Built on Family Enterprise

Written by Cleve Powell
Originally published in the History Corner section of the August 2009 OAI Newsletter

After the Civil War, the name “Arlington” first appeared as a small development called Arlington Bluff (now Clifton) in 1873. The area considered as Arlington today has far surpassed anyone’s imagination. The “Old Arlington” historic area is bounded by Atlantic Boulevard on the south, Mill Creek and Hartsfield Roads on the east and the St. Johns River on the north and west. Before the Mathews Bridge opened in 1953 it was considered remote from Jacksonville and South Jacksonville and its early residents depended on family run enterprises such as mills, shipyards, turpentine stills (and moonshine), ferry services, farms and dairies for employment and small, family-owned stores for most of their food and supplies.

The first family industry was a water-powered mill on Strawberry Creek where Arlington Road now crosses. It opened in 1820 and remained open until about 1870. It originally belonged to the Richard family and later to John Sammis. It was unique to northeast Florida and was a combination sawmill, gristmill and cotton gin. Richard also had a brickyard nearby. Ships were built from the lumber at the head of Pottsburg Creek.

After the Civil War the old plantation lands were divided up and sold for development, and several small communities sprang to life along the river, the main source of transportation. Some of the communities were Chaseville, Floral Bluff, Gilmore, and Arlington Bluff, later known as Matthews and then Clifton. All had a general store and a post office well before 1900, and often the storeowner was also the Postmaster. Chaseville also had a boat building enterprise started by Samuel Chase, hence the name, Chaseville. The inland community of Egleston was also platted in 1888 near Lake Lucina.

An event that briefly opened Arlington up to the world was the J M & P Railroad, which opened in 1888, and ran from a dock near what is now Jones College, diagonally through the community with a Railroad Station in Egleston. This was also a family business started by Alexander Wallace, who sold a sawmill in Jacksonville to fund his new enterprise. He opened a hotel on the ocean at Mayport called the Burnside and reportedly paid cash for everything. The railroad became known as the “Cash Road.” Arlington benefited greatly with an active hotel in Egleston. Mr. Wallace unfortunately died shortly after its opening and by 1895 the train became history.

Atlantic Boulevard, originally known as Pablo Road, was opened in 1910, and a few years later a bridge, of sorts, was built over Arlington River, and a road was opened from Atlantic Boulevard to the point originally known as Reddie Point or Chaseville Point. The road became known as Chaseville Road, and in 1959 it became University Boulevard. Arlington Road, which runs from Atlantic Boulevard across the old Mill Dam at Strawberry Creek and then west to the river, was named by proclamation in 1912. Thus the “Crossroads” were formed where these roads intersected and by 1930 it was the “Town Center” of Arlington.

Before the crossroads the town center was located at the foot of Arlington Road, which was connected by ferry service to the foot of Beaver Street ca 1912. There were several family businesses documented in the 1924 Arlington History located at the ferry landing: Bradshaw’s Store, which was also the first Arlington Post Office, Oliver Frieseke also had a general store, and his father before him had one at Floral Bluff. Hayes Ice Cream, Olson’s Shipyard, and Seaboard Dredging run by Mr. Loennecke were on the riverfront on either side of the ferry landing. Both families were originally located at Dames Point where many of the early Arlington families came from, and most all of them had marine oriented backgrounds. Mr. Phillips had a turpentine still just south of Olson’s, which also supported quite a few families. The Ferry service made all this possible, and was also a family-owned business started by the Alderman Realty Company, but soon purchased by Mr. Anson Macy, whose family helped operate and maintain the vessels.

It seems that many of the early settlers were part of extended families, including my own, which settled in Arlington in 1912-14. They were involved in the Alderman Realty Co., Red Bay Ranch and Dairy (now Tree Hill) and Johnson and Son Dredging. In later years the dairy became Lone Star Stables. The Nolan family moved their dairy from the west side of Jacksonville to Atlantic Boulevard ca. 1923, and opened the Nolan’s Alpine Dairy, which stayed open for many years. There were several other Arlington families that had smaller dairies including the Colcords, the Jaques and the Johnsons.

Another family enterprise was Norman Laboratories, who took over The Eagle Film Studios, a silent film company on Arlington Road, and made silent films utilizing a cast of black actors for many years. This compound still exists today and is being restored as a historic monument. Mrs. Norman converted the film studio into a dance studio in the early thirties, and was very successful for many years.

