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Harcourt Bull's Atlantic Beach, Florida

by Donald J. Mabry
© 2007

Little Atlantic Beach, Florida refused to lose its independence when the City of Jacksonville took over Duval County in 1968. Atlantic Beach considered itself unique, a special place, and it was. Nice houses—some quite old, some very new, some quaint, some plain, some fancy—and condos and a few apartments populate the city. Its few businesses are strung out eastward from the ocean to the Intracoastal Waterway along Atlantic Boulevard, its southern boundary, and a block or so to the north and along Mayport Road to the west. Naval Station Mayport, the village of Mayport, and Hanna Park on the St. Johns River border it on the north. The essentially residential city of Neptune Beach is on its southern boundary. Atlantic Beach is a charming outpost in the midst of and many residents intend to keep it that way. Even before it was incorporated, it was a “nice” residential area. An immigrant, Harcourt Bull, Senior, is largely responsible. The essay explores his role in the city’s development.

Figure 1 Duval County, Florida Outline Map

Harcourt John Bull, an Irish-Canadian, immigrated to the United States and then immigrated to a frontier settlement in 1913, what became the town of Atlantic Beach, Florida, now part of Jacksonville, Florida. This New York City lawyer with a lucrative corporate practice and a social life with some of the most prominent people in his adopted country gave it all up to be the prime mover in turning it into a very desirable town is a story that  needs telling. He was daring, persistent, intelligent, and creative.

Figure 2 Harcourt John Bull

Immigrants usually are builders, energetic, ambitious and savvy. They leave their homes to make a better life elsewhere. They have the right glandular balance to get things done, to make a difference or, at least, try. The Bull family fit that characterization.

They emigrated from Ireland to Canada in the early 1830s and brought much to their new home. They left Ireland because they were Anglicans, a minority, in an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic land; religious bigotry meant they had to tread lightly and, then when the weight of oppression got too heavy, leave. George Perkins Boothsby Bull seemed to have offended some powerful fellow Christians, Roman Catholics, by criticizing or libeling a priest. The animus against him was so great that he left.[1] Whereas he could have taken his wife Dorothea Burland and their six children to England, he took them to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, a small town southwest of Toronto. He founded a very conservative newspaper, the Hamilton Spectator, and a dynasty. Three children survived to adulthood.

His sons did well. Harcourt Burland Bull (pictured below), born 1824, a journalist and publisher like his father, was appointed by the Conservative Prime Minister to be a Senator for Ontario. He died in office in 1881.George Armstrong Bull was a noted Anglican priest, serving St. Peter's Church in Barton and St. Paul's Church in Glanford between 1853 and 1886. The eldest son, Richard, married a fellow Irish native, Anna Eveleen Donnelly, and became an insurance inspector for the Hartford Insurance Company and was an officer of the Hamilton Museum Association.

Figure 3 Honorable Harcourt Burland Bull

This Irish-Canadian family was determined to create and preserve family tradition through names. Harcourt, George, Richard, Burland, Charles, Mary, and John exist in generation after generation in all three lines. Harcourt, in particular, is noticeable. Richard’s line has taken the name through Harcourt John Bull V but it is common in all branches. And Richard’s line was also fond of Richard and George. Richard Bull (born 1818) sired eleven children with his wife Anna; three sons became prominent.

George Joseph Bull (born in Hamilton in 1848) studied in Paris, France (where he died in 1911) and became a famous ophthalmologist and inventor of optical equipment. The King of England was a patient and he was offered a knighthood. He and his first wife, Sarah Jeannette Wesson, daughter of Daniel Wesson of Smith & Wesson firearms, divorced in 1883. He remarried and converted to Catholicism. The youngest brother, Edward Charles Bull, born in Hamilton in 1871, became a famous optometrist and optician in Paris and then England. He eventually emigrated to Pasadena, California. Ned, as he was known, naturalized as a United States citizen in 1921, following the lead of his brother Harcourt John Bull (born October 29, 1858) who had become a United States citizen on November 5, 1885.[2]

Figure 4 Edward C. Bull

We know bits and pieces of Harcourt John Bull’s his early life. He was one of thirteen children, six females and seven males. His parents were wealthy enough to afford servants. Harcourt went to college, a very rare thing since only 0.05% of Canadians age 15-24 attended university in 1891. He was a law student. Law students took classes but they were also required to apprentice at a law firm. He graduated from McGill University in Montreal and was elected to the executive committee of the New York Graduates' Society of McGill University. He identified himself as a law student on his U. S. naturalization papers in 1885. He had entered the United States on October 29, 1880 when he was 22 years old. When he became a US citizen in 1885 and living in New Brighton, Staten Island, he asserted that he was a law student. Perhaps he was a student at a New York university or was doing an apprenticeship in New York. Soon after becoming a U. S. citizen, he and three other men created the British-American Association on October 19, 1888 to encourage fellow British citizens and their descendants residing in the United States to become US citizens as well as to promote good relations between the two nations.

He was practising law in New York in the late 19th century and was living with his wife, Alma, and two Irish female servants on West 87th Street in Manhattan at the time of the 1900 US Census. He had married Alma Verner Stolbrand on June 26 1895 in New York City. She was the daughter of Brigadier General Carlos John Meuller Stolbrand, a Swedish immigrant who had settled in Illinois and led U.S. troops as an artillery officer during the Civil War and then became an important Republican politician, serving as the superintendent of prisons in South Carolina during Reconstruction. She was also the sister of Vasa Edwin Stolbrand, who was born in 1859 and an alumnus of Union College. Alma was a concert pianist who had powerful friends. When she gave piano concerts at the Waldorf Hotel in Manhattan sponsored by such social luminaries as William Goodsell Rockefeller (third son of William of Standard Oil and married into the Stillman family of National City Bank); Major L. L. Seaman; Anna Lukens, M.D.; H. Holbrook Curtis, a New York City throat specialist; and Edwin Gould (son of Jay Gould), a railway official.[3]

Harcourt and Alma developed strong ties to Staten Island. They bought a large home in New Dorp, a town where many prominent people, such as the Vanderbilts, lived. When Harcourt was naturalized as a US citizen, his witness was a Staten Island man, Hamilton H. Wood, the General Manager of the Staten Island Rapid Transit Railroad Company (SIRT) and a fellow resident of New Brighton. This suggests that Bull had come to New York to work in the local transportation industry or developed close ties with men in the traction business after he arrived. Another Canadian, Erastus Wiman, created the SIRT in 1880.[4]

Bull had more than a passing acquaintance with the New York City transportation industry. He was a practicing attorney with an office in lower Manhattan so he had to commute to and from Staten Island. In 1900, he protested the $388,070 evaluation of the Staten Island Midland Railway Company, saying it paid no dividends and had been unable to pay the interest on it bonded indebtedness. Bull was elected a director of SIRT in 1885.Years later in 1902, he was one of nine men who incorporated the Bull's Head and Annandale Beach Railroad Company, an eight-mile electric train on Staten Island.
There was no integrated transportation network; instead, there were several competing traction companies using trolleys and trains. Service got so bad that the Merchants Association complained in 1902 about the service of the surface trolleys/trains of Brooklyn Rapid Transport. Harcourt, serving on the legal subcommittee of the Association, spoke at a public meeting, demanding that patrons be able to transfer among lines. The Legal Committee of the Merchants’ Association on which he served wanted more cars and transfers After the privilege of a transfer was mandated but ignored, he successfully sued on behalf of clients to collect damaged. As a lawyer, he handled a variety of cases, of course, but he had a fondness for “traction companies.” SIRT went bankrupt in 1899 and was bought at auction on April 20, 1899 for two million by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. New York City transportation companies continued to have a difficult time until the city took them over.[5]

His home in New Dorp, Staten Island into which he and Alma moved was substantial. Photos and descriptions in the advertisement when he was trying to sell it in 1924 show how palatial it was. One gets a snapshot of his households in New Dorp and Atlantic Beach from the February 28, 1924 inventory of the household furnishings on the premises of his former home on Ross Avenue in New Dorp and from the undated inventory of the contents of Bull’s house in Atlantic Beach. He was not a poor man. By the standards of the day, it was a mansion. Although not as big as the nearby Vanderbilt mansion it was big, perhaps the size of today’s McMansions. In his advertisement he described the brick-filled house. It had three floors. On the first floor, there was a hall, a parlor, library, dining room, butler’s pantry, kitchen, a large rear porch for servants, a workshop, and a lavatory. On the second were four master’s bedrooms, two master’s bathrooms, a large sleeping porch, two servants’ rooms, and a bathroom. The third was one large room and a large open attic. The house had electricity, city water, steam heat, and coal and gas ranges. Bull advertised the grounds as consisting of 22 lots. The grounds were irregularly shaped in that there were 200 feet of frontage on Rose Street, 300 feet on Seventh Street, and 250 feet on Eighth Street. Like his grandfather, father, and brothers, Harcourt was doing very well indeed.

