Fields of Color

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I am trying to come up with something creative to say about a tour through the Cummer Museum on Riverside Avenue in Jacksonville, but my creative juices are wont. Most classic and modern genres are included in its permanent collection, which is sampled on this short video. I should have included artistic style on each title slide but, alas, did not. Nevertheless, I wanted to use my Adobe editing software one more time before the annual subscription expires.

Fields of Color: The  Art of Japanese Printmaking is an exhibit of 20 prints on display through January 13th. Most of the prints are in the ukiyo-e style, meaning “pictures of the floating world.”  These were popular from the 17th century to the 20th, depicting fleeting moments of pleasure, and were popular with the merchant class to decorate their homes.

Ukiyo-e subjects ranged from female beauties; kabuki actors and sumo wrestlers; scenes from history and folk tales; travel scenes and landscapes; flora and fauna; and erotica.

Shin-hanga, or “new print” developed as a movement in the 1920s.  Global industrialization opened Japan to such European artistic principles as linear perspective, foreshortening, and shading.

Snow at Shinkawabata, Handa, Bishu 1935 Kawase Hasui

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The Melting Pot

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The Melting Pot: The Diverse Cultures of Northeast Florida is an oral history series produced by the Jacksonville Historical Society. The project records the life experiences of 15 immigrants to Jacksonville from around the world. Each video is approximately 45 minutes long. The project includes a compilation video of 30 minutes, enough time to tell everyone’s story in two minutes a piece. I am the project’s videographer and editor; the entire series can be found here.

Of course I posted the compilation video to my Facebook page. Glenn Gray, a friend and interviewee from the United Kingdom, gave me the greatest compliment, which, besides getting paid, made the effort worth the while.

“You’ve done a fantastic editing job on this Karen. It’s an impressive piece of work – very well planned and paced.”

The interviews were conducted by director emeritus Emily Lisska from January through May 2018, with series presentation in June.

“The Melting Pot: The Diverse Cultures of Northeast Florida is an oral history project to capture and showcase the stories of the area’s diverse population. This project is sponsored in part by the Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs. the Florida Council of Arts and Culture and the Florida Dept of State. 

The Jacksonville Historical gratefully acknowledges these local immigrants who shared their stories with the community.

Reggie Agulto, Manila, Philippines – Carlos Bouvier; Montevideo, Uruguay – Thoi Tran Bullard; Da Nang, Viet Nam – Augustus Cesar Carangue; Cebu, Philipinnes – Lorraine Corey; Homs, Syria – Aduibaje Davis; Gambaga, Ghana – Glenn Gray; United Kingdom Ruth Jernigan; Portoviejo, Ecuador – Shung Kwan and Min Kim; Seoul, South Korea – Jerry Nackashi; Kirkuk, Iraq – Yoon Park; Seoul South Korea – Taryn Rodriguez-Boette; San Juan, Puerto Rico – Shigeko Sams; Okinawa, Japan – T.K. and Rahul Sharma; New Delhi, India – Sonny and Deborah Ukpong, Nigeria

 

The Big Store

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Among what seems like thousands of photos in the archives of the Jacksonville Historical Society are hundreds of the retail mecca, Cohen Brothers department store. When it opened its Hemming Plaza store in 1912, its square footage made it the ninth largest department store in the country. For over 75 years Cohen Brothers was the shining star of downtown Jacksonville’s dynamic retail community.

In March 1928, Cohen Brothers retained Paramount actress Edna Kirby to “live” in a display window for one full week culminating in her wedding. (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society

In March 1928, Cohen Brothers retained Paramount actress Edna Kirby to “live” in a display window for one full week culminating with her wedding on the last night. (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

Bridal vignette, Cohen's display window (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

Bridal vignette, Cohen’s display window (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

The Big Store, as Cohen Bros. came to be known, had its beginnings in the years just following the Civil War. The Cohen family emigrated from Germany to New York City to continue a family business in the dry goods industry. Brothers Samuel and Morris visited Jacksonville in 1867 and decided to set up a shop in the struggling yet resilient port city. Because they were established dry goods merchants, their store thrived from opening day.

But it was their brother Jacob (called the John Wanamaker of the South) who had the foresight and marketing savvy to establish Cohen Bros as the anchor of a bustling retail district. Around the store grew varied commercial trades.

Jacob Cohen was 13 years old in 1875 when he arrived in Jacksonville. By the time he was 18, Jacob was running the store. Cohen Brothers, The Popular Dry Goods House moved in 1897 to Florida’s first skyscraper, occupying in retail splendor the first two floors of the six-story Gardner building on Bay Street.

St. James Hotel before the Great Fire of 1901 (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

St. James Hotel before the Great Fire of 1901 (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

Meanwhile, Jacksonville’s population exploded to make it Florida’s largest city. At the time, Jacksonville was the nation’s most popular winter resort. “The Winter City in the Summer Land,” gained its fame due in no small part to extravagant steamship cruises on the St. Johns River. Several blocks north of Cohen Brother sat the St. James Hotel at Hemming Plaza (known then as St. James Park), one of the most glorious of the grand hotels in the South.