This month we are going to focus on a family-owned business that was located at the southeast corner of the crossroads known as “Haines Grocery” that opened ca. 1930, and closed in 1956. This family was also originally from Dames Point, and kin to other Arlington families. We are fortunate to have programmed for our August speaker, Emily Ruth Haines Surowiec, who grew up in the store. Joan Jaques Vinson, who also grew up in Arlington, has furnished her memories of Haines Grocery:

At The Crossroads of Old Arlington
You may never physically go home again but you certainly can visit even if ever so briefly in your memories.
Imagine, if you will, close your eyes and shut all of the hustle of your overcrowded schedule out. The still quaint and quite little community of Arlington, the crossroads, the very heart of business activity on the southeastern corner sits the “Haines Grocery.”
I have no idea when it was built or how long it survived. I was aware f it from around 1939 through probably 1950. Standing in front of the very plain wooden building one would be reminded of a rural Norman Rockwell rendition of life in America.
As a child the huge gasoline pump with its rotund glass tank appeared to be from another planet. It sat very near the bottom step so Mrs. Haines could easily pump the long handle to measure the amount each customer requested. Some would ask for 10 cents worth in a coffee can while others with more would unscrew the metal cap from their gas tanks and proudly exclaim, “filler up please.”
A set of unpainted wooden steps stretched the length of the front. Sheets of tin covered the expanse of the porch shading the worn screen door proudly boasting its Merita Bread Logo.
Once inside you would be greeted with the assorted goods that were necessary to maintain a household. One side of the store held bins of vegetable, potatoes, onions and season squash, green beans and peppers.
Canned goods consisted of “Pet” milk, Spam, corn and beans. Homemakers could purchase sewing notions and sew on that button that just would not stay on, or darn socks until the bulk of the woven area rubbed a callus on your foot. Hair bows and bobby pins, “Jergens Lotion” and “Noxzema” were available also.
The checkout line consisted of a board counter lined with gallon jars of candy. The large cash register occupied the center of the counter. Each item was entered, and the handle would be pulled down. I don’t think that “ring” could ever be duplicated.
Many times you would pass through the screen door only to be greeted by a layer of newspapers spread over the floor. Mrs. Haines had an African-American lady that helped her in her home and in the store. After she had scrubbed the floor of the store she was not about to let anyone step on it until it had thoroughly dried. It was like adult “Hop Scotch.”
Many happy times this little child looked in awe from around her mother at the plethora of things available if you just had the money to purchase them. Painfully we were not that fortunate.
Had it not been for Mrs. Haines’ generosity to offer a “running bill” for those having hard times making ends meet, many families would have had to tighten their belts another notch and simply do without.
Joan Jaques Vinson 7-24-09

Here are some of my [Cleve’s] memories of some of the stores and business from the early to middle forties:

Along with the increasing dependence of the automobile, businesses began to “pop-up” along Atlantic Boulevard and at the intersections of Arlington Road and Chaseville Road. Again, these were almost all mom and pop businesses, and you had to go to “South Jacksonville” for drugstores, doctors, major groceries and hardware stores.

At the intersection of Arlington Road and Atlantic Boulevard (where we caught a bus to Jacksonville), there was a gas station on the corner I think called Browns. Going west towards Silversmith Creek was Blackie’s Grocery and Mr. Steeve’s Saw Shop. Going East towards Mill Creek was Marvin’s Gas Station and Garage, which also sold some groceries. Next came Nolan’s Dairy, and further down was Champion’s store called “Champs Corner” and then Crews Grocery near Mill Creek Road and a little independent gas station at Mill Creek.

Beginning again at the intersection of Arlington Road and Atlantic Boulevard, going north down Arlington Road towards the crossroads, there were a few houses but no businesses until you got to Gloria Norman’s Dance Studio, and then the Aderhold’s Grocery at the intersection of Arlington Road and Cesery Terrace. The waterworks were near the Crossroads on the south, and across the street was P. S. Moody’s Station and lunch counter. At the Crossroads, Haines was on the southeast corner, and was formerly owned by the Davis family, Cliff’s Garage on the southwest, Gillespie’s station on the northeast, which was the location of Reid’s Garage in the twenties, then C. Richard’s grocery store. William Bradshaw and later Lillian Bradshaw were the Postmasters of a small post office a few lots west of the northwest corner of the crossroads. A little later Turners Hardware and Bruce’s Shoe Shop was between there and the river where Olson’s Boat-yard and Seaboard Dredging (Parkhill-Goodlow) had been located since the twenties.

Going to Atlantic Boulevard and Chaseville (University), I remember The Merry-Go-Round Bar on the southeast corner, and Borden’s Ice Cream on the northwest corner. Going west down Atlantic, there was a small grocery/gas station on the right, and then the Atlantic Drive-In Theater on the left, owned by an Arlington resident, and then “Uncle Joe’s Drive Inn” owned by Claude and Louie before you got to Little Pottsburg Creek.

Coming north into Arlington there was nothing until you got to Malloy’s Shell Station just beside the school, then Minnie’s Diner, and you are back to the Crossroads. Continuing north on Chaseville past the Crossroads was Arlington Grocery, a small “one-chair” barber shop, Dickson’s Pharmacy, and then Brinson’s Store on the northwest corner of Chaseville and Floral Bluff Avenue. I’ve skipped a few owners but I remember Mr. Brinson because you could bring a stack of comic books and give him 25 cents, and take a stack home to read. All of these businesses besides the Borden’s Ice Cream were, I believe, family owned and managed by families that lived in or near Arlington.

What is it like in 2009? Well times are again hard and the small family enterprise is again keeping things going. Cleve Powell