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LaVilla Shotgun Houses | Photo © 2019 Bullet

LaVilla Shotgun Houses

City/Town:
Location Class:
Built: ~1903 and 1912 | Abandoned: 1993
Status: Abandoned
Photojournalist: David Bulit

Decades ago, Jacksonville was filled with many of these types of homes which many know as “shotgun houses.” There is a bit of a debate on how these homes got their name. The most well-known theory is that if all the doors are open, you can fire a shotgun cleanly from the back of the house through the front doorway. These homes are also sometimes referred to as “rail houses” not only due to their resemblance to a rail car but also because they were usually located near railroads.

These homes were popular in the South throughout the late-1800s up until the 1920s. They were built in such a way as to allow excellent airflow as well as allowing an increased number of lots on a single street. They were most popular before widespread ownership of automobiles so many of these houses were located within walking distance from railroad hubs and factories.

According to old maps, these specific homes were constructed sometime around 1903 and 1912 and were located at 612, 614, and 616 Lee Street before being moved to their present location. Because the city of Jacksonville’s directories ignored occupants in predominantly black neighborhoods, the earliest listing for these homes was in 1919. At the time, 612 Lee Street was occupied by Columbia H. Boger, a widow; 614 Lee Street was occupied by Daniel Redmon, a porter, and 616 Lee Street was occupied by Thomas Taylor, a driver.

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The shotgun houses when they were located on Lee Street.

The crack cocaine epidemic of the 80s hit Jacksonville hard, especially those living in LaVilla, resulting in an increase in crime and furthering the decline. According to Mayor Ed Austin, the neighborhood was “nothing but crackhouses, prostitution, and crime.” In an extremely controversial move, the city of Jacksonville moved forward with the mayor’s plan to “revitalize” the neighborhood. The result was the demolition of most of the neighborhood with the exception of just a few structures that were deemed historically significant.

When the plan was implemented in 1993, residents were kicked out of their homes throughout the neighborhood. The city acquired these specific homes, saving them from utter destruction, and relocated them to their current location on Jefferson Street in 1999. The idea was that these structures along with Genovar’s Hall would anchor a block that would serve as a museum to recreate what life was like in LaVilla before modern development. Since then, they have sat on a city-owned lot along, decaying along with the aforementioned Genovar’s Hall. You can read about the LaVilla Shotgun Houses and many other abandoned places in my books, Abandoned Jacksonville: Remnants of the River City and Abandoned Jacksonville: Ruins of the First Coast.

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Bullet

David Bulit is a photographer, author, and historian from Miami, Florida. He has published a number of books on abandoned and forgotten locales throughout the United States and continues to advocate for preserving these historic landmarks. His work has been featured throughout the world in news outlets such as the Miami New Times, the Florida Times-Union, the Orlando Sentinel, NPR, Yahoo News, MSN, the Daily Mail, UK Sun, and many others. You can find more of his work at davidbulit.com as well as amazon.com/author/davidbulit.

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