Friday, May 29, 2009

I Crossed the Ditch and the River Today

This was such a fun day, doing something I almost NEVER do, going to downtown Jacksonville. When we were children, in the 60's, that is where you went to shop! Jacksonville is not a mecca center, in fact, it only reached 1 million residents during the 1960's. But, it has a few buildings of note and today, my friend Dottie Fletcher, took me on an adventure to the new City Hall! Dottie has been researching an article about Jacksonville and today made a great tour guide! But first, I need to tell you who Dottie is.

Dottie is a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a retired career educator, a published author among so many other things. But to me, Dottie is my oldest (in duration, not age) friend!

I moved from Decatur, Georgia to Jacksonville in August 1959 to Southside, in the San Jose area on Mariana Road. Dottie lived next door. She was the oldest of 4 children, just entering the sixth grade. I was the middle of three children entering the 8th grade. Due to the extreme difference in our ages, over all the years until 1971 when I left Mariana Road, Dottie and I were very dear, very close friends, but never socialized together. I really don't think I realized until today, that I have no other acquaintance, still in contact with, that I've know longer! Several others came along that year that I still know, Claire, Lynda and Myra, but Dottie came first. Gee, that makes me want to wrap a little piece of gold around her name! Too bad I can't paste a little star here! What?

This building is located just to the west of Hemming Park. It has been in this location since 1910. At the time it was completed, it was the 8th largest department store in the United States. Prior to 1900 is was a grand hotel. It, like so many others of that era, made of wood, burned to the ground. It wasn't until 1910 that the Cohen Brothers started construction on, what was to first be called The Big Building, May-Cohen's. As seen above the facade was simple with beautiful embellishments which are still in tact.

The building itself is called the St. James. I do not know the origin of that, Dottie did not tell me about that! But here you can see the detail of the embellishments.

The original department store had a huge open rotunda with a beautiful sky light. During the 40's, all four floors were enclosed, hiding the sky light for 60 plus years.

I couldn't get in a position to photograph the entire skylight in one shot. Had I known just how big it was and how beautiful it was, I could have taken my seldom used wide angle lens, did I have it with me when I needed it?

And I couldn't help but enjoy the shadows cast upon the beautiful floor from the sky light. Today, this building is Jacksonville City Hall. May it last, in all its beauty, for another 100 years.

Before I finish, I must tell you about the title of this post. In Jacksonville Beach, it is agreed, that we don't like to cross the Intra Coastal Waterway (IAC), affectionately called "the ditch", and we never cross the River (St. John's). My late husband, Paul Leone, and I had a home on the IAC. Paul always called it "the canal". I guess I don't have to tell you that is my favorite term for "the ditch"!

Dottie, you my special friend, have given me a lovely day down memory lane. Thank you!

1 comment:

GutsyWriter said...

I could feel the love and friendship you have for Dottie. It reminds me of my best friend, Lilian, a sister almost, as I don't have any. We met in Denmark when we were 3 years old, and have been best friends since then. We're 51 and 52 today. Also the photos are gorgeous. I do have one place you have to visit, "Les Galleries Lafayette" department store in Paris. Similar rounda, much older, and a restaurant on the top floor to view the stained glass. BEautiful.