30 LEGENDS of Northeast Florida

Well, it’s official. Folio Weekly is certifiably middle-aged. Yep, we’re 30! And not the 30, flirty and fabulous kind, either. (OK, maybe a skosh.) Now that we’re qualified for true adulting, guess we’ll have to finally Let Go of all those hypercolor shirts and that white leather fringe jacket we’ve been waiting to be back in style, and get ourselves some pleated khakis and orthopedic shoes. Hey, maybe those would make us ironically cool …

One good thing about getting older is that you are officially legit—no one sends FW out for coffee; these days, they bring the coffee to us.

As we’re now old enough to be taken seriously-ish, in honor of our 30th anniversary, we’ve highlighted some of the most unforgettable local legends of Northeast Florida, the very best bands, artists, pornographers, civil rights icons, myths, haunts, historical figures and beloved locals from our most favoritest place in all the world.

Here’s to 30 more years, y’all!
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Felix Jones
If you find yourself on Centre Street in Fernandina Beach you will usually hear the sounds of a harmonica and a high-pitched WHEWWWWW. These will be coming from everyone’s favorite local, Felix Jones. For the last 25-plus years, Jones has spent almost every day cruising Centre Street on his bike, selling a variety of items like newspapers, pineapple, mangos, boiled peanuts, etc. Born with cerebral palsy, Jones, now in his mid-50s, was not expected to live very long. He didn’t talk or walk until he was nine years old. That alone makes Felix Jones a special person, but what really makes this man a legend is how much love and support the city of Fernandina has for him. In 2009, a lost soul on the small island tried to stop Jones from selling his items, pointing out that there was no peddling law to allow it. When the Fernandina Beach City Commission met to discuss the issue, the room was filled to capacity with locals supporting Felix, many wearing shirts that said “Keep Rolling, Felix.” The commission found in Jones’ favor; eight years later, he’s still rolling the streets with a smile, some sundries, and a harmonica. Felix Jones is now and always will be one of the biggest “celebrities” to hail from Fernandina. –CK

Watch a video of Felix at youtube.com/watch?v=iqXbiG8QowU

Ottis Toole
One of Jacksonville’s most notorious native sons was born on March 5, 1947. Less legend than nightmare, confessed serial killer and cannibal Ottis Toole claimed to have committed his first murder at just 14. After a traveling salesman sexually assaulted him, Toole said he ran the man over with his own car. Thus began his life of violence. After his 1983 arrest, Toole gave details about a murder spree in the ’70s, during which time he formed a close partnership and sexual relationship with confessed serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. It’s unknown just how many people he killed—some doubt he was a serial killer at all—but Toole admitted to accompanying Lucas in 108 killings. (Both Toole and Lucas later recanted confessions.) Toole’s crime spree came to an end when he was arrested here for arson in ’83. The most notable murder Toole claimed was that of 6-year-old Adam Walsh, son of John Walsh, later the host of America’s Most Wanted. The investigation of the child’s 1981 murder lasted nearly two decades and was closed only when Toole’s niece told John Walsh that Toole confessed to the killing on his deathbed. In April 1984, Toole was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Toole later received a second death sentence for the strangulation of 19-year-old Ada Johnson. Both sentences were later commuted to life in prison.

Toole died of liver failure in September 1996, still in jail. –CB

The Fountain of Youth
Waaay back in the way back, on April 2, 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León anchored off the coast of modern-day St. Augustine. Though folklore has it that León was searching for the Fountain of Youth, this is a fiction. In spite of there being no real evidence that the explorer sought magical waters that could restore youth, soon after his death, historians and rivals began claiming that he had sought the Fountain of Youth on his many voyages. It wasn’t until the Spanish ceded the area to the Americans that the legend took hold stateside; by the early 20th century, a savvy local entrepreneur had established the Fountain of Youth, attracting visitors looking for a quick shot of youth. See, it’s not just the Ponte Vedra Ladies Who Lunch trying to look young foreva eva. –CG