Figure 5 New Dorp Advertisement

Harcourt’s family circumstances changed significantly in the 1910s. Alma died in November 26, 1911 in a fire. Less than a year later, on October 21, 1912, Harcourt married her niece, Florence Alma Stolbrand, a woman twenty-nine years his junior. His brother-in-law, Colonel Vasa Stolbrand[6], a year younger than he, became his father-in-law.

Stolbrand was an army officer who fought American Indians in the Southwest. It was not a good career because the Army was ill paid, ill-equipped, and ill-manned. In 1884, Lt. Stolbrand was hired to teach mathematics, civil engineering, and military tactics at Colorado State College (now University). He also taught at the University of Arizona. Subsequently, he would be the commandant at various boys’ military schools in upstate New York. That paid little as well. Stolbrand , a mathematics instructor and commandant of cadets in a boys’ military school in Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, declared bankruptcy. He listed debts of $4,532 and no available assets.[7] He had sacrificed much to be a U.S. Army officer and then to educate boys and men but society in those days did not value the military highly and paid very little. “Colonel” Stolbrand would eventually join the Bulls in Atlantic Beach, Florida, teach the Bull sons, and help with the family business as a director of one of their corporations.

Harcourt and Florence quickly had children. Harcourt Bull, Jr. was born on June 5,1913, Richard Bull, Sr. on July 14, 1914, and George Bull, Sr. on September 21, 1915. He was almost 55 and she almost 26 when their first child was born.

Figure 6 Florence Stolbrand Bull Figure 7 Vasa E. Stolbrand

About the time that his first child, Harcourt Junior was born on June 5, 1913, Harcourt Senior got involved in a Florida adventure, one that would eventually lead him to abandon the good life in Manhattan and New Dorp for the small town of Jacksonville, Florida (57,699 people in 1910) and Atlantic Beach to the east, a settlement that had less than 100 permanent residents, if that, in 1913. For three years he would commute between New York and Florida until the challenges and opportunities in Florida became too seductive and he moved his family to the oceanfront in Florida in 1916. Elizabeth Worthington Phillip Stark, in her Story of Mayport: Site of the Great Modern Naval Station first met the Bulls--Harcourt father and son. Florence, and Richard--on February 14, 1914 in the Atlantic Beach Hotel where they were staying. Harcourt, Sr. remarked that he was the lawyer of J. C. Turner, the New York lumber baron who was financing much of the Atlantic Breach Hotel.
Bull obviously started putting down roots when he bought the Christopher House (on the left in the photo below) at 11th Street and the oceanfront, 300 feet north of the Atlantic Beach Hotel Reservation, and moved his family there from New York. He was admitted to the Florida Bar. He rented out the New Dorp property and had to concern himself with typical landlord issues. On August 25, 1917, he turned down conducting a lawsuit in New York on behalf of the American Newspaper Publishing Association because he had “practically removed my office to Florida.” [8]

Bull was moving to something but his wife Florence was moving from stability, social position, and the companionship of female peers. There could not have been many of those in Atlantic Beach or even in Pablo Beach, which adjoined Atlantic Beach on the south. Pablo, the future Jacksonville Beach, had very few residents. Both communities had many seasonal residents. She could take the train to Jacksonville or go by automobile but doing so took time. Even though she had servants, she had three toddlers who needed her influence. ``

Educating Harcourt Jr., Richard, and George was accomplished in several ways. On April 22, 1924, they were enrolled in the Calvert School of Baltimore, Maryland in the “Third Year Complete Course.” For Junior, the School sent books’ lessons and supplies for the entire year and for Richard and George a set of supplies for each and one set of pupils’ books. When they got old enough, they went to Duval High School in central Jacksonville and then to Landon High School in south Jacksonville.[9]

In a letter he wrote on October 28, 1931 to a relative, he reported that Harcourt was a freshman at the University of Florida where he pledged a fraternity. The father worried about his ability to keep his namesake in college or send his son George to college because times were hard. Richard graduated from high school but had not found a job yet, probably because his real desire was to become a pilot. George, a high school senior, was enterprising, the youngest, having built a functioning car from a old wreck and using it to deliver groceries.[10]

Figure 8 Christopher-Bull House

The adventure and the move came about because Henry M. Flagler, the Standard Oil tycoon, had decided that the east coast of Florida could become a Mecca for the wealthy. He and his first wife visited Jacksonville in 1878-79 and he liked the area so much that he immigrated with his second wife in 1883, deciding that St. Augustine was especially charming. His Florida East Coast Railroad, which he created, used Jacksonville as a railhead and port but its headquarters were based in St. Augustine, the town he loved and where he had built two luxury hotels. He needed Jacksonville and Mayport to import coal and other goods as he developed the east coast of the state, eventually bridging the Florida Keys to take the FEC all the way to Key West.

The State of Florida encouraged him; by 1892, the state had given him 250,000 acres of public land; then he was given land (3,840 acres per mile of railroad built) as he built southward.[11] The challenge of building and of creating something out of nothing excited him. Being the most powerful man in the state helped.

Flagler built the luxurious Continental Hotel on a deserted beach sixteen miles east of Jacksonville. A huge wooden building painted yellow, the hotel, could be reached by a train that Flagler ran east from Jacksonville, across the St. Johns River bridge he had built, through South Jacksonville, east to Pablo Beach and then north to Mayport on the south bank of the St. Johns River near its mouth on the Atlantic Ocean. The train was important to Flagler because coal could be offloaded from ocean going vessels at Mayport instead of having to travel miles upstream to Jacksonville. The hotel was built a few miles south with the tracks just west of the vast hotel grounds and designed to serve the wealthy, leisure class.

As the composite photograph below shows, the hotel reservation had a golf course, tennis courts, an ocean pier, verandahs, and manicured grounds. There was a bowling alley and bathhouses. It cost almost half a million dollars to build in 1901; the average working man in the United States earned $450 a year in 1900. The rates were high both to keep the average person from staying there and to offset construction and maintenance costs. He relied upon rich people who came to Jacksonville to escape cold weather. Until Flagler extended the rail lines south of St. Augustine, most stayed in the Jacksonville area and took the occasional steamboat excursions up the St. Johns River to small towns further south like Palatka. Flagler counted on the luxury of the Continental and its location on an ocean beach to attract customers.

Figure 9 Continental Hotel

Figure 10 Atlantic Beach Railroad Station, Continental Hotel to Right

The Flagler “group” was a variety of companies, for he separated the railroad and its operations from the land development and traffic generation. To make a profit, railroads have to be a freight and/or passenger carrier. Peopling the land did both. To develop Atlantic Beach, the Flagler group used its Florida East Coast Hotel Company. In August 1900, the Mayport Terminal Company was formed to interface the railroad and the port. It also tried to develop a subdivision at Burnside Beach on the ocean. The railroad told E. Ben Carter to plat a subdivision at Atlantic Beach. An employee became the first Atlantic Beach postmaster in May1901. Lots were sold; bought by the wealthy in Jacksonville and elsewhere.[12] When Atlantic Boulevard from south Jacksonville to Mayport Road was formally opened on July 28, 1910 the Hotel and lots sales were helped. Ten months later Atlantic Boulevard was extended to the ocean, giving people and their goods easy access to the Hotel.
Nevertheless, the Continental Hotel and Atlantic Beach were not profitable enough in comparison to enterprises further south—Palm Beach and Miami—so the Flagler interests got rid of them. At first, the Florida East Coast Hotel Company leased the Hotel to A. S. Stanford of the American Resort Hotel Company in February 1911, but this was not profitable enough. In March 1913, the Hotel Company sold the Continental Hotel to a group of New York investors organized as the Atlantic Beach Corporation. The buyers included Ernest R. Brackett, J. C. Turner, A. L. Taylor, R. S. Huse, and Harcourt Bull. Bull and Huse were lawyers for the Atlantic Beach Corporation as well as investors and directors. Bull, his wife Florence, and sons Richard and Harcourt were staying in the hotel on February 14, 1914 when Elizabeth Stark arrived. He would be the attorney who would travel back and forth between New York City and Atlantic Beach to keep an eye on things and would eventually immigrate to Atlantic Beach. The Corporation renamed the Continental Hotel as the Atlantic Beach Hotel.

