Sunday, October 12, 2014

Suburban Neighborhoods

Did you ever notice that many housing developers give their subdivisions names that have nothing to do with describing them? Names like “Alta Vista” in a flatland, or “Coldstream” where there is no stream and it is certainly not ever cold! I grew up in such a neighborhood. It was called “Lake Shore” but despite roaming the entire neighborhood, I never once found a lake, not even a small one.

It is true that there was a two square block of undeveloped wetlands that we called “The Swamp”, there was a stream flowing through that parcel complete with tadpoles that fascinated us as we watched them develop legs and wander ashore to become frogs that would beget the next generation of tadpoles. But there was no lake on this property. The city decided that it would build a fire station next to the artesian well station near the swamp, but in the end, the swamp won and the fire station abandoned as unsustainable.

Lake Shore: Image Courtesy of Google Maps. What “Lake Shore” did have was a pair of great rivers, Cedar River and Ortega River that surrounded the area on the western southern and eastern edges. Lake Shore was on the eastern edge of the peninsula bounded by Blanding Boulevard on the west, San Juan Avenue on the north (some say it was Park Street), Roosevelt Boulevard on the east and the rivers on the south. It was a nice middle class neighborhood built in the early 1940s. The main drag was called “Bayview Road” and was lined with the earliest houses in the area. Some of these homes, including my grandparents were larger than the bungalows that we and the rest of our neighbors lived in. These homes were a mixture of the classic bungalow complete with a crawl space that were built earlier in the development and the typical Florida slab houses that came along during the 50s. The families in the neighborhood ranged from office workers downtown to military families stationed at nearby Jacksonville Naval Air Station and Cecil Field. It was a great place to grow up.

Growing up, I noticed some amusing thing about the street names in the neighborhood. Bayview Road did not have a view of a bay or any body of water at all. Lake Shore Boulevard ran around the entire peninsula along the edge of the two rivers; again no lake in site. Lake Shore Middle School (we called it a Junior High back then) was on Bayview Road and Bayview Elementary school was on adjacent property on Lake Shore Boulevard. Most of the other streets in the neighborhood were named after cities and towns in England who for the most part were named after British Admirals; Birkenhead (my street), Sunderland, Freemont, Blackburn are all good examples. Bayview, said to be named after a bar in Kent, England, Jersey and Hamilton were the north-south running streets in the neighborhood that we travelled frequently on the way to school.

Image courtesy Google Maps. So, with all the anglophile orientation in the area, how come there was a Spanish style entrance at the northern end of Bayview? Also why did the bigger homes on Bayview have a Spanish or Mediterranean architecture; terra cotta roofs and arches in the hallways? I used to climb over the two story entrance structure that still stands today but the only hint as to why they were built was to highlight the Spanish style homes that were the first built into the neighborhood. Those structures still stand today, looking as if they were built yesterday instead of the 1930s. Someone put some money and effort to make them last.

The neighborhood I grew up in may be a little schizophrenic in style, but it is full of happy childhood memories; riding my bike on the way to a pickup baseball or football game, or to and from school. But mostly I see the faces of the kids I grew up with. Some I am in touch with today, while others have been lost to the mists of time. But they are still here, in the hallways of my memories. Oh MY!

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