The Kingsley Plantation
Located on the banks of Fort George River, Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island comprises about 1,000 acres. First used as an indigo plantation by Richard Hazard from 1765-’71, it has had many owners through the years; today the Kingsley Plantation is considered the oldest surviving plantation in Florida. In 1814, Zephaniah Kingsley took ownership of the plantation, on which his family grew sugarcane, corn, Sea Island cotton and citrus. A planter, slave trader and merchant, Kingsley was also a polygamist, marrying four slave women with whom he fathered nine children. His first wife, Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley, was 13 years old when he bought her in Havana, eventually taking her as his common-law wife. Though he defended the system of slavery, Kingsley was something of a contradiction, supporting the rights of freed slaves and free persons of color and giving his own slaves the opportunity to earn their freedom. The Kingsleys also owned several other plantations throughout modern-day Jacksonville, including Laurel Grove Plantation in present-day Orange Park; Mandarin Plantation, which was in Anna’s name; Ashley and San Jose Plantations on the city’s Southside; and White Oak Plantation on the St. Marys River. Overall, the Kingsleys owned more than 200 slaves and more than 32,000 acres. After Florida came under the United States’ control, Kingsley tried to convince the government to recognize the rights of the free black and mixed-race populations. Ultimately unsuccessful, he and his family relocated to Haiti in the late 1830s.

The Kingsley Plantation still stands today, a historic site managed by the National Park Service. –CB

The Kingsley Plantation is within Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, 11676 Palmetto Ave., Northside. 

Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is celebrated far and wide. A prominent figure of the Civil Rights movement, his “I Have a Dream” speech is one of the most famous orations of all time. Today, some locals still fondly recall how King’s dream brought him all the way to Northeast Florida. In the early 1960s, local Civil Rights activists asked King and members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to come to St. Augustine. At the time, many were worried the Civil Rights Bill wouldn’t pass; they wanted to take a stand for the bill and for racial injustice in their community. During several trips to St. Augustine in ’64, King taught his method of nonviolent protest, gathering supporters and speaking at churches in the area. He was also arrested and spent some time in the old jail, which is now the St. Johns County Detention Center Annex building. Sheriff David Shoar told the St. Augustine Record in 2011 that the cell that housed King had since been converted to an office. On June 11, 1964, King was one of the activists arrested on trespassing charges when they attempted to eat in one of St. Augustine’s fancier eateries, the now-closed Monson Motor Lodge restaurant. King was later transported to Jacksonville as a safety precaution. Later that year, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Bill, integrating all public places and facilities. Also later that year, at age 35, King became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize, a record now held by Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, who was just 17 when she won. –CB

Learn more at Lincolnville Museum & Cultural Center, 102 Martin Luther King Ave., St. Augustine.

The Beach Lady
Inducted into the Gullah/Geechee Hall of Fame, Marvyne “MaVynee” Elisabeth Betsch, better known as The Beach Lady, was an environmentalist and activist who spent the better part of her life educating the public on black history and the ecology of American Beach, on Amelia Island. Abraham Lincoln Lewis, Betsch’s great-grandfather, founded American Beach in 1935, as the only beach of that time to welcome black Americans. Born into one of the the South’s foremost African-American families, Betsch inherited her great-grandfather’s fortune. Betsch eventually donated her entire inheritance to environmental causes. After earning her bachelor’s degree in 1955 at Oberlin College’s Conservatory of Music, Betsch moved to Europe, where she was an opera singer. Upon her return to the States, she dedicated herself to preserving and protecting American Beach. Cancer brought about Betsch’s demise on Sept. 5, 2005. After her death, the Dalai Lama honored her as an Unsung Hero of Compassion. Today, The Beach Lady’s legacy lives on in her beloved American Beach and the American Beach Museum she campaigned tirelessly to have built. –LE

American Beach Museum is at 1600 Julia St., Fernandina Beach.

