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  • Writer's pictureFlorida Trust

August Feature: LaVilla Neighborhood - 2022 11 to Save

LaVilla is one of Jacksonville's oldest Gullah Geechee communities and one of 2022 Florida's 11 to Save.

Named after the LaVilla Plantation, LaVilla was established as a town of its own in 1866 by Francis F. L’Engle and settled by USCT veterans, freedmen and freedwomen. L’Engle served as LaVilla’s first mayor and by the time the community was annexed into Jacksonville in 1887, its population had increased to 3,000.

Anchored by Henry Flagler’s Jacksonville Terminal railroad station, LaVilla became a cultural exchange partner with New Orleans and emerged as a major epicenter for ragtime, jazz and blues during the early 20th century. According to the Indianapolis Freeman, the first published account of blues singing on a public stage occurred at LaVilla’s Colored Airdome on April 16, 1910. Following the 1920s Harlem Renaissance, LaVilla became known by some as the Harlem of the South. Negatively impacted by the construction of Interstate 95 and urban renewal, LaVilla is now challenged with the threat of gentrification.

The gallery below portrays a few sights and scenes of this endangered neighborhood.

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