|Neighborhood of Jacksonville|
|Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center located in the southwest corner of LaVilla|
|• City Council||Warren A. Jones|
|• State Assembly||Reggie Fullwood|
|• State Senate||Audrey Gibson|
|• U.S. House||Corrine Brown (D)|
|• Total||1.00 km2 (0.385 sq mi)|
|• Land||1.00 km2 (0.385 sq mi)|
|• Density||186/km2 (481/sq mi)|
LaVilla is a neighborhood of Jacksonville, Florida, US and former independent city. Jacksonville's first suburb, it was annexed by the city in 1887 and now considered part of downtown. During its height, the area was considered "the mecca for African American culture and heritage" in Florida, particularly its northern sections. It remains primarily an African-American neighborhood.
The area was first settled by John Jones under a Spanish land grant in 1801. It grew to become Jacksonville's first real suburb, and was incorporated as a city under the name LaVilla in the 1860s. The area was the site of a large Union garrison at different points in the American Civil War, when Jacksonville and northeastern Florida were under Union control. The population was mostly black, and many positions in Lavilla's government were held by blacks. In 1887 LaVilla and five other suburbs, including Riverside and Springfield, were annexed by the City of Jacksonville.
The part of LaVilla north of Adams Street was for many years a center of African-American life and culture in Jacksonville. The southern part of the neighborhood was a major railroad hub, with several rail lines meeting at Union Station (now the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center), and probably not coincidentally, was also for a period Jacksonville's primary red light district. The author Stephen Crane frequented this area during his time in Jacksonville; it was here that he met his wife Cora Crane, who was at the time a brothel proprietor.
Lavilla was the source of the Great Fire of 1901, which destroyed most of downtown, but the neighborhood itself was largely spared. Subsequently the area grew as an important center of African-American culture. A vibrant music and entertainment scene emerged, with many nationally renowned artists coming to play at the local clubs on and off Ashely Street that catered to black audiences. In 1929 the Ritz Theatre opened, becoming an important stop on the Chitlin' Circuit and LaVilla's primary performance venue. At the time, the area on Ashley Street west of Broad Street to and including Davis Street was known as the "Harlem of the South". Landmarks included Nick’s Pool Parlor or the Strand, the Frolic and the Roosevelt Theaters for a diversion. The Wynn/Egmont Hotel provided the best accommodations for travelling entertainers; the Boston Chop House, Mama’s Restaurant and Hayes Luncheonette provided good food; the Lenape Bar and Manuel's Taproom were the favorite watering holes. The Ritz Theatre and The Knights of Pythias Hall hosted numerous famous performers.
After the 1960s, however, the neighborhood entered a period of precipitous decline. Urban decay set in as the railroad industry declined and the construction of I-95 disrupted the neighborhood, and after the end of segregation, many residents left the area to pursue opportunities elsewhere. During the 1980s the crack cocaine epidemic hit LaVilla hard, furthering the decline. According to General Counsel Rick Mullaney, who was chief of staff under Mayor Ed Austin, the area became "nothing but crack houses, prostitution and crime."
The 1993 River City Renaissance plan crafted by then Mayor Ed Austin allocated millions of dollars to renovating LaVilla. Dilapidated buildings were torn down and historical structures, like the Ritz Theatre, restored or reconstructed.
Current Skyway Stations in LaVilla
- Jefferson at Jefferson Street & Bay Street, serving the Federal Reserve Building and Courthouse.
- Convention Center on Bay Street serving the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center.
Attractions and characteristics
Venues, such as the Ritz Theatre, showcased black entertainers and catered to black audiences. The theatre still host shows and also offers visitors a look at black history.
The Jacksonville branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta is located on Water Street at the southern bounds of LaVilla.
The southern part of the neighborhood was once a major railroad hub, with several rail lines meeting at Union Station (now the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center), and probably not coincidentally, was also for a period Jacksonville's primary red light district.
LaVilla School of the Arts is a popular magnet middle school in Duval County that follows in the performance and art traditions of the Ritz/LaVilla area. Ritz Voices is a 100 member youth choir in the area.
- LaVilla neighborhood in Jacksonville, Florida (FL), 32202 subdivision profile - real estate, apartments, condos, homes, community, population, jobs, income, ...
- Yahoo Travel Guide
- downtownjacksonville.org - Location Detail: Ritz Theatre & LaVilla Museum
- Frommers Destinations
- Jax Daily Record: 03/10/2006 - Mullaney: decade of growth
- "Downtown Jacksonville: Skyway" (website). Retrieved 2012-09-16.
- "JTA Downtown Map". Retrieved 2012-09-16.
- "Ashley Street: The Harlem of the South" Metro Jacksonville, History