Henry Flagler
Gilded Age industrialist, railroad pioneer and entrepreneur Henry Flagler left a lasting legacy that helped shape modern-day Florida. Recognizing the state’s potential to attract visitors and St. Augustine’s charm as well as its inadequate travel and transportation facilities, Flagler’s first local project, Hotel Ponce de León, opened on Jan. 10, 1888. The Edison Electric Company powered the building with steam heat and 4,000 electric lights, making the Ponce one of the nation’s first electrified buildings. This was just the first in a series of luxury resorts Flagler built or acquired along Florida’s East Coast. To open the southern half of the state to tourism and other expansion, Flagler built the first railroad bridge across the St. Johns River in 1890 and rapidly expanded his railroad, renamed the Florida East Coast Railway in 1895, running southward all the way to Biscayne Bay by 1896. Flagler’s first local project still stands—and today, it houses students instead of tourists. Founded in 1968, Flagler College encompasses the building and grounds of the old hotel and still bears the stained glass and mosaics created by Louis Comfort Tiffany and completed by George Willoughby Maynard and Virgilio Tojetti. The college has sworn to preserve this facility and other historic and architecturally unique campus structures. Flagler died in 1913, and was buried in St. Augustine, alongside his daughters and first wife. –LE

Lynyrd Skynyrd
It is seemingly impossible to create anything as patriotic as the national anthem, but a band from Jacksonville came very close. Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote and recorded iconic songs “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama” that, decades later, continue to be played at football games, on radio stations and in honky tonks across America. Some of the original members of Lynyrd Skynyrd were first in the band My Backyard, as teenagers in 1964. They experimented with other band names, including The Noble Five, until 1969 when they alit on the name, a disparaging reference to a gym teacher at Robert E. Lee High School, that would take them all the way to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Lynyrd Skynyrd was at the pinnacle of success when tragedy struck the kings of Southern rock. Their plane crashed in a heavily wooded area in Mississippi during a failed emergency-landing attempt, killing Ronnie Van Zant, and Steve and Cassie Gaines; 20 others survived. A decade later, surviving members and crash survivors Gary Rossington, Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson and Artimus Pyle, along with guitarist Ed King, who’d left the band two years before the crash, reunited with Van Zant’s younger brother Johnny as lead vocalist and songwriter. The band continues touring to this day. In honor of Lynyrd Skynyrd and its fallen members, Judy Van Zant-Jenness (Ronnie’s widow) and Melody Van Zant (their daughter) opened Freebird Live in 1999 as a restaurant and museum, though it soon became primarily a live music venue. The spot was a Jax Beach institution until it closed on Jan. 21, 2016. Freebird may be gone, but we still remember them. –LE

Terrell Ray “Big Ray” Mullis
A true Fernandina Beach icon, in life Terrell Ray “Big Ray” Mullis had a personality bigger than his island home. The Standard Oil full-service filling station that Big Ray founded on the corner of Beech and Eighth Streets in 1972 gave everyone an opportunity to get to know the man who was long referred to as the “unofficial mayor of Fernandina Beach.” At the behest of his son Terrell Ray “T-Ray” Mullis, the station started serving sandwiches in 1988 and thus began its slow transformation into the beloved local eatery, T-Ray’s Burger Station. The cozy eatery has been written up by national publications and even named one of the 50 Best Burger Joints in America by USA Today. The station eventually quit selling gas in 2010; the pumps still stand outside, a reminder of its roots. Friendly and welcoming, Big Ray had a way of quickly establishing a heartfelt bond with all who met him. His 2014 death, at the age of 75, was mourned far and wide. –CG