Complicated financial deals were made to pay for all this.[13] Brackett was president of the Atlantic Beach Corporation, which borrowed some funds from the Florida East Coast Hotel Company to purchase the property as well as using funds from investors. Brackett partnered with Turner, a wealthy lumber baron in New York City. Turner had a sawmill at Eastport on the St. Johns River near Jacksonville as well as a vacation house at Atlantic Beach. He operated in several states.[14] Ostensibly, Turner would invest $450,00 but, in reality, he would put up $150,000, still a considerable amount of money.

In 1913, promoting Atlantic Beach and the Atlantic Beach Hotel was the pressing challenge if the investment was to be worth it. The Corporation had to increase both the patronage of the hotel as well as sell lots nearby to pay the principal and interests on the loans they had obtained. Complicating matters was the decision to cater to the wealthy and well-to-do, a policy which limited the number of potential customers for the community and Hotel.

As one of the first efforts to make the area more attractive to the wealthy, Brackett explored the possibility of getting telephone service for Atlantic Beach. It failed. The telephone company’s price was too high because there were too few potential subscribers to warrant running lines. In a June 9, 1913 letter from J. R. A. Hobson to Brackett, the telephone said it understood that there were 26 houses, which would want telephone service, plus 11 more within 90 days and possibly another 32, making a total of 69. In addition, there are 57 lots sold to 32 owners. If the Atlantic Beach Corporation guaranteed rental on twenty-five telephones a year, the telephone company would install an exchange in the hotel. The Corporation would supply the space for the exchange and the telephone operators. Telephones were an expensive luxury in those years.[15]

The Corporation also ran advertisements in 1913 trying to get people to buy lots and build cottages and houses. It promised potential buyers, people of refinement as the ads said, electric lights, paved roads, sewer and water systems, in essence, the urban amenities. It promised more than it could deliver, however.[16]

On October 24, 1914, the Atlantic Beach Corporation received the evaluation of the property it had commissioned a man named by Strohmeier to do. The report revealed how tenuous the investment was. The report noted that the land was purchased about 1900 or 1901 for purpose of subdivision. Prior to the building of the Continental Hotel and the subdivision of lots, Atlantic Beach was a land of pines, palmettos, and scrub palms bordering the ocean with the Pablo River and its marshes to the west, the St. Johns River to the north, and several miles of sand dunes and scrubland to the south. The Florida East Coast railroad penetrated Atlantic Beach on its way from Pablo Beach to Mayport on the river. There were coquina mines in the marsh until freight charges rose high enough to make mining unprofitable. The Continental Hotel and outbuildings were worth only $125,000, more or less, but must have cost more than $450,000 to build. The Hotel was too large for current demand even though the Hotel and the surrounding area could be reached by railroad or by the brick Atlantic Boulevard from south Jacksonville.

Selling land was the key to the feature if enough people could be persuaded to buy. Southwest and north of the hotel were several hundred building lots laid out in subdivision “A” on the plat of the Atlantic Beach Corporation. Many of lots had been sold. To the northwest and a small part to the west of Subdivision “A,” there are about 2,000 acres of scrubland, a small part swampy, and 630 acres of which was a salt marsh. The report said that the salt marsh was almost valueless. The lots in Subdivision “A” needed to be sold, needed to become the homes of prominent people, which could be done if properly advertised. We do have an inventory of the “cottagers” as of June 3, 1914, a list supplied by H. M. Stanford, the manager of the Atlantic Beach Hotel. Among them were men who played a major role in the development of Atlantic Beach. Some partnered with Harcourt Bull.[17]

Subdivision “A”, what some called “Old Atlantic Beach” in the 21st century, was described and priced. Its boundaries were north of Atlantic Boulevard, south of 12th Street, east of Old Sherry Drive, and the Atlantic Ocean. There were a total of 695 lots, 401 of which had been sold from time to time. The 52 ocean front lots between 7th street and Atlantic Boulevard were all sold. The lots were estimated to be worth between $350 and $500 with $450 being most common. Lots were generally 50 feet by 150 feet but oceanfront lots tended to be bigger. Lots were laid out between 12th Street and 16th Street but only on paper. Beach Avenue and Ocean Boulevard were partially paved but the intersecting streets between the ocean and the FEC tracks were laid out but not improved. Atlanta Street (now Ahern Street) and 1st-12th streets were staked but only a few were open; in most cases, there was no street. Most was undeveloped, that is, in a virgin state including sand dunes. West of Old Sherry Drive was a 630-acre salt march worth about $5,000. Sherman Creek ran through part of the acreage. When one went far enough north or west, the price per acre dropped to $25. The East Mayport town site of 38 acres was only worth $25 an acre. South of Atlantic Boulevard, Lots 4, 5, and 6 and part of Lot 1—the area called Neptune—contained 100 acres[18] The total value of the unsold lots was estimated at $343,922. W. L. Johnson had built 40 dwellings with the last fifteen months. There were 57 dwellings in Atlantic Beach. There were also stores, post office and railroad station.

In sum, there was a lot of acreage but few dwellings and advertising was needed. In order to get people to buy lots and build, the Atlantic Beach Corporation had to construct sidewalks, streets, bulkheads, water lines, sewers, and drainage systems, and electricity. The streets should be curbed with two inch planking. To demonstrate the viability of Atlantic Beach, the Corporation was advised to build cottages or bungalows on some unsold lots. It should also provide or encourage building of a school, church, club, and golf course.

What happened over the next few years is hard to follow because the records are incomplete and the parties involved did not always act in a transparent fashion. They borrowed money from various sources and made deals with each other and sued and foreclosed.

All believed that profits would accrue from their investments but some were wrong. Bull was right but he had to work hard and juggle a lot to make it happen. A glimpse into these maneuvers illustrates how confused ownership in Atlantic Beach was.

Figure 11 Buckman Advertisement For Atlantic Beach

Figure 12 1924 Atlantic Beach Hotel Schematic Map

Simultaneously with the efforts of the Atlantic Beach Corporation was the effort to build a subdivision named Neptune by the Atlantic Seashore Company. Bull was involved as well as Captain Charles E. Garners of Florida National Bank, Thomas Clarke, and George E. Carroll. Brackett and the Atlantic Seashore Company tried to develop 107 acres south of the Atlantic Boulevard. The Atlantic Beach Corporation bought the land from a Mr. Carroll for $5,000 and Carroll held a 7% mortgage for $4,500, that is the Atlantic Seashore Company, including Bull, put $500 down and owed the rest to Carroll’s company. On December 17, 1913, 1913, letter from Robert Selden Huse.[19]

Probably acting as an attorney, Bull, writing from his New York City office on 31 Nassau Street to James H. Payne of the Atlantic Beach Hotel on July 2, 1914, noted that there was only $79,000 of insurance on the Atlantic Beach outbuildings and contents and Payne needed to get the right to get additional insurance. He and fellow counsel, R. S. Huse had looked at these policies.[20]

The Atlantic Beach Corporation mortgaged its property to the Florida East Coast Hotel Company on March 14, 1915.[21] The Corporation borrowed $150,000, due in three years (1918). The interest of 6% per annum, paid semi-annually. Signing the mortgage note were J. C. Turner, President, and R. S. Huse, Secretary-Treasurer. The mortgage covered all the hotel property as of the agreement with Ernest H. Brackett and the Hotel Company of March 14, 1913. The mortgage was signed and sealed in the presence of C. D. Bone and J. B. Vanderbilt in New York City. Turner held the second mortgage.

On June 14, 1915, the Atlantic Beach Corporation was indebted to J. C. Turner to the tune of $32,705.53 executed and delivered to Turner its mortgage deed by which mortgage deed Atlantic Beach Corporation conveyed to Turner the above described property as security for the debt but with the proviso that the mortgage was subject to the $150,000 mortgage that the Atlantic Beach Corporation had given to Florida East Coast Hotel Company, dated March 14, 1915. The Turner mortgage was a second mortgage recorded June 18, 1915 and the mortgage was filed and recorded in Mortgage Book 92, page 456 of Duval County on June 21,1915.

