Friday, December 1

I Wonder Why Alleys Don't Exist in Jax

A street in Jax - No driveway and no alley
I can't say definitively that there are no alleys in Jacksonville, but I spent nearly 15 minutes on Google Maps looking for any sign of these driveway/roads that were a staple in Milwaukee, and I could not find any sign of them. Not in the "urban core," not in San Marco, and not in any other part of town that reminded me of the higher population density areas of my hometown. This quick search led me to wonder whether or not alleys exist at all in the area, but it also got me to wondering about the purpose and existence of alleys or alleyways.

Online definitions just say it's a passageway behind buildings in older parts of town, sometimes used as walkways. Alleys were mostly for autos in Milwaukee, and it was so that car parking and garbage disposal could be done behind the house. The fact is, however, that Jax does have older parts of town. It was certainly a city back in the 1950s when my former MKE neighborhoods were being built with alleys, so why not here? Did people here like cars and garbage more than in other cities? Is it a Southern thing? A weather thing?

According to Wikipedia, Charleston, SC, has some pedestrian alleys. When I went on Google Maps, I found some car alleys, too, like Zig Zag Alley (they're named), but I did not find a vast network of alleys like in Northern cities. And Charleston is an old city, so it's not all about age. I followed the coast up to Wilmington, NC, and there were about the same number of alleys as Charleston, also with names, based on a very quick look. However, once I reached Baltimore, I could tell alleys were more of a thing. There they were, the little access roads behind buildings and homes.

I read that alleys are also known as rear lanes or back lanes in America. I can't find those in Jacksonville, either. I just don't know for sure. I have to be honest that I'm not going to spend more time trying to find alleys in various cities. I know that in Milwaukee, alleys were a big deal for homes and buildings built from downtown out to the city limits until the 1950s, which represents most of the houses in the city. I know crime happened in alleys, as well as a lot of basketball games. It was a hassle to get snow removed from alleys, too, which is ironic, since these seem to be more prevalent further north.

I found a website that discusses alleys in Chicago, and it stated that alleys were  useful in cleaning up the city until more land was used in the first meandering suburbs. This meant that Chicago and many other cities started abandoning alleys by the early 1900s. And it also implies alleys are more about population density, and we know Jax doesn't have that issue. Anyhow, if you know of any alleys for me to hang out in in Jacksonville, send me a message. I'll bring my basketball.

Here's a satellite view of the neighborhood in which I grew up in Milwaukee. Alleys are in green.

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