Everybody I talk to is sad about the closing of the Three-Legged Dog at 27 South Central Park Plaza. That grand space embodies Jacksonville’s history and promise. I offer the consolation of its long history, which demonstrates that the space will continue to be significant to our community.
Jack Lukeman located the old Merrigans fixtures and installed them at 27 South Central Park Plaza to create Merrigans Old Place, a shop selling sandwiches and sodas in the 1990s. But those years were not kind to downtown shops, here and everywhere else in America. The Achilles’ Café and then Due Gatti (Two Cats) continued to serve food and coffee in that location, until Joe Racey created the Three-Legged Dog, which opened in April 2007.
For Racey, and his downtown collaborators Joy French Becker and Tom Grojean, the Dog and its neighboring buildings were among the early investments in the comeback of downtown Jacksonville. Since 2007, the square has been transformed from an ugly reminder of urban renewal to a potentially beautiful and commercially functional center of a revived community. The square once again provides a calm space at the heart of town. Around it, renovations inside Art Eclectic Gallery reveal the bones of the venerable Hockenhull building, Jacksonville Art Glass creates new beauty in glass and restores the glass history of local churches, Cheryl Kelly develops photographs into art, and Jim and Sally Nurss have brought a bookstore back to Jacksonville.
Like the Dog, these are all risky investments, bets with family resources that the present and future residents of Jacksonville will find a place for art and literature in their versions of a good and affordable life. These enterprises represent the promise of Jacksonville by reviving our history and imagining our future.
There is more to come. The future of Jacksonville lies partly in its past: the well-constructed buildings in the downtown and the well-preserved homes all around it are worth a visit now. In ten years, our little city could be on everyone’s map as a place to see, to learn from, and to pause in. The short life of the Dog is a key step in that journey, back to the past and into the future. It was a great success. Thanks, Joe.
Taking Back Our Lives