On August 15, 1915, the Corporation executed its promissory note of $150,000 to Florida East Coast Hotel Company in partial payment for lands described and as security for the payment of said note, conveying the said mortgaged lands. Then on February 15, 1916, the Pacific Flush Tank Company, a corporation established in 1892 in New York City with headquarters in the Singer Building, filed lien on the property and sued to foreclose on February 18, 1916. On June 3, 1916, the court issued a final decree and the Special Master conveyed the deed to Harcourt Bull. The Master’s deed referenced the first mortgage of $150,000 to the Florida East Coast Hotel Company and second mortgage of $32,705.53 to Harcourt Bull. Obviously, either Turner was fronting for Bull or vice versa.

As part of this, on May 5, 1916, in the meeting of the directors of the Lloyd Real Estate and Securities Corporation in Bull’s office, the Treasurer, Harold Varcoe explained that Turner had transferred his right, title and interest in and to all property which Turner had sold to Lloyd Corporation on September 30, 1915 and that he wanted the Lloyd Corporation to transfer all its interests to Bull. In return, he would credit the Lloyd Corporation with $280,000 upon the loan to the Lloyd Corporation for $342,090 dated September 30, 1915,which was held by Turner and thereupon canceling said old note. Turner would receive $62,090 from the Lloyd Corporation. Of course, the directors, Frank A. Lloyd, Harold Varcoe, and Harcourt Bull, agreed but Bull abstained from voting. In essence, Bull acquired Turner’s Atlantic Beach assets for about $62,000 since he was the Lloyd Corporation.

Harcourt Bull claimed ownership of the Atlantic Beach Corporation property in 1916 and also the second mortgage held by J. C. Turner. Bull was a director of the Atlantic Beach Corporation on September 21, 1916. He was involved with the Pacific Flush Tank Company but how is unclear. Pacific Flush, an important corporation in the sanitary engineering field, had its New York headquarters in the Singer Building. Family legend says that Bull had a relationship, perhaps part ownership, with the Singer Manufacturing Company, the landlord of the building. Was he one of the lawyers for either or both companies? Why did the Pacific Flush Tank Company turn the foreclosed property over to Bull? Had Pacific Flush bought the mortgage and then sold it to Bull or, perhaps, Pacific Flush owed Bull and settled a debt by giving him the mortgage?

The issue was far from settled. On September 21, 1916, in a subsequent finding, the Atlantic Beach Corporation was declared a bankrupt but, prior to filing of trustee’s bond, the Florida East Coast Hotel Company filed suit against the Atlantic Beach Corporation, Harcourt Bull, and others trying to foreclose mortgage that Atlantic Beach Corporation had with Florida East Coast Hotel Company and had a subpoena served on Bull. A decree of pro confesso[22] was entered against Bull.

The foreclosure suit was prosecuted and completed on April 7, 1917. Subsequently, Egford Bly, as special master in chancery, executed a masters deed conveying the land to Florida East Coast Hotel Company and, May 18, 1917, confirmed sale of such property to Egford Bly. Then the Florida East Coast Hotel Company leased the property to W. H. Adams and, in November 1917, sold the property to Adams. On December 1, 1917, Adams took over the property and held it until Florida East Coast Hotel Company deeded the property to him.[23]

On September 23, 1918, the final report of the referee was filed in court. McCaffrey, following the agreement of March 13, 1917 between himself and Florida East Coast Hotel Company, made February 24, 1917, conveyed, for a valuable consideration, the above and other property to Florida East Coast Hotel Company. May 7, 1917,the FEC Hotel Company bought the Atlantic Beach Hotel property at public auction for $167,000. The FEC Railroad kept ownership of its stations and rights-of-way.

Bull was determined to acquire the Hotel because it was the most visible and lucrative asset in Atlantic Beach and important in attracting people to buy the lots her was selling. The “cottagers,” as these owners or renters of the beach houses or cottages relied upon the Hotel for many recreational needs.

George Mason, who owned the Mason Hotel in Jacksonville, visited J.C. Turner in New York to discuss the Atlantic Beach situation. Bull owed Turner money and also had claims on the Hotel. Mason got an option to buy the Atlantic Beach Hotel for $167,000 but thought he could get it for $125,000 cash if he could raise the cash. He wanted the Hotel Reservation property more than the Hotel itself built he believed that he could make the Hotel profitable. He also had an option to operate the Hotel. From the Mason Hotel, he had made $104,000 in 1916 and expected to make $120,000 in 1917. Although he planned to pay down his indebtedness, he wanted to acquire the Hotel and the Hotel Property and was willing to pay Bull as much as $75,000 to get him to yield his claims. He believed that Bull would clear $25,000 after paying the $50,000 he owed to Turner. Mason said that there was such strong feeling against Bull in Jacksonville that the creditors have told the attorneys to continue fighting Bull’s claim, even if they make no money, in order to prevent Bull from getting anything. Turner said he had heard the same sentiment. While Turner wanted to help Bull to be able to “clean up down there” and even make a profit, Turner said that Bull had been there so long and it did not seem as if Bull was ever going to pay Turner. Turner had been paying the legal expense plus interest and was now facing a suit from J. J. Logan. He thought that the Mason proposition might be only alternative.

Mason planned to get “certain railroad traffic men and leading salesmen from Atlanta, Macon, Jacksonville, etc. to take stock, and with this stock he would give some of them lots, and he would get all of them interested in selling lots out there.” He also thought he could buy the interests of the unsecured creditors for between five and ten thousand dollars.[24]

Neither Mason nor Bull got the Hotel but Bull tried to get it by suing its owner, W. H. Adams, claiming that the Florida East Coast Hotel Company had no right to sell to Adams in 1917. Adams would successfully defend his ownership claims.

He claimed that a Florida court had no jurisdiction over him because he was a New York resident and that the issues had to be resolved in the federal courts. By 1921, he had lost in the U. S. District court and in the Court of Appeals. He then considered trying to get certified to argue before the U. S. Supreme Court but finally decided that land development was his principal business. He acquired the land owned by the Atlantic Beach Corporation and other lands.

Bull created corporations to limit his personal liability from lawsuits, avoid bankruptcy, and as an organizational structure for the various partnerships he formed. He could have one of his corporations act for or against another of his corporations.

The Atlantic Beach Corporation, which did go bankrupt, and which he subsequently controlled after it was reorganized, was one of the first. In November 1923, the Atlantic Beach Holding Corporation was incorporated with 1,000 shares of stock. By 1924, he changed his Lloyd Real Estate and Securities Corporation, a Delaware corporation, into the Atlantic Beach Securities and Trust Corporation. On July 20, 1925, the Atlantic Shores Company was formed, lasting until August 11, 1936. The Atlantic Beach Holding Company was created in 1931 and still existed in 2006. In the 1930s, he used the R-C-B-S (also known as RCBS) Corporation that included Rogers, Crawford, Swartz, and Bull.

The Atlantic Beach Securities & Trust Corporation, created on August 29, 1918, is a good example of how he used the corporate business form both in his financial dealings and for familial matters. The Bulls owned over 80% of the stock with the vast majority in the hands of Florence S. Bull, who was president. At the October 1, 1923 board meeting, Florence S. Bull had 991 shares, Harcourt Bull had 3 shares, and Gerald E. TerBush, Secretary, had six. TerBush was absent but the Bulls proceeded without him. As long as his wife cooperated, he could do what he wanted with the corporation. The third shareholder existed simply to meet legal requirements.

Since the law required minutes of meetings, we can get a glimpse of the issues with which this corporation dealt. One does not get the full discussion, however, since husband and wife might have had it anywhere at any time.

At this October meeting, the main issue was the foreclosure of the Atlantic Beach Corporation mortgage in March 1922. Under an agreement Bull had made with J.C. Turner and the U.S. Trust Company on June 5, 1916, Turner would get all of the northern end of the properties of the Atlantic Beach Corporation and Bull would receive the southern end of the Atlantic Beach properties. The northern end would revert to Bull or Atlantic Beach Securities & Trust Corporation if that end was not subdivided and improved within a stated period of time. Turner died suddenly in 1923; George H. Mason went bankrupt; and the U.S. Trust Company failed, all of which brought about non-payment of taxes on southern end of property. Bull was trying to purchase the Turner interests in the property in connection with J. C. Reynolds and William H. Rogers in name of the Atlantic Beach Securities & Trust Corporation. Within few months, Bull expected a deed for the Southern end of corporation and also would now re-convey the lots not mortgaged at Atlantic Beach to the stockholders.

