Beaches Museum takes a look back at the Jax Beach boardwalk

// by Jocelyn Tolbert

From the 1910s to the 1970s, the Jacksonville Beach boardwalk served as a hub of entertainment. “The boardwalk was a popular destination for locals and visitors. Tourism spurred development of Pablo Beach [as Jacksonville Beach was known before 1925], and the boardwalk provided plenty of amusements,” says Sarah Jackson, archives and collection manager at the Beaches Museum. “There were typical boardwalk concessions and games as well as specific locations such as the pier, the roller coaster, amusement centers like Griffin Amusement Park and the Band Shell. It was a center of activity for the community.”

Spots such as Perkins Hotel and Bathhouse, Hitching Post and Mermaid Tavern were familiar fixtures. Little Coney Island was a popular tourist stop featuring a dance floor, swim room, bowling alley and skating rinks. However, the boardwalk isn’t a place that everyone recalls fondly—if at all. “The boardwalk was a longstanding institution that continues to stand out in the memories of Beaches residents, both with its good and bad moments,” Jackson says. “[It] exacerbated a divide in the community between the white and black population. Blacks were banned from the boardwalk and beachfront until desegregation in the 1960s, but the boardwalk was already fading away by that time.”

The Beaches Museum’s new exhibit Jacksonville Beach or Bust!: A Look Back at the Boardwalk explores the attraction’s role in shaping a community through photographs, artifacts and the personal accounts of those who remember this important piece of Beaches history. The exhibit opens June 8.

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