|In 1911, 24 small-scale look-alike bungalows were built on a section of land midway between Main Street and Hubbard Street in Springfield, the oldest residential neighborhood in Jacksonville Florida. Arranged in two rows of 12 houses each running south to north between 9th and 10th Streets, the little vernacular frame houses faced each other across a sidewalk-way (instead of a street), with small lawns on either side. |
Architecturally such a complex was known as a Bungalow Court and this particular bungalow court was known as Dancy Terrace (sometimes called Redell Street). DancyT and "the T" are my short-terms for Dancy Terrace, which is important to me personally because (1) it was home to my Mother (Joan (Jo-Ann) Thomas) and her Thomas family during the 1920s and 1930s, and (2) DancyT was the setting of many of the Jack and Judy stories my Mother told us (my brothers and me) as we grew up in Murray Hill.
Bungalow Courts are an interesting phenomena in the history of North America architecture. Somewhat of a merge between apartment buildings (none too private and frequently "no children") and the single family bungalow (out of the question due to high cost and maintenance for many people), they represented an innovative approach to changing urban housing requirements of the first few decades of the 20th century.
Whether originally housing workers in the film industry in California, the shipbuilders and harbor workers of Seattle or the railway workers, tradesmen, small business owners and professionals in Jacksonville, Bungalow Courts were intended for residents who wanted more independent lifestyle yet within a protected more focussed environment, with some yard or garden. Architectural styles varied from region to region, court to court as did the arrangement of the houses within the court itself. DancyT, was laid out in the "parallel bar formation", an early arrangement preceding that of the U-shaped courts of the later 19-teens and 20s.
Today, all over North America, bungalow courts are being landmarked and preserved. DancyT, now known to be one of the earliest bungalow courts in North America as well as one of the largest, has now been added to that list. Following many years of neglect, abuse and the more recent attempt on the part of one owner to have the entire court demolished, DancyT is now being renovated by the new owners who are working according to Preservation Guidelines to produce an up-scale high quality gated community. The new name will be Dancey Terrace II.
On 9th Street L-R: Barbara Mae, Harriet Joan and Stella DeSha Thomas. Their house, 2117 DancyT, is in the back far left. 1926-27.
DancyT as I first saw it in September of 2003
First bungalow East Row north from 9th Street -- The "model home" May 2007
I discovered the Belltown Cottages in August of 2001. Heading west on Wall Street down to Elliot Bay I happened to look to my right and there they were from the back by the alley -- 3 tiny wood frame houses almost alike and definitely old and worn but also very beautiful. Fascinated by them I photographed them often before returning to Toronto. There was something very special about them for me but I didn't know what at that time. When I learned that they were being preserved and plans were underway to renovate them, I followed the progress of the renovation via the website and at one point contacted Myke Woodwell and Glenn MacGilvra, who were instrumental in preserving the cottages and were kind enough fill me in on history etc.
The original 6 vernacular wood frame cottages (of which only 3 now remained), had formed a small detached parallel bar bungalow court built in 1916 by Seattle architect William Hainesworth for harborfront workers. That was boomtime for Belltown as the First World War made Seattle a shipbuilding capital. At that time there were many such smaller bungalows and shotgun houses in the waterfront area of Belltown -- all having since been replaced by older factory buildings (i.e., Real Audio 2601 Elliott Avenue) and the newer condos.
Today, the Belltown Cottages have been Historically Landmarked and are completely renovated One of the Belltown Cottages, now serves as a community/history center and the Richard Hugo House Literary Center uses the other two for their writers in-residency program. Adjacent to the cottages at the corner of Elliott and Vine is the P-Patch community garden and the Growing Vine Street
Cistern Steps (Green Street Improvement Project). Altogether these sites form what is known as Cottages Park. Many people worked together voluntarily to make this project in all its various aspect work which is now also a part of the cottages' history. .
I have included here some photos of the cottages to show how they looked when first built in 1916, how they looked when I first saw them in 2001 and how they look today post-rennovation. I have included them because: In that way that I have of communicating with old buildings I now know that it was the Belltown cottages that led me to DancyT just in time to help those who saved it. And in the same way that bungalow courts had/have of making their residents feel like a family of neighbors, I feel like Belltown and DancyT are now family. Speaking of which be sure to see the old photograph of the 3 little girls in 1916. Perhaps every bungalow court has their Jack and Judy stories.
