Have you ever wondered what life was like in Jacksonville half a century ago? It was a different era of history, culture and politics but there are often parallels between the kind of stories that made headlines then and today. As interesting as the differences may be, so are the similarities. These are some of the top stories from this week in 1961. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.
• The Duval County Commission saw the preliminary plans for a 688-space parking lot on the south side of the County Courthouse.
The plans called for the lot to extend 450 feet into the St. Johns River from the south wall of the courthouse, where there was a narrow strip of land which was eroding into the river.
A rendering of the project showed two tiers built of prestressed concrete with roadways on all sides of the lot. Two of the roadways were extensions of Market and Liberty streets.
George Register of the engineering firm of Register and Cummings told the commission the two-tiered lot would cost an estimated $2,179,000.
The commission did not specify how the parking spaces would be allocated, but Commissioner C. Ray Greene said he hoped one deck would be reserved for courthouse employees and officials.
No plans were made by the commission to issue bonds for the project. The County had $400,000 available for construction of the lot.
• A business owner filed a $50,000 damage suit against the City, claiming his property was damaged by work done by the City on Laura Street.
Edward Hinson, doing business as Hinson Body Shop, claimed in Circuit Court that he warned the City in May 1958 that he was concerned about the possible effects on his property of a project to raise Laura Street and adjoining City land.
He alleged that the City negligently failed to provide drainage adequate to protect his property from higher flood levels resulting from the project. Consequently, Hinson said, his property was flooded in May 1959 and June 1960.
Hinson said in order to prevent further flooding, he was forced to raise the floor of his building 18 inches and would also have to raise the level of his parking lot.
The suit was filed for Hinson by attorney Mark Hulsey.
• The Independent Life and Accident Insurance Co. completed site acquisition transactions for a possible new home office that would take in about half a block on Bay Street between Laura and Main streets.
The company purchased the Bay Street property occupied by the S.B. Hubbard Hardware Co. and several weeks prior had purchased the adjacent property owned by Robert W. and Ethel M. Perdue, for $325,000.
A 20-year lease contract with an option to purchase had been executed on a parking lot owned by William R. Means to round out the three-parcel acquisition. According to a company spokesman, the entire transaction totaled about $750,000.
The new purchase included 320 feet on Laura Street from Bay to Water streets, 196 feet on Water Street feet from Laura Street eastward and 184 feet on Bay Street.
The announcement was made by company President Jacob F. Bryan III, who said the acquisition was part of a long-range plan for expansion of the company’s facilities.
He noted the company’s rapid expansion after the completion of its $5 million, 19-story home office building at Julia and Duval streets. In 1961, Independent used all but five floors of the building.
“Our company has grown more rapidly in the past five years than in the whole of the previous 10 years,” said Bryan.
“When this became apparent, it caused us to start thinking about the day when expansion would become necessary. The choice would have to be between putting an addition to our present building or erecting a new one.
“We have long regarded our agency building at the corner of Bay and Laura streets, which was our former home office building, as a wonderful center-of-the-city location. We realized that there we could have an unobstructed view of the St. Johns River on one of the most advantageous building sites in Jacksonville. For that reason, we have purchased the buildings and land surrounding our Bay Street agency building for a future building site,” said Bryan.
He said no plans for building within the next several years had been made.
• Cyril S. Doline, 38, who posed as “Dr. Stuart Greene, M.D., Ph.D.” when he was arrested in Jacksonville July 19 with a stolen car in his possession, pleaded guilty to interstate transportation of a stolen car when arraigned in federal court.
Robert M. Rhodes, an FBI agent who investigated the case, told District Judge Bryan Simpson that during a court recess the day before, prior to Doline entering his plea, he had confessed to another car theft.
Rhodes said Doline told him the second car was being driven in Philadelphia by his wife and father, who were unaware it was stolen.
Doline told Simpson he had stolen the first automobile to use as a front while looking for a job in Philadelphia.
He said he had been the manager of two automobile dealerships in Boston until October 1960, when business fell off and he was replaced by a manager who had agreed to take a much smaller salary than Doline was drawing.
Doline said seven months later, he had $4,000 in the bank and decided to attempt to add to it with another $4,000 to finance the opening of a used car agency in Philadelphia.
That plan led to the theft of the car he brought to Jacksonville, which he was attempting to sell for $4,200 when he was apprehended, he said.
Doline said he “wished the judge would impose a heavy sentence, then suspend it,” so that if he ever got in trouble again he would face an automatic jail term.
“Most people who come up here would be happy with that sort of sentence,” Simpson told Doline, then directed the court’s probation officers to make an investigation of the defendant’s background.
Simpson ordered Doline to report back to court July 28 for sentencing.
• Jacksonville Beach officials were studying a proposal from H.G. Blanton to tear down the old pier and erect a new amusement pier.
Mayor I.D. Sams said Blanton had agreed to dismantle the old pier at North Third Avenue at no cost to the City and build a new pier, probably at another location where parking was available. Sams said a pier with a seating capacity of 1,500 to 2,500 had been suggested by Blanton.
The resort had already received a low bid of $16,723 for razing the old pier, but the job was delayed because officials said the City didn’t have the money to execute the contract.
If you’d like to share your recollections about information you’ve read or seen in this column, email [email protected].
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