At an April 14, 1924 special meeting of Atlantic Beach Securities & Trust Corporation, James H. Payne, a Jacksonville lawyer who had been involved in Atlantic Beach affairs since the Continental Hotel, resigned as a stockholder and president. The by-laws were amended by-laws and then Bull was elected as a director. Bull was moving to get George Mason out of the Atlantic Beach Holding Company that had acquired the land in the northern part of Atlantic Beach once owned by Turner. The southern end had been transferred to Atlantic Beach Securities & Trust Corporation, which also acquired majority ownership of the Atlantic Beach Holding Company with borrowed funds.[25]

On January 28, 1925, at an Atlantic Beach Securities & Trust Corporation special meeting, the corporation transferred all its assets and all the assets of the Atlantic Beach Holding Company to Florence S. Bull, individually and as trustee for their sons under Trust agreement dated September 2, 1922. In return, Florence cancelled debt of $200,000 owed to her. Bull had sold all his Atlantic Beach holdings to Atlantic Beach Securities & Trust Corporation for $200,000 in February 17, 1917, but had only been paid $41,813.76. The interest from February 17, 1917 to June 30, 1922 would have amounted to over $64,000 and the interest from June 30, 1922 to January 28, 1925 would be $42,000. Only $19,362.57 had been paid. In return for waiving these debts and any salaries, Bull wanted the Corporation to convey to Florence, individually and as Trustee for their sons, all the Corporation’s unsold lots at Atlantic Beach and the lands of the Atlantic Beach Holding Company.

The Bulls used the Atlantic Beach Securities & Trust Corporation to help the family in its residences. On October 1, 1925, the Corporation decided to build a $5,000 house on a $4,000 lot for Vasa Stolbrand who was Vice President of the Corporation, Florence’s father, and Harcourt’s father-in-law and former brother-in-law. About four years later, on February 4, 1929, Atlantic Beach Securities & Trust Corporation directors meet. Harcourt and Stolbrand, a majority and quorum of the directors, decided that the Corporation would borrow $6,000 for 3 years at 8% secured by mortgage on Christopher-Bull house. This was to equip the house with an oil-burning furnace and also to buy control of the Cedar Knolls Company.

As a counsel for the Atlantic Beach Corporation, Bull involved himself in trying to make the best deal he could regarding Manhattan Beach, a stretch of oceanfront near the jetties and Mayport which was reserved for African Americans. The resort had existed for years in that deserted stretch about which whites in Duval County has ceased to care. By October 24, 1914, Manhattan Beach was clearly called ” a colored resort,” owned by the Florida East Coast Railroad. Because it was only a few miles from the Hotel, whose African American employees used it, James H. Payne, General Manager of the Atlantic Beach Corporation, wrote to J. P. Beckwith of the FEC, about the damage caused by the sea. It was washing away sand, 12-18 feet in last six weeks. He asked for help in repairing the two pavilions and the bathhouse there and to build a bulkhead. He estimated the cost at $925. The resort only produced $500 in and Payne did not intend to continue it as a colored resort. Repairs were made by March 1915, but the cost had risen to $1279.24 and wants $639.62. Payne said he hoped to lease it to a reputable party to be a “colored” resort.[26]

In his June 6,1917, letter to Lucy Bunch of Jacksonville regarding renting Manhattan Beach, Bull agreed to rent Manhattan Beach and its pavilions, bathhouses, and other buildings as a “first-class respectable Negro resort” in exchange for 1% of the gross revenues. Burch was to make at least $200 in repairs. Bull added that the Equitable Trust Company of Baltimore was foreclosing the mortgage on this property and he was serving as one of the counsels. He said he owned a lot of the bonds and, upon foreclosure, was likely to buy the property. If he owned or controlled it, he would lease it to her for 1918 as well. He stipulated that no liquor was to be allowed.

Bunch must not have continued the relationship, however, because Bull received a letter from David A. Mayfield, a heating and plumbing contractor, on February 7, 1920 in which Mayfield pointed out that the pavilions at Manhattan Beach were being destroyed and washed away by the ocean. Mayfield offered $60 for them and would haul them away. Bull responded on February 17th that he was talking to some “colored” people about moving the south pavilion back and having it repaired so it would remain a “colored resort,” but, failing that, he would sell the pavilions for more than $60, that they are with worth more than that as firewood.

As more people populated the oceanfront south of the St. Johns River, the desire to prevent African Americans from using the beaches grew. By 1932, his R-C-B-S Corporation owned Manhattan Beach, assured Joseph W. Davin of the Telfair Stockton Company, which would develop Ponte Vedra Beach as a high end community, that the Corporation would not sell to “colored people” although some owned property there which they had bought from the Mayport Terminal Company. Moreover, R-C-B-S did rent the “colored people” on short- and long-term leases, which were revocable at will. A few months later, on January 27, 1933, he received a letter from the law firm of Rogers & Towers informing him that Edward Ball had bought Manhattan Beach property and wanted the help of Bull, C. D. Towers, and J. T. G. Crawford in getting “Negroes” removed from the oceanfront “north of the southern limits of Atlantic Beach.” Ball’s sister had married Alfred I. duPont, who owned millions of dollars in Florida property. Ball administered the DuPont properties in Florida and had become very wealthy in his own right.[27]

Bull tried but failed to get ownership of the oceanfront Atlantic Beach Hotel even after the main building burned to the ground on September 20, 1919. He wanted it because it was the centerpiece of the town and provided a steady income stream. When the Atlantic Beach Corporation went bankrupt in the summer of 1916, the trustee appointed by the U.S. court conveyed the Hotel in March 1917 to the Florida East Coast Hotel Company, an act confirmed by a state court.[28]

Under these conditions, it appeared that the Hotel could be purchased cheaply since the Florida East Coast people had no desire fir it. The issue was who would buy it and at what price.

The Atlantic Beach Corporation was a financial mess and needed reorganization but it needed clear title to various mortgaged properties, including the mortgage held by the Equitable Trust Company in Baltimore, Maryland. Bull was one of the counsels for the Equitable Trust Company, the plaintiff in the foreclosure of a mortgage of the Atlantic Beach Corporation. Bull owned $220,000 of the $300,000, a large majority of the bonds and, thus, had first claim to acquiring the three to four thousand acres of unsold lots in Atlantic Beach owned by the bankrupt Atlantic Beach Corporation. He sought a 90-day loan of $6,250 from the Florida National Bank in Jacksonville to increase the amount of Atlantic Beach Corporation bonds he owned before the Equitable Trust Company of Baltimore finished foreclosing on the Corporation. He and E. J. L’Engle were the attorneys in charge for Equitable. He would secure this signature loan with $25,000 in first mortgage bounds of the Corporation. He eventually owned $297,000 of the bonds.[29]

The foreclosure and the attendant financial maneuvering were slow going, not reaching a resolution until summer, 1921. The defendants had little incentive to settle matters. When the foreclosure was complete, Bull planned to get J. O. Kaderly, of the Kaderly-Williams Company in Baltimore to help him put together a syndicate of investors to buy the property.

In all of these land and financial dealings, several aspects have to be remembered. Land surveys did not always exist nor were they accurate. Land titles sometimes were faulty. People bought lots with borrowed money and sometimes defaulted. Bull and his various associates borrowed and loaned money, using land or bonds (either at face value or a discounted value depending upon conditions) as collateral. The demand for and, this value, of the land in Atlantic Beach fluctuated with economic conditions in Jacksonville, in Florida, and in the nation.
When the Florida Land Boom went bust in the middle 1920s and was followed by the Great Depression that lasted during the 1930s, times were tough for land developers. Atlantic Beach had few permanent residents in these years. Many of the houses were summer cottages until the New Deal began pumping money into the beaches in the 1930s and built the Navy base at nearby Mayport.