The St. James, as well as the adjacent Windsor Hotel, were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1901. On May 3rd, the fire devastated 146 blocks of downtown Jacksonville and over 2,000 buildings, including Cohen Brothers. The Windsor was the only hotel of 19th-century Jacksonville to be rebuilt.

The St. James property remained empty for years. Municipal development projects for the area were debated until the Windsor Hotel ownership bought the square block lot. The purchase would eliminate the possibility of a rival hotel from being built. Morris and Jacob Cohen acquired the property in 1910. The Big Store would be a complimentary neighbor for the Windsor. The merchants of Bay Street were sceptical of the move.

Windsor Hotel (upper left) and The Big Store overlooking Hemming Plaza, circa 1920s (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

Windsor Hotel (upper left) and The Big Store overlooking Hemming Plaza, circa 1920s (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

St. James Building, Henry Klutho, architect, circa 1920s (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

St. James Building, Henry Klutho, architect, circa 1920s (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

The Cohens selected architect Henry J. Klutho, a Frank Lloyd Wright protégé, to design their new store. The Cohens wanted a two-story retail store. Klutho suggested a four-story mixed use building with retail space on the first two floors. The ‘Prairie School’ style St. James building gained national attention and acclaims soon after its completion. At the heart of the building was a 75-foot octagonal skylight flooding the interior with natural light.

Cohen Bros first floor and mezzanine (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

Cohen Bros first floor and mezzanine (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

Cigar and sundry shop, Cohen Bros,1st Floor (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

Cigar and sundry shop, Cohen Bros,1st Floor (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

Cohen Bros. Soda Fountain circa 1918 (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

Cohen Bros. Soda Fountain circa 1918 (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

The St. James building and Cohen’s Big Store opened on Oct. 21, 1912 drawing 28,000 visitors. By the late 1920s Cohen Brothers needed more retail space.  Klutho suggested adding a fifth floor to save the skylight, but Jacob Cohen died before the plans were finalized. Cohen’s management commissioned an architectural firm in Nashville, Tenn. to draw up alternative alterations. Klutho was so disgusted with the finished building he moved his office to Springfield.

The Big Store remained a popular Jacksonville destination through the decades. In 1958, Cohen Brothers was acquired by May Company department stores. The store was re-named May-Cohen. The first floor and basement of the St. James building were renovated with an escalator between floors. The basement would become ‘a store within a store’ doubling May-Cohen retail space.

Electrical Kitchen cooking show circa early 1940s. (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

Cooking show at ‘Electrical Kitchen’ circa early 1940s. (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

The Fashion Salon, Cohen Bros, 2nd Floor circa 1950 (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society

‘Fashion Salon’, 2nd Floor circa 1950 (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society

Crowds waiting for the new escalators at May-Cohens circa 1960. (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

Crowds waiting for the new escalators at May-Cohens circa 1960. (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

The urban landscape around May-Cohen expanded as well. May Co. entered into a joint venture with S.S. Jacobs & Co. to form Downtown Center on the day Cohen Brothers was acquired. A seven-story parking garage was planned and a $15 million multi-use building. As many as six major retailers would sit within a five-block radius of May-Cohens at Hemming Plaza.

W. Adams St., downtown Jacksonville's retail district, circa 1952 (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

W. Adams St., downtown Jacksonville’s retail district, circa 1952 (photo credit: Jacksonville Historical Society)

The early 1960s saw demographic shifts to the suburbs and major department stores followed the population to establish branch stores in outlying shopping centers. May-Cohen was a late arrival, in fact was the last major retailer in Jacksonville, to expand outside of downtown in 1965, to Regency Square Mall, one of the nation’s largest enclosed shopping malls.

By the end of the decade, the market share for downtown shopping fell to 25 percent. Jacksonville experienced the same downtown blight that affected most of the country. The 1971 Downtown Master plan was established to save The Big Store and nearby retail establishments. When work finally began in 1978 on a revamped Hemming Plaza, suburban malls were a firmly entrenched societal staple.

The Big Store would be the last major retailer to close its downtown Jacksonville store in 1987.

Thanks to “Cohen Brothers THE BIG STORE” by Ennis Davis and Sarah Gojekian,  The History Press, available for sale through the Jacksonville Historical Society bookstore.

 

Black Wings at the Ritz Museum

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Jacksonville History Show: Adonnica Toler of the Ritz Theater and Museum and veteran Jacksonville broadcaster Harry Reagan discuss the “Black Wings: American Dreams of Flight” with special attention to the exhibition’s relationship to Jacksonville, and iconic Bessie Coleman’s aviation career. Jacksonville civil rights activist Alton Yates’s participation in aviation-testing crucial to the space industry is overviewed, as are year-round exhibits on view at the Ritz Museum.

