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Durkeeville Historical Society
Historical Markers

Historic African-American Sites

Mid-Westside Jacksonville
By the 1930s the African-American community of Sugar Hill continued to expand north and west of West Eighth Street and spilled over into another region, Mid-Westside Jacksonville, defined by the following boundaries, I-95 (east), Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway (north), Old Kings Road (south) and Spires Street (west).

Substantial development occurred on Eighth Street, where the homes of leading black citizens were built during that period. These include the residences of A.M.E. Bishop Henry Y. Tookes located at 1011 West Eighth Street, the home of leading figures for black recreation, David and Florida Dwight, at 1050 Eight Street, and the family of Alpha Hayes Moore, at 1369 West Eighth Street.

Sugar Hill
The origin of the name has been lost. In any case, as a lifelong resident of this community, Mrs. Olivia Forest, stated “life was sweet” in Sugar Hill. From its origins in the early 1900s through its hey-days – the 1920s to the 1960s – the height of the era of segregation, many middle and upper class African Americans resided in this neighborhood. The approximate boundaries of Sugar Hill were West State Street (south), Hogans Creek (east), North Davis Street and old I-95 (west) and the north side of West Eighth Street (north).

In the early 1900s the most prominent residents of Sugar Hill were A.L. Lewis and Joseph H. Blodgett, two of the first African-American millionaires in the state. The grand homes of Lewis and Blodgett and most of the other residences of affluent black citizens of that era have been demolished.

Jefferson Street Pool
The Jefferson Street Pool was the first major municipal facility of its kind available to African Americans in Jacksonville. Prior to its establishment in 1951, a few community pools for black people had been created.

The Jefferson Street Pool was a center for a variety of community services and programs. For example, religious services such as baptisms were held at this facility. Also, the initial headquarters of the first African-American patrolmen hired by the City of Jacksonville in 1950 was located on the first floor of the building.

Brewster Hospital
In 1931 the red brick building that housed Brewster Hospital, the first private medical facility available to African Americans in Jacksonville opened.

Brewster Hospital evolved out of a class to train African-American women as nurses at the Boylan Industrial Home and School for African-American young women. The school was conducted by Hattie E. Emerson of the Women’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. This first school of nursing was on Monroe Street in Lavilla, near the downtown area of the city.

Brewster Hospital operated until 1966, when it was acquired by Shands Medical Center and converted into a hospice facility. The building was demolished in 2006.

Durkee Gardens
In the 1930s a new subdivision, Durkee Gardens, was started in the Mid-westside district. The community takes its name from the Durkee family, prominent whites in Jacksonville, who originally owned much of the property in the area. Many of the homes were built by African American contractors James Edward Hutchins and Sanford A. Brookins.

Between the 1930s and 1970s African-American physicians, educators, business people, religious leaders and other leading citizens lived in Durkee Gardens. One resident of the community was Sallye B. Mathis, who served as the City Council representative for this district in the 1960s.

Durkeeville is the historic African-American community that began in the 1930s. It encompasses Durkee Gardens (an affluent subdivision), and is partly located in Mid-westside Jacksonville. The community is named for the Durkee family that owned property in the area. The founder of of the family in Jacksonville was Joseph Harvey Durkee, a white native of New York state and a former Union military officer of the Civil War. Colonel Durkee, a decorated hero who lost an arm in the war, settled in Jacksonville and became a prominent businessman and politician. His son, Dr. Jay H. Durkee continued the family involvement in real estate.

In 1937 the first federally funded housing complex for African Americans in the city, the Durkeeville Housing Project, built on land sold by Dr. Jay Durkee to the city of Jacksonville and the federal government was completed. In 1992 the housing project was demolished and a new housing complex, The Oaks of Durkeeville, was constructed.

Moncrief Community
The Moncrief area (boundaries, I-95 [east], Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway [south], Moncrief Road & 29th Street [north] and Spires Street [west]) began in the late 1800s and by the early 1900s was a chief center of recreation in Jacksonville. Neighborhoods emerged from the growing number of African Americans who made their homes in this region in the 20th century. Other African-American establishments followed, including a recreation facility with a pool established by Eartha White in the early 1920s. Eartha White, with the support of A.L. Lewis, started the first black history museum in her home in the Moncrief district.

Other prominent African Americans who lived in this area include the family of businessman and community activist Isidore and Mary Singleton, who served on the Jacksonville City Council in the 1960s.

  © 2011 Durkeeville Historical Society  
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