Misappropriations of the Public Purse
We might be living on the edge of the grand ol’ South, but Jacksonville has a long history of financial tomfoolery that would make a NYC real estate mogul swell up with pride. It seems that every time the city gets a bright idea to build something grand, something big, really, really big; in the end, it budgets for about half what the durn thing would’ve cost us or just totally screws the pooch and spends a ton of money on an ego palace that starts falling apart seconds after they cut the ceremonial ribbon. See the Main Library, the Courthouse, the Riverwalk; hell, we can’t even build a freaking landfill without some tomfoolery. Whether it’s city officials giving a contract to their very good friend’s company who just so happened to have the lowest bid by far, then signing off on amendment after amendment until it costs more than the highest bidder, or just completely mismanaging the whole damned thing, the city’s long, wearisome history of financially mismanaging large public projects is a thing of ugly. –CG

The Palace Saloon
The Palace Saloon, on the corner of Centre and Second Street in Downtown Fernandina, is positively the oldest running bar in the state of Florida. It’s stood through the days of horse-drawn carriages, Prohibition and the Great Depression. The saloon keepers have served everyone from dandies in top hats to ’80s big-hair babes. Built in 1878 as a haberdashery, the structure became the famously known Palace Saloon in 1903. It was a favorite haunt of the Carnegies, Rockefellers and other wealthy socialites boating in from Cumberland. According to local legend, the saloon was the last bar to close on the eve of Prohibition, selling alcohol until midnight—and grossing about $60,000 in that one day. During Prohibition, the saloon was able to stay in business by selling gasoline, ice cream and low-percentage alcohol, the dreaded “Near Beer.” Rumor is, the owner made a bootleg Cumberland Whiskey for anyone brave enough to try it. In 1999, a fire almost demolished the building the night before Faith Hill was supposed to shoot a music video there. The owners didn’t let a pesky fire burn them out of business, though, and soon the Palace was restored to all its charming glory. The 40-foot bar, the building itself and its long history are legendary, as is its specialty drink, Pirates Punch. Even if you’re not impressed by the saloon’s century-plus history, the shenanigans that come out of a night of drinking that punch will be your own legendary stories. –CK

Find The Palace Saloon at 117 Centre St., Fernandina Beach.

Jacksonville Beach Lifeguard Station
Lifeguards are essential to every beach town. We get so used to seeing them patrol the beach and keep watch from their chairs, we don’t think much about it. Well, there’s a lot more to Jacksonville Beach lifeguards than just sunscreen, bods and buoys. The Jax Beach Lifeguard Station is enormously rich in history, some of which may come as a surprise to locals. In 1912, Mary Proctor, a popular Jacksonville nurse, died after being caught in a runout. Her death was the impetus for Clarence McDonald and Lyman Haskell (both prominent local figures) to create the first volunteer lifeguard station in the United States. At first, station volunteers patrolled the beaches on Saturdays, Sundays and major holidays. They also assisted the Coast Guard with shipwrecks off the coast. In 1914, the station was chartered by the American Red Cross and became the American Red Cross Volunteer Lifesaving Corps. Thirty-three years later, the larger station was built—it still houses the Corps. Another interesting first from JB lifeguard house? The 1919 invention of the metal water buoy, by surfman Henry Walters; today it’s known as the Walters Torpedo Buoy (“One Hundred Years of Gratitude,” Folio Weekly, 2012). In the last 103 years, the station has changed tremendously, but the JB Lifeguards’ core values and traditions remain the same. –CK

Green Cove Springs
Before you get all “but Folio Weekly, how can a town be a legend?” pull up a chair, wee one. Green Cove Springs is also the site of one of our state’s 600 natural springs that bubble up from the Floridan Aquifer, hence the “springs” in its name. GCS was first inhabited by aboriginals 5,000 years ago, and the town’s website notes that the mineral spring, also known as “The Boil,” was prized as a medicine and source of sustenance. Late in the 19th century, Green Cove became a popular winter destination for some of the earliest species of snowbirds that have since colonized the entire state. A beloved winter playground for the rich and idle, it was a place to see and be seen by the nation’s elite. Today, the spring runs through the city’s swimming pool before emptying out into the St. Johns River. So if you’re allergic or just averse to pool chemicals, dive on in! Bonus: If the ancient aboriginals and 19th-century nouveau riche were right, when you come up for air, you might also be cured of what ails ya. –CG

Visit The Boil at Spring Park, 106 Walnut St., GCS.

