Located between Avondale and the Westside, Murray Hill is one of Jacksonville’s oldest neighborhoods.
The area was first laid out in the late 1800s, but it didn’t really get developed until after the Great Fire of 1901. Eager to capitalize on the many Jaxsons looking for new places to live, Jacksonville Realty & Mortgage Company established the Murray Hill Heights neighborhood and began selling off plots of land for houses to be built.
The new neighborhood grew quickly, aided by the addition of a streetcar line in the early ‘10s. Florida Military Academy briefly established itself within the area during that same decade.
In 1916, Murray Hill was incorporated as its own town. But as the city of Jacksonville looked to expand, the town was officially annexed by Jax in 1925.
Most of Murray Hill’s houses were built in the first half of the 1900s. At one point during the ‘20s, it’s said that there was a new house built in the neighborhood every few days.
In 1932, the Murray Hill Preservation Association was founded, becoming the first of Jacksonville’s many historic neighborhood preservation societies.
Once the residential parts of the neighborhood were built out, a commercial corridor began to emerge along Edgewood Avenue. Edgewood Bakery, Dreamette Ice Cream, and Murray Hill Theatre all opened within a few years of each other in the late ‘40s.
Unfortunately, like many of the city’s earliest neighborhood developments, Murray Hill began to decline as the city expanded and the other, newer neighborhoods were built. And its proximity to the seedier parts of Jax, such as the long-blighted and controversial Eureka Gardens community, have made Murray Hill a slightly harder sell than other historic areas.
Vacancies began to mount along the once-vibrant Edgewood corridor. In 1994, Murray Hill Theatre shut down. Shortly after, it was purchased and turned into a Christian music venue.
A nightclub, Fat Kat Lounge, opened along Edgewood and quickly became a problem for the neighborhood. It was the site of many incidents over the years culminating in a deadly shooting in 2014 that led to its permanent closure.
Nonetheless, over the past several years, the Edgewood Avenue commercial corridor has seen something of a rebirth, led by a heavy presence of great local food.
Maple Street Biscuit Company, Moon River Pizza, Vagabond Coffee, El Jefe, and more have all opened along Edgewood Avenue within the past two decades.
Edgewood Bakery shut its doors in 2016; plans to redevelop the property into a new The French Pantry location have yet to come to fruition.
Last year, Fishweir Brewing Company opened in part of the former Fat Kat Lounge location.
When combined with the growing number of boutique shops along the corridor, as well as future plans to add bike lanes to Edgewood Avenue, the corridor seems poised to continue growing.
The next big issue in Murray Hill will be the ongoing debate over the fate of the Jones College property. Developers wish to build a self-storage facility on the property of the former college, which closed in 2017, but residents have expressed hope that those plans will be reconsidered in favor of a project that serves the whole community, such as a much-needed grocery store.
Hopefully the debate will be resolved amicably and the property will become another boost in the neighborhood’s ongoing revival efforts.