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Historic homes in Jacksonville in fight with bulldozers

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Updated: 5/22/2013 6:43 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville history is being bulldozed -- that's the fear for a handful of old homes, some with ties to important African-American figures.

Now some local historians are pushing to save them.

A family of cats are now the keepers of the old home at 1481 West Sixth Street.  The windows are boarded up and it is tagged with condemned signs. It doesn't look like much, but I've learned it has a rich history.

"Oh, that's the Myers home," said neighbor Mary Ravnell.  "It was a place of gathering."

Historians say Thomas Myers built it for his wife with his own hands. Joel McEnchin said it has storied significance for its community.

"Durkeeville is a very important historic African-American neighborhood and so it really contributes to the life of the historic period," he told Action News.

He's working to have it designated landmark status to save it from demolition.

The same is said for the home at 1473 Evergreen Ave. on the Eastside.  It was once owned by family of famed author Zora Neale Hurston.  She was an author and noted figure of the Harlem Renaissance.

McEnchin said not long ago the flower shop next door owned by Hurston's mother was torn down, and there was fear her home would be next.

"It relates to a very important person to Florida and national history so we think it is definitely worth preserving," McEnchin said.

Then there's the Halle Cohen home. Cohen's dad founded what became the Cohen Brothers Department Store. It stood where City Hall is today. McEnchin said the house's current owners want to bulldoze it.

"For the purposes of selling it I think there's a buyer I believe that's interested in buying the property and to do that they have to have this house demolished," he said.

It will ultimately be up to city's Historic Preservation Commission to decide these homes' fate. Ravnell thinks this one should come down. She said it isn't the structure that is the keeper of history -- but the memory.

"You will pass by and say, 'That's where the Myers lived' because that's how important they were to the neighborhood," she said.  "You don't need a house to tell you that."

The Historic Preservation Commission denied the request to demolish the Cohen residence Wednesday afternoon. Chairman Richard Moore told Action News the owners now have 14 days to appeal directly to City Council.

As for the other two, the city told Action News landmark designation was initiated for the Hurston home but not yet finalized.

And family of the Myers are working to get their home designated as a landmark as well so they can mothball it.  At this point, that has not been granted.

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1country - 5/23/2013 7:39 AM
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It did not stand where city hall is today.The cohen building is still there,city hall is in the old cohens building!
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