Pete’s Bar
What can be added to the legend of Pete’s Bar? We all know the basics of the Neptune Beach institution: Grocer and bootlegger Pete Jensen sold illegal hooch during Prohibition; the law was repealed in 1933 and he snatched Duval County’s first liquor license to sell. Now his granddaughter Nancy Jensen and her two sons, Tom and John Whittingslow, run the joint. Pete’s has three rooms–the “Old Side,” the pool room and The Hut. In the ’70s, the pool room was the Rite Spot restaurant, serving hearty breakfasts to hungover revelers and homestyle dinners to area families. Junior and Gerry Beasely moved The Spot out in ’77. There was a hallway joining the two Pete’s running behind The Spot; many a night you’d see folks staggering through it on their way to the bathrooms. In the ladies’ room there were no doors on the two stalls, so all who stopped in were instantly sistas to one another, sharing makeup and dating tips. The barkeep in The Hut was Marty, who would play his trumpet at closing time, a hint to stragglers to pick a partner and get the hell out. Ah, Pierre’s by the Sea … thank God it hasn’t changed much: same décor, probably the same dust on the shelves of fancy liquor bottles, same goofy signs. There will never be another one, so let’s all hope this one goes on forever. –MD

Bo’s Coral Reef
Unlike our South Florida neighbors, Northeast Florida isn’t exactly known as a bastion of acceptance of LGBT people. So it may come as a surprise to learn that right under our noses, there’s a haven that’s welcomed people of all kinds since 1964: Bo’s Coral Reef. The much-beloved, longest-running gay bar in the region moved around a bit before settling into its current location in Jacksonville Beach in 1980. Under the ownership of Roberta “Bo” Boen, a feisty, loving woman who was an almost continuous presence at the club until just before her 2010 death at the age of 86, Bo’s has opened its doors and arms to people of all types—gay, straight, trans, queer, questioning, whatever—since long before people in this town knew that there was a difference between ‘transvestite’ and ‘transgender’ (we’re still waiting for some of our friends in the media to get clued into that). In 2012, Bo’s was renovated and updated (now called Bo’s Club), but you’ll still find a friendly gay “Cheers” kinda vibe, as well as those fabulous female impersonation shows and welcoming atmosphere, keep a fond place in all our hearts for Bo’s.                                                –CG

Bo’s Coral Reef, 201 Fifth Ave. N., Jax Beach

David Nolan
Noted local historian and author David Nolan has been educating us about St. Augustine’s history—not necessarily the old Spanish occupation, or British takeover waaaay back in the day, but the real estate boom, when Henry Flagler redesigned the downtown area, when Dr. M.L. King walked the streets and sat in the jail, when the historic architecture was threatened and, in some cases, destroyed. Nolan writes about and speaks out on the subjects of preservation, segregation and emancipation. He’s been president of the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Society, a trustee of the Historical Society of first free black settlement, Fort Mose, and a founder of the Anniversary to Commemorate the Civil Rights Demonstrations group. During the recent 450th anniversary or the founding of St. Augustine, Nolan pointed out that “the temptation is to gussy it up, stretch the truth, to fake the buildings, all in the interest of squeezing an extra dollar out of the tourists” (“The Fake History of St. Augustine,” FW, March 12, 2014). In these times of fake news, it’s not surprising to hear the Oldest City may have a façade in front of its ancient story. David Nolan strives to peel away the faux and reveal the real. –MD