The traveling Smithsonian National Air and Space exhibition at the Ritz Museum through Jan. 17th is based on the book “Black Wings: Courageous stories of African Americans in Aviation and Space History by Von Hardesty (Harper Collins 2008).

Ritz Museum thru Jan. 17th. Tues 10am - 4pm, Sat 10am - 2pm

Ritz Museum thru Jan. 17th. Tues 10am – 4pm, Sat 10am – 2pm

 

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Co-produced by University of North Florida Dept. of Communication

 

 

 

Downtown revitalization

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THE JACKSONVILLE HISTORY SHOW: For almost 10 years the Jacksonville Historical Society has released its annual Endangered Properties list to encourage restoration and reuse of historic structures and, in recent years, there’s been an emphasis on revitalizing buildings in downtown Jacksonville.

Aviation attorney Ed Booth Jr, Jacksonville Historical Society president, discusses renovation successes, works in progress, and challenges for the future with veteran Jacksonville broadcaster Harry Reagan.

Revitalization success stories

The Florida Theater is, of course, the “poster child” of downtown revitalization. It opened in 1927 and was in danger of demolition in the 1970s. The building was saved, properly restored, and has been in constant use ever since.

Most recently, the Jesse Ball duPont Center opened in June 2015 and is home to 12 of the area’s non-profit organizations. The center occupies the former Haydon Burns library, which replaced the Carnegie library in 1965, and served as Jacksonville’s municipal library until 2005.

Mid-century Modern palm alcove

Mid-century Modern palm alcove

Local architect Taylor Hardwick, a member of the Jacksonville Historical Society for many years, designed the Mid-century Modern architectural style for the Haydon Burns library.

The duPont Center is a “text-book” case of how to restore a building to exactly as it appeared when it first opened.

Restorations in progress

The Elena Flats apartments on East Duval Street is an example of the wooden boarding houses built around 1903, just after the Great Jacksonville Fire. Former councilman Bill Bishop and his wife, both architects, spearheaded the redesign: four luxury apartments are expected to be completed in late 2016.

For more on the Elana Flats renovation see A piece of Downtown Jacksonville history by David Bauerlein for the Florida Times-Union.

Prime location: Corner of Bay and Ocean streets

Artists Jim Draper and Anna Banas created the Jaguar mural for the abandoned Bostwick building in 1995.

Artists Jim Draper and Anna Banas created the Jaguar mural for the abandoned Bostwick building in 1995.

The former Guaranty Trust, or Bostwick building, considered for years a lost cause because of structural problems, is being “lovingly restored” brick by brick over a new framework. The building was bought for $165,000 in July 2015, and is undergoing a restoration project the likes of which Jacksonville has not seen in a long time. The Cowford Chophouse, a steak and seafood restaurant with rooftop bar, will open Summer 2016.

The jaguar murals were moved to the J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver Center for Community Outreach, not far from EverBank stadium.

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cowford chophouse

Challenges for the Future

Jacksonville Fire Station No. 5 was built after the Great Fire and was a working fire station for over 100 years. The two-story building sits in the midst of Riverside Avenue high-rise renewal – it most likely will not remain at its current location but can be moved.

On the banks of the St. Johns river near the Mathews Bridge sits the 165,000 square-foot Ford assembly plant. The Jacksonville Historical Society is encouraging the 1925 red brick property to be used for a venue like the Riverside Arts Market.

The Ford assembly plant opened in 1925 to build autos primarily shipped to South America.

The Ford assembly plant was built in 1925 to build autos primarily shipped to South America.

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UNF Dept. of Communication

Video Editor: Karen Gardner

Treasures from the JHS Archives

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Apache mother and children. Castillo San Marcos,St Augustine, Florida circa 1879.

Apache mother and children. Castillo San Marcos, St Augustine, Florida circa 1879.

The Jacksonville History Show: Executive Director Emily Rutherford Lisska and JHS Associate Director /Archivist Taryn Rodriguez-Boette discuss the many “treasures” of the Jacksonville Historical Society.

The society has, since 1929, depended on archival donations from the community to collect the history of Jacksonville. The Edward M. Kellogg album is one such donation. He took original photos of rural downtown Jacksonville to sell later in a curiosity shop he owned on Bay Street.

Mr. Kellogg made a trip down the St. Johns river in the 1870s to Palatka and St. Augustine. The album includes 20 -25 photos of  imprisoned Apaches at the Castillo de San Marcos in 1879.

“There are wonderful photos of that imprisonment which have become very important to the history of the Native Americans and the Trail of Tears,” said Ms. Rodriguez-Boette.

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Also discussed are the Worley Cup trophy, the opening of Atlantic Boulevard in 1910, and the ostrich farms of Talleyrand Avenue!