Figure 13 Atlantic Beach Population, 1930-1970

Because he owned so much land, Bull was a factor in the political life of Atlantic Beach for a few years. When the Town of Atlantic Beach was incorporated on December 14, 1925, Governor John Martin appointed him mayor. Martin was an attorney and former Jacksonville mayor who fostered the Florida land boom. Martin appointed the town council: W. G. Rogers, a Jacksonville lawyer and Bull partner; George A. Pritchard of the National Lead Company who developed Mineral City into Ponte Vedra Beach; Charles Bell; Francis S. Mason; and Chalmers D. Horne. The corporate limits were the Atlantic Ocean on the east; Pablo Creek/River (the “inland-coastal waterway”) on the west; Atlantic Boulevard; and 16th Street on the north. 1925--Atlantic Beach incorporation.[30] Stolbrand was appointed town clerk.

He never held office again. In the 1926 municipal elections, the voters made it clear that they didn’t agree with Governor Martin. Robert E. Sugg, a merchant, was elected mayor with 70 of the 148 votes cast, a margin of 21 over Bull. W. H. Adams, owner of the Atlantic Beach Hotel, got 26 votes. Chalmers D. Horne, a realtor, was elected to a 2nd term. Also elected were M. W. Barwald, a salesman; George Stallings, a lumberman; Earle H. Thompson, a hotel supply dealer; and H. L. McCullough, a retiree. Sugg said he entered the race because Mayor Bull and his associates had proposed a $150,000 bond issue to pave streets, principally in the Salt Air subdivision, which Bull and associates owned. Votes for the council also showed the rejection of Martin: Horne got 129 votes; Brawled, 78; Stallings, 75; McCullough, 59; Earle H. Thompson, 74; Bradley Kenneled, 59; Bell, 53; Mason, 55; Rogers, 53’ and Pritchard, 56.[31]

Sugg saw Bull and Adams, Sr. as his real opponents. He was reelected in 1928, beating W. H. Adams, Sr. and in 1930, beating W. H. Adams, Jr. In 1932, he asserted that Bull was running George A. Pritchard for Mayor and Peter Jensen, T. E. Ludlow, and himself for councilmen. He also thought Adams, who controlled the Atlantic Beach water and electrical systems, as being in cahoots with Bull. Sugg supported George B. Stallings, Lawrence K. Tucker, James D. Palmer, E. H. Thompson, and J. M. Bradfield for councilmen. In 1934, however, he ran unopposed. He ran against George Smith, asserting that Smith represented the Adams-Bull interests and that Bull claimed title to all the Atlantic Beach streets. He said Bull claimed some rights in the water lines and in some rights-of-way. Sugg said that Adams claimed to own the water and electric lines as well as the electric light poles. Sugg said, in his campaign, that he had been trying to get the Public Works Administration, a New Deal agency, to spend $45,000 to build town waterworks, and it agreed to do so subject to the town getting title to its streets. Sugg, thus admitted, that most of Bull’s claim to owning the town streets were true but offered no solution. He was also been trying to get the City of Jacksonville to furnish Atlantic Beach with electricity.[32]

Smith won perhaps because he was an outsider who had bought a home only two years before. After being an engineering instructor at the University of Florida, he had joined a major oil company. He promised to try to make Atlantic Beach a major resort town as well as an excellent suburb of Jacksonville. He supported Earle H. Thompson, G. L. Rosborough, Brooke White, and C. C. Howell for the council. Rosborough would succeed him as mayor in 1940 and serve until 1952.

In a number of ways, the Town of Atlantic Beach was a private preserve of two families, Adams and Bull for many years. Adams owned the largest commercial establishment, the Atlantic Beach Hotel whose power plant sold electricity and whose water works sold water to residents and businesses until the Town joined the Jacksonville electrical grid in 1938 and built its own waterworks in 1947. He also employed a number of people. Bull was the largest single landowner and also the holder of mortgages through his various corporations. Many of the summer residents deferred to Bull, for they thought he would protect their interests. After all, he had sold lots to them and needed to sell more lots.

Bull’s influence in Atlantic Beach was finite. In 1933 and 1934, the town financed the construction of a concrete bulkhead via twenty-year bonds worth $150,000 in an attempt to hold back the sea, protect homes, and make the town more attractive. On April 28, 1933, Bull wrote a letter to state senator J. Turner Butler complaining about two bills, written by Harvey Mabry, for the Atlantic Beach town council in which the council wanted the legislature to pass saying that the town councilmen were trying to ignore the wishes of the property owners, or, at least, those who owned the most property by value. He demanded that Butler not accede to the demands of the town council and that there be a local referendum. They had no right to ask this because, he argued, they did not own much, if any property. Even though he conceded that the voters had constitutionally elected them, Bull believed they had no business encumbering taxpayers without a referendum. To wit, he noted that Lawrence K. Tucker was a summer resident who owned half-interest in a 50-foot frontage beach lot; J. M. Bradfield was a summer resident who co-owned with his wife a 25-foot frontage beach lot; George Stallings who owned no property and was only a summer resident; James D. Palmer who wife owned property but both were summer residents; and Earl M. Thompson, a year-round resident who owned a house and four lots. In other words, he argued that money was more important than democracy. In June 1934, the town council did hold a public meeting in which taxpayers could contest the special assessments for the Seawall bonds. A list of how much each lot owner would pay was provided. That was democratic.[33] In a 1934 affidavit about building a sea wall, Bull argued that a wooden bulkhead was better, that he had observed that, for sixteen years, the erosion the one caused by the winds and tides were always temporary. He argued that the concrete bulkheads would cause serious damage to the oceanfront. Decades later, Bull was vindicated when the bulkheads were covered with sand and natural vegetation was allowed to grow in order to protect the oceanfront.[34]

He fought and lost his effort to convince neither Congressman W. J. Sears nor Senator Duncan U. Fletcher not to support the Town of Neptune Beach’s efforts in the spring of 1936 to get its own post office. Neptune Beach was much more heavily populated than Atlantic Beach but its post office would only be separated from the Atlantic Beach post office by a few city blocks. Bull, naturally, was trying to keep power in Atlantic Beach.[35]

Nevertheless, Bull persevered in acquiring or protecting title to land in greater Atlantic Beach. It was a constant battle. Regarding Burnside Beach, property south of the jetties on the coast, Bull politely upbraided one of his partners, J. T. G. Crawford, a Director and Stockholder of the R-C-B-S Corporation, for not always protecting the corporation in 1937. Crawford had allowed the Blackstone Holding Company to buy tax certificates on lots 1,2, 7, and 8, Block 2 of Burnside Beach and Bull asserted that these should have been purchased for the R-C-B-S Corporation in 1933 per instructions to Crawford. Bull had been trying to fortify titles to lands for which titles were not perfect by buying outstanding tax certificates. At the same time that the deed from Atlantic Beach Holding Company was delivered to Peninsular, he caused Atlantic Beach Securities & Trust to convey many lots in Burnside and elsewhere from which they got a tax deed from the State of Florida to Peninsular. A mortgage was given by Peninsular to William H. Rogers as Trustee on June 1, 1925. Upon completion of foreclosure proceedings against Peninsular and against Waikiki Beach Corporation, their assets were bought by the R-C-B-S Corporation through a court masters deed.[36] He was also concerned with the October 1939, foreclosure of the Stark’s land in East Mayport; Bulls had an interest in it at one time. The U.S. Navy was beginning to acquire land to build what would become the Mayport Navy base.

World War II was unkind to the Bull family. His beloved son, Richard, a U.S. Navy pilot, was killed in the Pacific on February 5, 1942. He was very fond of Richard, his wife, and his child, Richard. Harcourt helped the widow and his grandson collect on insurance from the Sun Life Assurance Company; they had to go to court but they finally won.[37] Atlantic Beach named a park after Richard. In order to prevent tankers and other ships from being back lighted by lights at the Beaches, people had to use blackout curtains and streetlights and lighted signs went dark at dusk. While driving on September 9, 1943, he had an auto accident. He suffered a head injury and crushed chest, dying on September 13, 1943. He was almost 85 years old.[38]

His estate was very modest. As a lawyer and land developer, he had protected himself and his heirs from lawsuits. The family corporations and the family trust he had created in 1922 owned everything else, this extending his influence beyond his life.
The Bull family continued to be important in Atlantic Beach and neighboring communities. Florence served as an officer of various Bull corporations until her death on January 9, 1960, the result of a fire caused by smoking in bed. Harcourt Bull, Jr., an attorney, worked with his brother in land development; he died in 1972. George was a real estate developer who built the Selva Marina subdivision, Sevilla Gardens, and Selva Condominiums in Atlantic Beach and other real estate developments in Tallahassee, Tampa, Orlando, and Fort Walton Beach until his death in 1992. Some of the third generation, the grandchildren, left Atlantic Beach and then some came back. They made their mark in life. The Bulls remain an essential part of Atlantic Beach history.