The Clay Theatre
Northeast Floridians are well aware of all the beloved historic theaters in the area—such as Sun-Ray Cinema, The Florida Theatre and San Marco Theatre—but few realize that the Clay Theatre had been up and running for years when the others were just projections. Now closed, the theater on Walnut Street in Green Cove Springs opened as the Palace Opera House in 1919; it was converted to allow films to be screened in 1936. For decades, the busy single-screen theater was a hub of activity, drawing in families, sailors stationed at Lee Field Naval Air Station, couples, singles, truants, and Don Draper-types playing hooky from work. Certainly more than a few locals can remember sitting in the theater as their future spouse’s sweaty palm crept into theirs for the first time or the time they shared a sweetly nervous high-school kiss across an armrest as the credits rolled. After initially closing in 2008, the theater reopened in 2012, a run that lasted a mere 18 months until closing again in May 2014, with a final showing befitting a legend, The Monuments Men. Today, the two-story structure is a monument to a bygone era, its street-facing clock permanently frozen in time. –CG

The Allman Brothers Band
Jacksonville can be a funny place. Funny in the sense that its priorities of historical reverence have highlighted the Confederacy for decades while, for nearly a half-century, it’s continued to ignore the fact that it was the birthplace of one of the greatest bands of the 20th Century. On March 26, 1969, The Allman Brothers Band had its first bona fide jam session at a house in Riverside. When they weren’t rocking the band room, the brothers Gregg and Duane, along with Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Jaime Johnson and Butch Trucks, routinely turned on, tuned up and threw down at free concerts in parks in the same neighborhood. The band members were among the first to surrender to serious improvisation and, along with Love, the Mothers of Invention and Santana, were one of the earliest rock groups to be integrated. Archival photos of their Jacksonville days feature the ABB in full astral flight, unleashing their original sound of Sonny Boy Williamson meeting John Coltrane head on, as local longhairs and flower children dance, smile and gape in awe. While the band eventually relocated to Macon, Georgia, it’s Jacksonville where the stars first aligned. Regardless of where they hung their hats, The Allmans were a truly innovative group that continues to influence countless rock, jazz and country musicians. As the city continually attempts to redefine itself, while trumpeting our sometimes-sketchy history, the fact that there isn’t a bronze statue of Duane Allman standing smack dab in the middle of Five Points says as much about our misguided monuments as it does our cultural and artistic amnesia. –DB

LaVilla
It’s hard to tell now, but decades ago, the LaVilla neighborhood in Downtown Jax was the cultural epicenter of African-American culture and heritage in Florida. Originally a Jacksonville suburb founded in the Civil War era, when escaped and freed slaves sought refuge within a Union garrison stationed there, after the war, LaVilla became an oasis for African-Americans. With a population that was, and is today, mostly black; black people were prominent in LaVilla leadership, particularly until it was annexed by the city in 1887. Afterward, the vibrant neighborhood continued to flourish, becoming a hot spot for jazz and other artistry. From the Roaring Twenties to the Swinging Seventies, the area was known as the “Harlem of the South,” attracting and nurturing famed performers, writers and artists such as Stephen Crane, James Weldon Johnson, Ray Charles, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong. In its heyday, venues such as Genovar’s Hall, the Strand Theater and the Ritz Theatre & Museum were packed on the regular, with song, sound and creativity bursting out into the streets. After desegregation and Jacksonville’s consolidation, the neighborhood began a slow economic decline that continues today. Yet the powerful and proud cultural legacy remains. In recent years, some effort has been made to resurrect LaVilla to its former glory. –CG

Learn more about LaVilla at the Ritz Theatre & Museum, 829 N. Davis St.