The Thomas Family
Meet the Percy Leon Thomas family who lived in Springfield 1910-1940
Older photographs of the Thomas family at DancyT etc.
My photos taken since 2003 - including photos of ongoing renovations at DancyT
Mattie V. Rutherford School: Also known as 5th and Hubbard -- Earlier history, photos, school programs, newspapers, field trips and Mrs. Bagaley's Kindergarten
146 East 6th Street between Hubbard and Market where the Thomas family lived for several years before moving to DancyT
Main Street Baptist Church
Church history, bulletins, yearbooks, programs, photos and the early history of the Baptist Home for Children which began at MSBC.
Photos both old and new of Springfield and related parts of Jacksonville
Jack and Judy
About the Stories my Mother told us -- in progress
Some relevant resources for historical and genealogical research.
Description of DancyT
Jack and Judy in Springfield
My Mother, Joan Thomas Learn, began to tell "Jack & Judy" stories to her 4th Grade students at Mattie V. Rutherford Elementary School in Springfield during the 1940s. Later she told these same stories to her children at Ruth N. Upson Elementary School and to her own children (my brothers and me) as we grew up in Murray Hill.
The stories were about the adventures of two children growing up in Springfield and sometimes visiting their relatives in Waldo. She named the children Jack and Judy because she thought good books about children needed to be about a little boy and a little girl. In reality, Jack was her slightly younger sister Barbara, who was very much a tomboy, who loved to dance and do gynmastics and every sport imaginable. Judy on the other hand, was the part played by my Mother, Joan, who loved to read and play the piano and sing. Some of these stories took place while the family was living at 147 6th Street East, between Hubbard and Market Streets. But most of my Mother's stories were about a place she called Dancy Terrace which must have been a happy magical place I thought to myself, where children laughed and sang and played and got into all sorts of mischief… and of course children danced there because, after all, it was called Dancy Terrace.
I always loved these stories but never actually saw DancyT until the fall of 2003, the year my father died. I recognized it immediately as the Jack and Judy turf in spite of its neglected state. I felt it was very special but had no idea that the battle to save it was about to begin.
What's New on this Website
Main Street Baptist Church - photos, bulletins, programs, 1925 Church Yearbook etc. and sub-section on the early history of the (Jacksonville) Baptist Home for Children -- which was initialized by members of the Main Street Baptist Church.
Mattie V. Rutherford Elementary School -- many photos and issues of the school newspaper, programs for May festivals and a subsection on Mrs. Katharine Bagaley's Kindergarten and her book Mr. Easy Teaches Phonics.
Springfield section: many photographs added
Yesterday section: Photographs added.
Belltown Cottages -- A page on the Belltown cottages of Seattle has been added to show the little Bungalow Court that ultimately led me to DancyT.
DancyT Description -- A brief description of the house exteriors/interiors.
This website has grown exponentially since I first put it up that weekend in 2005 following Rita Reagan's red alert to get the pictures up there, Dancy Terracy was in trouble. Since then I have continued to cull through all my family treasures and have found wonderful things to add to the site. Examples: Katharine Bageley was a phenomenal woman/artist/teacher. She had to be remembered here. My Grandfather's old papers included the history of the Baptist Home for Children. Up it goes. There is much more I hope to add as time goes on. And I welcome your feedback. So please email me at the address below. Oh, and the name "We love DancyT"? Think Sister Sledge - We are Family. I just couldn't get that song out of my mind when I'd think of DancyT.
Beth Learn and Rita Reagan discuss Jack and Judy stories on the porch of a DancyT house model home May 2007
Springfield Historic District (added 1987 - Duval County - #86003640) Also known as Springfield Subdivision; roughly bounded by Twelfth, Clark, and First Sts., Hogans Creek and Boulevard, Jacksonville (5060 acres, 1787 buildings, 11 structures, 9 objects)
Beth Learn is a language artist, historian, magazine editor, independent arts' curator and the director of learn/yeats & co. She grew up in Jacksonville, Florida but has lived in Toronto, Ontario for some time. We Love DancyT is hosted by learnyeats.com.