Harcourt Bull left a legacy of controlling the growth of Atlantic Beach to maintain its middle and upper middle class residential character. As Jacksonville grew in population and wealth, the beach communities—Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach, and Palm Valley—inevitably grew as well but Atlantic Beach did not succumb to commercialism. Its southern neighbors could perform that function. Instead, Atlantic Beach homes grew larger and more expensive over time. By the 21st century, its residents split on the nature of those homes, on whether "old Atlantic Beach," as some called it, should be preserved, or whether people had the right to build any style and size house they wanted. That people would build even more expensive houses was consistent with Atlantic Beach history. That they were not debating building shopping centers in interior Atlantis Beach, that the city would remain largely residential, owed much to Bull.

Thanks are due Chelly Bull Schembera and George Bull, Jr. for giving me access to Harcourt Bull, Sr.'s business files, for answering my many questions, and for friendship. The Florida Collection of the Jacksonville Public Library and its director, Raymond Neal, the Beaches Area Historical Society, and the University of North Florida supplemented the research. Friends at the Beaches gave me a friendly welcome when I made research trips. Harley Henry deserves special thanks. Edwin Ellis provided valuable help. My wife, Paula, is a constant inspiration. The words are mine, of course. May they be accurate.

[1] Conflict over religion has always existed and the majority sect of a religion tends not to tolerate a minority sect if it can help it. Religious wars have been a hallmark of Christianity.

[2] See about Ned Bull and his relatives. See Harcourt J. Bull’s naturalization certificate.

[3] New York Times, November 26, 1896. "McGill Graduate Society," New York Times, January 29, 1904; "A Benevolent Invitation," New York Times, October 20, 1988; "Union College Alumni Dine," New York Times, December 13, 1895.

[4] From Webb's Consolidated Directory of the North and South Shores Staten Island ,1886.

[5] “Traction Franchises’ Heavy Assessments,” New York Times, March 28, 1900; Brooklyn Eagle, December 28,1902. New York Times, April 29, 1885. “Urge Street Car Reform,” New York Times, September 7, 1903; New York Times, February 3, 1904; New York Times, February 12, 1904. For SIRT, see "Staten Island Rapid Transit, 1860-1965," The Third Rail (January 2002),

[6] Vasa E. Stolbrand was buried in Arlington National Cemetery as a Lieutenant; the title Colonel must have originated from his service as commandant of boys’ military schools in New York state or was a brevet rank given during his years in the US Army fighting American Indians in the Southwest. Moreover, the New York Times of March 14, 1885 reported in “Army and Navy News" that Second Lt. Vasa E. Stolbrand, 13th Infantry, now under charges for duplicating his pay accounts, has resigned effective March 10, 1886.

[7] New York Times, February 20, 1900.

[8] In June 1917, he wrote to Henry A. Adcock regarding painting his houses at #152 Ross Avenue and at 200 Third Street. The Ross Avenue house was rental property. Then on August 17, 1917, he responded to his tenant at 200 Third Street that he didn’t think his complaints were justified but would look into them. Letter of Harcourt Bull to American Newspaper Publishing Association, August 25, 1917. Elizabeth Worthington Phillip Stark, Story of Mayport: Site of the Great Modern Naval Station . Privately printed. [1961?], 26.

[9] Calvert School letter to Mrs. Harcourt Bull, April 22, 1924; Correspondence with Chelly Bull Schembera, 2006.

[10] Letter of Harcourt Bull, Sr. to Nance, October 28, 1931.

[11] Edward N. Akin, “The Sly Foxes: Henry Flagler, George Miles, and Florida’s Public Domain,“ The Florida Historical Quarterly 58:1 (July, 1979), 23-37. The state at first had promised Flagler the standard 3,840 acres of public land for each mile of road built. His four original lines (St. Johns Railway; Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Halifax River Railway; St. Augustine and Palatka Railway; and St. Johns and Halifax Railway) obtained over half of the public lands, which the state had originally promised. By 1892 the state had deeded Flagler's railroad companies one quarter of a million acres, all in the northern part of Florida. 7 With this admirable beginning, the future of Flagler's railroads in the area of land acquisition seemed favorable indeed.” 7. Lands granted by state to railroads incorporated in FEC Railway Company, MS Box 14, Flagler Papers, Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, Palm Beach, Florida p. 25.

[12] Edward N. Aiken, Flagler, Rockefeller Partner and Florida Baron, 177, 218-19 as quoted Sidney Johnston, The Historic Architectural Resources of the Beaches Area: A Study of Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville Beach, and Neptune Beach, Florida. Jacksonville, FL: Environmental Services, Inc., July 2003), p. 10. ESI Report of Investigations No. 382. Prepared for the Beaches Area Historical Society. Page 48 said that: “Flagler’s Mayport Terminal Company opened a large oceanfront subdivision for residential development.” E. Ben Carter was directed by FEC officers to plat a subdivision at Atlantic Beach. In May 1901, Goold T. Butler, an FEC employee, became postmaster of brand new Atlantic Beach post office. Cummer, Roe, J. L. Logan built seaside cottages and bungalows.

[13] The FEC Hotel Company loaned the investors $150,000 at 6% a year interest, paid semi-annually, and due in three years (1918). The purchase included the Hotel buildings and its grounds plus thousands of acres. The agreement was signed and sealed on March 14th in the presence of C. D. Bone, J. B. Vanderbilt, and Ernest R. Brackett in New York City. Brackett and Turner had been working on the deal for some months. In February, Turner paid $50,000 with four notes maturing May, 1913, a first installment on the purchase from Brackett of one-half interest in all lands owned, under contract, lease and option, at and near Atlantic Beach and not included in “Sub-Division A.” The balance of $100,000 was to be paid by two promissory notes of $50,000 each, one due 12 months after issue, the other 24 months after and both bearing interest at 6% per annum.

Brackett had 500 shares of preferred stock and 497 shares of common stock of the Atlantic Beach Corporation. When Turner paid him $40,000, Brackett would issue to Turner 250 shares of preferred stock and 248 shares of common stock of the Atlantic Beach Corporation.

Upon Brackett receiving payments of $45,000, Brackett would turn over all of the titles to the lands now under contract between Mayport Terminal Company, the Florida East Coast Hotel Company, and Brackett. The title would be first invested in Brackett and then Brackett would transfer all this to the Atlantic Beach Corporation as fast as possible. Brackett would acquire the Continental Hotel. He had already given two promissory notes for $90,000 each ($180,000 in total) for the balance of agreed purchase price of the Hotel. Brackett would then convey the Hotel to the Atlantic Beach Corporation as well as the approximate 4500 acres of “Greater Atlantic Beach.” In return, Brackett would get $450,000 in preferred stock and $450,000 in capital stock of the Atlantic Beach Corporation as soon as its capital stock increased sufficiently. Then he would give Turner 225,000 of preferred and $225,000 of common stock of the Atlantic Beach Corporation.

[14] J. C. Turner Lumber Company, manufacturers and wholesalers of lumber and shingles, had a facility in Eastport, Florida, a few miles from downtown Jacksonville. Its New York offices were at 50 E. 42nd St, corner of Madison Avenue; it yard, dock and planing Mill were at Irvington-on-Hudson, NY. See Steamtown Engine Roster, September 1967." Bulletin of the National Railway Historical Society, Vol. 33, No. 1 (1968): 8.

[15] June 9, 1913 Letter to E. R. Brackett explaining the cost of telephone service and saying it is too expensive. There are several letters in the Bull family papers.

[16] Full-page advertisement with photos, which said a new city, was being built at Atlantic Beach. Bull family papers.

