Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Remembering the Old Days and Avondale's 'Spite Wall'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Remembering the Old Days and Avondale's 'Spite Wall'

Article excerpt

Christine Dearing Cruchfield may be Jacksonville's best-kept secret.

She's a resident of Sterling House on Roosevelt Boulevard and says she's 93, though it's difficult to understand how anyone that age could have the energy and enthusiasm she displays.

"Where were you born?" I asked.

At Fifth and Main, she replied.

"Well, today there is a fire station at Fourth and Main, but there was never a hospital down the street that I know of," I pointed out.

"Hospital?" she exclaimed. "We didn't go to the hospital in those days. I don't know what is there now, either. But I remember Dr. Marshall Taylor taking out my tonsils on our dining room table."

When this lady was growing up, there was a dairy farm where Lee High School has stood since 1926. And a gentleman named Bellisario sold five suckers for a penny in Avondale.

Her home -- she still owns the house -- was on a one-block street between St. Johns Avenue and the river. It was called -- and still is -- Bourbon Alley by the four homeowners on the street. The alley is not a city-owned street.

"We wish they would buy it," she said.

St. Johns was a shell street in those days, and on Sunday people came from all over to pick phlox, she said. The mayor, John Alsop, lived near and "he rode the bus to work every day." Imagine that!

"And whatever happened to donats?" she asked. "You know, those little shellfish that were on the beach in the thousands. We used to have donat soup."

Her grandmother, Lula Hart, was a granddaughter of Isaiah D. Hart, founder of Jacksonville.

Cruchfield keeps tabs on her old neighborhood. She said now that the McDuff home on St. Johns -- where McDuff intersects, of course -- has been cleaned up for sale and the Semmes home next door is sporting a fresh coat of paint, talk has returned to the "spite wall."

It seems that when the McDuffs were building the large red brick house, Mrs. McDuff decided she wanted it closer to the river and away from the street. …

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