Putt Putt Craze: Jax Was Mad for Mini-Golf

Photo Courtesy of State Library and Archives of Florida

The clothing shop Edge City has inhabited 1017 Park Street for 43 years, and Gunnel Humphreys has been here for 41 years. Pizza Italian at 1053 Park Street has been in business for 41 years too, but Gunnel laughs that she and her partner Tom McCleery were here first — by three or four months.

Gunnel stands behind a jewelry case, petite and bangled, her hair recently fire engine red, now electric blue, and tells me the chair with Jesus’s face on its seat, which I recall from my adolescence, has found a safe home.

“It’s a great chair,” she says. “And I’m from Sweden. So it never occurred to me it would cause so many problems with people here.”

1017 Park Street stands in the line of seven buildings that comprise the Park Arcade Building in Five Points. Built in 1928, the Park Arcade began the town square feel this section of Five Points brings to Riverside.

While today Five Points is, for good or for ill, one of the hippest hubs in the city, it was Edge City that began Five Points’ transformation.

In its earliest years, Edge City stood beside Riverside Gown Shop and across from Five Points Men’s Shop. If a 1970s head shop seemed a sign of Riverside’s decline, few neighborhood residents understood Edge City was renegade and Tom and Gunnel were pioneers.

When Tom died in 2016, activist and Riverside Avondale Preservation founder Wayne Wood, who’d first convinced Tom and Gunnel to buy Edge City two years into the business’s existence, prophesied that Tom “will be remembered as the patron saint of Five Points for a long, long time to come.”

Since Edge City has occupied 1017 Park for half its existence and so fully represents the personality of today’s Five Points, it’s a little jarring to learn that 1017’s first tenant was an indoor/outdoor miniature golf course. How Edge City’s small storefront hosted such an establishment is hard to imagine.

Five Points Miniature Golf opened in 1930 and lasted about a year. For about a two-to-three-year window, miniature golf was all the rage across the nation. The trend peaked in Jacksonville with some 15 courses scattered across the city center. But it was a short lived, and by 1933, all courses had closed. 

Glenn Emery, a librarian who created a website called The Jacksonville Story, described Five Points Miniature Golf as beginning inside, extending into a “private park” behind the Park Arcade Building, and incorporating links across Five Points, even to the Five Points intersection from which the district gets its name.

But Emery didn’t list his source(s), and no one at the Jacksonville Historical Society, which has maintained a number of his original web pages since his death in 2006, seems to know the source of the golf course’s description.

Five Points Miniature Golf went out of business after a year and 1017 became home to Watkins Dye Works, Dixie Cleaners, a branch office of Admiral Finance, and, throughout the 1960s, Leon Hair Stylist.

Gunnel says, “I’ve been here all these years. So many businesses have come and gone. So many of them are just a blip.”

That’s exactly what established Five Points businesses assumed Tom and Gunnel would be. Edge City was a head shop when they took it over, but they got bored of selling bongs and pipes and black light posters and bought increasingly from boutique shows in New York.

When I ask Gunnel if she knew a miniature golf course once called her little storefront home, nearly nine decades ago, she says, “Everything’s come and gone in Five Points. But I’ve never heard that one.”

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