[17] Atlantic Beach Cottagers, 1913-1914





R. L. Dingman


R. L. Chamberlain

September, 1913

Peter S. Clarson

October, 1913

Elmer Van Gelder


Altmeyer & Butts

J. V. Alspaugh


J. A. Saeger

June, 1913

Dorothy P. Harris [Warren S]

June, 1913


D. V. Carter

C. L. Dingman

September, 1913

Fred A. Roberts

September, 1913


April, 1914

Edith Gray [George A]

April, 1914


A. J. Nadreau

May, 1914

B. Murphy

June, 1914


Mrs. Alice Hulme

April, 1914

Ocean Boulevard

Walter L. Johnson

June, 1913

Charles. L. Dohme

May, 1914

George C. Cobourn

April, 1914

M. V. Osborne

August, 1914

George N. Babson

June 1,1913


September, 1913

H. S. Wright

April, 1914

Beach Front

Gus Mueller

W. J. Kelly

May, 1913

G. W. Powell

Frank P. Fleming

May, 1913

James H. Payne

June, 1913

Stockton Broome

June, 1913

Captain Garner[s]


J. J. Logan


J. A. Crosby

A. G. Cummer


M. D. Johnson


Harry B. Hoyt


Miller H. Dancy


Samuel Armstrong


R. H. Paul

M. E. Brackett


H A. S. Persch


[18] Bull or someone corrected this to 153 acres and the total value to $357,172.

[19] Florida Times Union, January 19,1963, “Fifty Ago Today Years.” In 1912, this property was wilderness with 25-30 foot dunes. December 17. 1913 letter from Robert Selden Huse of Shattuck, Glenn, Huse, & Ganter law firm of 26 Exchange Place, NY to John A. Saeger, Esq., assistant treasurer of Atlantic Beach Corporation about payment and distribution thereof.

[20] Letter of Bull to Payne, July 2, 1914. Huse was secretary of the Atlantic Beach Corporation.

[21] E. M. Stanford testimony on March 16, 1919, suit of Florida East Coast Hotel Company v. Atlantic Beach Corporation, Harcourt Bull, and Others. In Chancery, Circuit Court, Duval County, Florida, Exhibit “A” Mortgage of Atlantic Beach Corporation to Florida East Coast Hotel Company, March 15, 1915.Atlantic Beach Corporation owes Florida East Coast Hotel Company $150K. Promises to pay within 3 years plus 6% interest, paid semiannually. Signed by J. C. Turner, President, and R. S. Huse, Secretary-Treasurer. Done in NY, Kings County. Recorded in Duval County Public records on June 21, 1915.

[22] Pro Confesso. “For confessed. When the defendant has been served personally with a subpoena, or when not being so served has appeared, and afterwards neglects to answer the matter contained in the bill, it shall be taken pro confesso, as if the matter were confessed by the defendant. It also be taken pro confesso if the manner is sufficient.”

[23] The property was not all of Atlantic Beach but only what was known the Hotel Reservation. The legal description was as follows

All that certain parcel or tract of land, with the buildings thereon, lying east of the Railway right-of-way in Government lots four and five of Section 16, Township 2 south, Range 29 East described as follows: beginning at a point on the line between Government lots five and four of said Section sixteen, nine hundred and fourteen feet east of the northwest corner of said Lot five, said point being seventy-five feet easterly from said center line of said Railway; thence north five degrees, thirty-seven minutes west parallel to and seventy-five distant from said center line six hundred feet to a stake; thence north eighty-four degrees, twenty-three minutes east eight hundred and forty feet, more or less, to the low water mark of the Atlantic Ocean; thence southerly along low water mark twelve hundred and two feet to a stake; thence south eighty-four degrees, twenty-three minutes west, eight hundred feet, more or less, to a point seventy-five feet easterly from said center line; then north five degrees, thirty-seven minutes west parallel to and seventy-five feet distant from said center line six hundred feet to the point of beginning, containing twenty-two and sixty-three hundredths acres; and being the property shown on Mayport Terminal Company’s recorded map of Atlantic Beach, Florida, as the “Hotel Reservation” lying east of the right-of-way and property of the Florida East Coast Railway Company, also shown on said map.

[24] J. C. Turner to Harcourt Bull Letter of August 6, 1917.

[25] He borrowed $30,000 from T. T. Reese of West Palm Beach. Perhaps this was the problem he mentions years later. Letter of Bull to J. T. G. Crawford of August 11, 1937. Bull says that he, acting through Rogers, made a deal with Peninsular Securities Corporation in settlement of complicated litigation between Reese and Bull, and caused to be turned over to Peninsular a large block of Atlantic Beach land principally north of 16th Street. Atlantic Beach Holding Company deeded to Peninsular all the land it supposed it owned north of 16th using the same description that it got from Mayport Terminal Company and others. This included Burnside Beach and also Section 29, which had not been surveyed.

[26] In a letter of October 24, 1914, Manhattan Beach was called ” a colored resort”. Letter to J. P. Beckwith of FEC, from James H. Payne, General Manager of Atlantic Beach Corporation. October 26, 1914 Beckwith replies from home office in St. Augustine that FEC will look into it and help. In a March 30, 1915 letter of Payne to Beckwith, Payne said that the repairs cost more than anticipated, 41279.24 and wanted Beckwith to pay $639.62.

[27] Harcourt Bull to Joseph W. Davin letter, November 24, 1932; Rogers & Towers letter to Harcourt Bull, January 27, 1933.

[28] Although the Hotel burned down, there were a number of outbuildings left. Adams and his wife Juliette opened the Atlantic Beach Inn and Donac Shell Tea Room in what was the bowling alley. They added a second story in order to accommodate more guests.

[29] June 6, 1917 Letter from Harcourt Bull to Lucy Bunch regarding Manhattan Beach. July 23, 1917 Letter of Harcourt Bull to J. O. Kaderly of Kaderly-Williams Company, Baltimore, responding to Kaderly’s inquiry of July 18, 1917. Letter of Harcourt Bull to Arthur F. Perry, President, Florida National Bank, 1917. Bull was an attorney for Equitable Trust Company while it was foreclosing on the Atlantic Beach Corporation! E. J. L’Engle thought this was ethical since there was no conflict of interest because Bull was not contesting the foreclosure. L’Engle wanted two-thirds of the legal fees because he would conduct two-thirds of the case.

[30] In May and June 1925, Chalmers D. Horne and G. W. Judy opened the Saltair subdivision along Seminole Road and Sherry Drive north to Plaza Drive and south to Atlantic Boulevard. Horne also developed Mandalay, a subdivision whose northern boundary was 16th Street, in the 1920’s. Jacksonville Beach News, December 14, 1925.

[31] Jacksonville Beach News, August 9, 1926; Jacksonville Beach News, August 19, 1926.

[32] At the June 8, 1925 meeting of the Atlantic Beach Securities & Trust Corporation, Harcourt Bull was not sure of the ownership of the s of Atlantic Beach. He wondered if the Atlantic Beach Corporation might still own some of the streets, water mains, sewers, electric lines, and poles. The Special Master in the Pacific Flush Tank suit had made the deed to the Atlantic Beach Corporation property to him by in 1916 and that might have mean that he personally became vested with some of these rights. If so, he was conveying them to his wife Florence.

[33] Letter, Harcourt Bull to J. Turner Butler, April 28, 1933. May 26, 1934 Legal Notice, Town of Atlantic Beach, “To All Property Owners Interested In Special Assessments In Re: Seawall Bonds.”

[34] Adele Grage, Atlantic Beach History. Affidavit, "In the matter of the proposed sea wall at the Town of Atlantic Beach, Duval County, Florida.”

[35] Letter, Harcourt Bull to W. J. Sears, April 6, 1936. Letter, Harcourt Bull to Duncan U. Fletcher, 1936.

[36] The R-C-B-S Corporation included Rogers, Crawford, Schwartz, and Bull. Letter of Harcourt Bull to J. T. G. Crawford, August 11, 1937. Waikiki was a Florida corporation founded in December 1927 and dissolved in December 1936; its directors were Paul G. Baxter, Frank J. Dowd, and J. T. G. Crawford.

[37] His grandson Richard Bull changed his surname to Hubbard when his mother remarried.

[38] The Jacksonville Journal obituary of September 14, 1943 said he died of a brief illness but I accept the report of his physician, Dr. Earl Roberts. Bull had been in St Paul’s-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, Lions Club, and the Beaches Chamber of Commerce. The newspaper identified him as a lawyer who became a real estate developer, having come to Atlantic Beach in 1913. W. H. Adams, Sr. died on October 1, 1943.