Milk Bar
Make no mistake—it was a cavern. Granted, it was a giant, dimly-lit, high-ceilinged, loud and beer-soaked cavern; but a weird, steamy grotto nonetheless. Ostensibly named for the Droogs’ favorite hangout in the groundbreaking 1971 sci-fi film, A Clockwork Orange, in 1991 the Milk Bar opened at 128 W. Adams St. in downtown Jacksonville, a time when the nightlife of the urban core was pretty much the center of nothingness. Parking was easy for club patrons, since there was little competition on the city’s Omega Man-style barren streets. A few years earlier, Ed Wilson owned the Metropolis on Adams Street, a similar, albeit much smaller, club. After joining forces with Larry Vosmik, and encouraged by that club’s success, the pair double-downed on a larger music venue venture. The bet paid off. Opened right as the ’90s alt-rock boom exploded, the men booked some serious heavyweight acts, including The Cramps, Gwar, the Flaming Lips, a now-notorious show from the Pixies, Soundgarden, Fishbone, Sublime, White Zombie, Ween, L7, Pavement, Royal Trux (ahem), Cows, Redd Kross, Fugazi … you name a band from that era and if they hit the South, they probably played the Milk Bar. De La Soul even immortalized the club in their song, “I Am I Be.” Local bands got their time onstage as well: Rein Sanction and Crowsdell were regulars and (for better or worse) the club featured some of the earliest Limp Bizkit gigs/IQ conferences. Like its older sister Einstein A Go-Go, the Milk Bar was an outpost for locals looking for music off the radar. Walking down the stairs that led into the total homegrown enterprise, as DJ Robert Goodman’s set rocked the room, one was met with a familiar setting ideal for introducing all to some new, cutting-edge music. –DB

Ronnie Land
The artwork of Ronnie Land (aka R. Land) popped up in the ’80s in Jacksonville and created a kind of ubiquitous, freaky verbal narrative told throughout the walls of funky businesses, venues and homes throughout the area. A kind of chimerical bastard offspring of Dr. Seuss, S. Clay Wilson, Maurice Sendak and an acid-damaged punker, Land’s menacing little creatures became easily recognizable signifiers for locals, as if to say, “Yes, my friend, I am your fellow Duval freak.” Back when “branding” and “trending” were insults, Land was groundbreaking in ignoring punk/new wave art fads and creating a weird myth that popped up on local band fliers and T-shirts (Beggar Weeds were ardent “Land”-heads), his Marineland tribute bumper sticker “Ronnieland” and a highly deranged line of Little Bunny Foo Foo merchandise. Land motored up to Atlanta years ago; he found even greater infamy there, creating his iconoclastic LOSS CAT flier art project, a prank that traveled the globe and raised the bar for post-Situationist, public-art-hoax action. We salute you, Ronnie Land! –DB

Fort Clinch
Sitting pretty on the north side of Fernandina Beach, facing Cumberland Island, Fort Clinch was built in 1847 by the United States military after the second Seminole War, as part of a third system of coastal defenses. Though the fort wasn’t involved in any battles, it was utilized significantly during the Civil War. Confederate forces seized the fort early on and used it as a safe haven for blockade-runners. It was eventually taken over by the Union, which maintained control of the fort until the end of the war. In 1935, Florida bought the fort and surrounding land and turned the area into a state park. The only time since then the fort was closed was during World War II, when it was a communications and security post. It reopened to the public after the war ended. Now, people enjoy time spent in the park’s 1,400 acres, much of it wilderness, and reenactments of what life was like during the Civil War. Visitors can camp, soak up sun and salt on the beach, hike and bike in the trails. Largely based on its use as a base of Union operations during the Civil War, Fort Clinch was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. –CK

Fort Clinch, 2601 Atlantic Ave., Fernandina Beach.

