A Brief History of the Mount Ida Neighborhood - Signs and Symbols

Sometimes the very things that make a neighborhood unique are lost in the panic of dwelling only upon what was.  Yet, so much of what once drove the neighborhood is still intact and available to help drive future renewal.  When one compares the businesses from 1930 with the extant structures on Mount Ida, for example, one cannot help but be struck by the fact that so many buildings remain—many with their facades and cornices almost completely intact or sheltered beneath some type of protection.  Most of these structures are also still in use according to the lines of their original purposes, or could be easily converted if so desired. 

Of the fifty identifiable neighborhood businesses in the 1930 City Directory, fifteen have been demolished (a number skewed by the fact that five of them were factories that were seriously damaged by the 1938 hurricane or later fires), thirteen are vacant as first-floor businesses but retain the larger portion of their original storefronts, eleven have been converted to first floor residences, and eleven are functioning as businesses or are being developed as such.  In other words, fully seventy percent of the business properties of 1930 could probably be returned to the same purpose if it were deemed appropriate.

[Figure 31] By 1970 Mount Ida was well on its way to becoming a “college neighborhood,” one that depended a good deal on the money that students would expend both on staples and luxuries.  Nothing indicates this better than the shift in the type of businesses that lined upper Congress Street.  The grocery stores, florists, bakeries and drug stores of 1930 were supplanted by pizza parlors, liquor stores, laundromats, convenience stores and optometrists.  Mount Ida was no longer a place where one might do his or her marketing, but was rather a place that provided the types of services conducive to quick stops and transitory living.  Of the twenty-eight identifiable neighborhood businesses in the 1970 City Directory, only one has been demolished (another almost certainly will be), nine are vacant as first-floor businesses but retain the larger portion of their original storefronts, four have been converted to first floor residences, and fourteen are currently functioning as businesses or are being developed as such. 

 

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