South Jacksonville is considered part of Jacksonville's central business district. Thankfully, the old giant oak is still with us, but little -- if anything -- in this picture has survived. The small town appearance is gone.
We're looking at the brick intersection of 8th and Pearl streets two generations ago -- or on March 30, 1949, to be exact. On the left is the Pearl Street Pharmacy, which in more recent years has housed an antiques business. Catty-cornered from it is Reiser's Battery Service. It provided "expert repairs" for boats and buses. The proprietor was Major J. Reiser, a Riverside resident who lived on Cherry Street. The Gulf sign belonged to Edward L. Kirkland's filling station, now a vacant lot.

Brick Streets

WIPE OUT! — It wasn’t so long ago, really, that brick pavement and trolley car tracks could be seen in the heart of the River City. And this wasn’t such a good thing when the rain came down, according to longtime resident Jack McGiffin in his wonderful book It Ain’t Like It Was in the Good Old Days… No, and It Never Was.

Main & Forsyth proved a slick and risky intersection when wet, Mr. McGiffin recalled. Here are the reasons why: Trolley companies often placed bricks between and around the rails that were in streets. When tracks had to be repaired, the bricks could be removed and later replaced. The companies used vitrified bricks, which show few, if any, visible pores. Impervious to water, vitrified bricks are heated to a near-liquid substance, which then slowly hardens over a seven- to ten-day period. They feel quite smooth as a result. But there’s more…

Until the 1930s, Main & Forsyth lay at the core of the city’s streetcar system, with two busy tracks crossing there. Consequently, it received an extra large number of bricks. According to Mr. McGiffin, however, workmen proved too efficient when laying them, keeping the bricks at just the right height and fit. During rainy days, therefore, the junction seemed almost as slick as a newly polished kitchen floor. Cars spun out when starting and skidded when braking. Pedestrians slipped and slid, and horses fell down, their iron horseshoes giving no grip on the surface. The bricks even had a greenish, glass-like look, said Mr. McGiffin.

How did the city government respond to this soggy mess? They sent men with chisels to Main & Forsyth, where they chipped the bricks to make a rougher pavement. This allowed animals, pedestrians, and vehicles to pass more safely.

~written by Glenn Emery


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