Trolley tracks ran down the middle of Main Street, stretching from downtown into Springfield until the 1930s. This Main Street postcard, showing a buggy and streetcar, dates from about 1907. Mischievous boys used to soap the tracks in the vicinity of 8th and Main. These Halloween hijinks caused trolley cars to slip & slide when trying to brake, and their wheels to spin futilely while starting back up. This interesting fact comes from the marvelous video “Yesterdays: Looking Back at Jacksonville.”
Little kids riding alone on streetcars? Also in the “Yesterdays” video, a senior citizen remembered how townsfolk seemed relatively unconcerned about serious crime. During the early 1900s, her parents thought nothing of placing her on a streetcar by herself, even though she was about six years old. The tot would travel downtown to Cohen Brothers Department Store, located in the St. James Building, today’s City Hall. She purchased sewing supplies and then boarded the trolley for the trip back home. Please see below for more!
GETTING THERE FROM HERE — Forty minutes to Ortega Island, and thirty to the Trout River on the Northside: This is how long it took some of Jacksonville’s streetcars to run from the downtown area in 1931, according to that year’s Comprehensive City Plan. Other travel times from downtown included ten minutes to Springfield and twenty-five to the vicinity of today’s FCCJ Kent Campus on the Westside. Is the present JTA bus schedule very much faster, especially considering any transfers from vehicle to vehicle?
The streetcar system did leave a lot to be desired, however, in the opinion of the City Plan from 1931. The document stated that the local residents most affected were African Americans, who relied on trolleys more than white inhabitants did. In the Plan’s words, “As the town grew, its colored areas grew likewise, adjacent to the white areas. As a result, the several separate and distinct colored areas came into being. But now with the advent of business and industry into some of those old areas, the residents there are being forced father and farther from their places of labor to the point in some instances that domestics are required to travel on street cars an hour or more before reaching their destinations… And as the city increases in population and area, this situation will become even more acute… (A)t this time, a domestic residing in the neighborhood of Davis and Eighth Street will consume 40-45 minutes in continuous riding time in going from her home to the site of her day’s work in Avondale, regardless and irrespective of waits and transfers! This state of affairs is not only unfair to the negro element but likewise unfair to those dependent upon them for domestic service. This condition is due to the routings of the transit system with its bottle neck at Broad and Bay and the obsolete system of looping.”
Within a few years of the report, however, the city’s streetcars would lose their battle with buses. Springfield, for example, had its trolley cars replaced by these competitors in June 1934. According to a Jacksonville Journal article from July 6, 1934, the last remaining streetcar lines in the city operated in the areas of La Villa, South Jacksonville, Kings Road, Edison-Fairfield (the Eastside), and Florida Avenue (today’s A. Philip Randolph Boulevard on the Eastside). And in December 1936, Jax streetcars would make their final runs.
~written by Glenn Emery