The Timucua Indians
French explorers, among the earliest European visitors to Northeast Florida, encountered the Timucua Indians at what they called the River of May. Though the exact location of the river and Fort Caroline are the subjects of modern-day academic debate, with some saying Southeast Georgia and others saying Northeast Florida, it is uncontroverted that the Timucua, led by Chief Saturiwa, met with French Huguenots, the first Europeans to settle the region in 1562. The Timucua peoples, also known as the Timucuans, helped the French build a settlement, providing them with knowledge of local flora and fauna, as well as food. Unlike nomadic Native Americans, the Timucua lived in permanent villages throughout north and central Florida. Awesome facts: Timucua allowed, even embraced, gender choice and it was common for women to hold leadership roles. (And 21st-century Americans feel so modern.) Sadly, the relatively brief period of peaceful coexistence between Timucuans and Europeans rapidly unraveled; after the Spanish destroyed Fort Caroline in 1565, the tribe was decimated by both disease and bloodshed, both at the hands of Europeans and other native tribes. A little more than a century on, the ancient Timucuans’ numbers had dwindled from the tens of thousands to approximately 550 in 1698. When the Spanish conceded their North American colony to the British in 1763, they took the last remaining Timucuan with them. The last known full-blooded Timucua, Juan Alonso Cavale, died in 1767. –CG

Cowford and (Andrew Jackson)ville
The early centuries of European settlement in Florida were characterized by a change of hands not unlike a colonial game of musical chairs. Control of the area switched from the French to the Spanish to the British to the Spanish again then, finally, to the United States in 1821, when the state officially became a U.S. territory. During the brief period it was under British control in the late 1700s, those enterprising and oh-so-imaginative imperialists renamed the area “Cowford,” after a section of St. Johns River shallow enough for cows to ford the river. After Cowford was ceded to the (new) Yanks, as part of an initiative to establish a true town in the area, it was renamed Jacksonville, honoring the territory’s first provincial governor, Andrew Jackson, who became the seventh U.S. president and *gasp* founded the Democratic Party. (Of course, Dems are about as thrilled tracing their history to a racist perpetuator of genocide as Republicans are with the current president’s odd affection for the man whose economic policies helped spark the Panic of 1837 that led to a five-year-long depression.) Though the name Cowford wasn’t officially associated for long with the town, its legacy has lingered here. Today, it’s being used by the likes of the Cowford Ale Sharing Klub (C.A.S.K.) and Cowford Chophouse, opening soon in Downtown Jax. –CG

Blind Blake
The stories surrounding the lives of actual musicians who created pre-WWII blues can be as arcane and fable-like as the eternal music they created. The lore of the life of Arthur “Blind” Blake is no exception. Blake was born in 1896; this much we know. Historians argue whether or not Blake was born here in Jacksonville or Newport News, Virginia. That geographical murkiness grows only dimmer, as Blake had family in Southeast Georgia, and had possible connections to the Gullah culture of Sea Island, which would boost the claim of Jacksonville roots. What’s undeniable and agreed upon is that from 1926-’32, Blake recorded 80 tracks for Paramount Records, featuring a fingerpicking style that evoked country and ragtime music. Following his prolific recording career, Blake fell into obscurity, dying in Milwaukee at the age of 38 on Dec. 1, 1934. Blake’s music influenced musicians like Reverend Gary Davis, John Fahey, Hot Tuna, Ry Cooder and Bob Dylan; Bobby D covered Blake’s song “You Gonna Quit Me Blues” for his 1992 album, Good As I Been to You–DB

The Florida Theatre
Right this very minute, the Downtown entertainment venue is celebrating its 90th anniversary of bringing quality musicians, comedians, performers and all manner of notable cultural types to our culturally hungry city. Elvis, banned from rotating his pelvis, wiggled his little finger there—under the watchful eye of Judge Marion Gooding—in 1956. It’s said to be haunted; you can understand that after sitting in the balcony for just a few minutes. The décor is lovely—seraphim and cherubim beckon from the walls in Spanish Eclectic Style. Kinda makes it a sacred site to experience the raunch rock of George Thorogood & the Destroyers (May 21) and Ted Nugent (July 13). Florida Theatre has always been mindful about being in the community, maintaining its standards to keep the public entertained as well as informed. As part of the celebration, there’s a free screening of Buster Keaton’s 1928 black-and-white silent film, Steamboat Bill Jr., at 7 p.m. April 8. For more events and performances, go to floridatheatre.com. –MD

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