Mansions in Time on the First Coast
Along Bay Street in Jacksonville is an iconic sign with a single drop falling from a coffee cup. The sign reads “Maxwell House” and the story is part of an American legend.
In the late 1800’s, Joel O. Cheek, a coffee salesman in Tennessee, began experimenting with his own blends of coffee. With his business partner J. Will Neal, they persuaded the Maxwell House (Hotel) to serve their coffee to the hotel guests. The Maxwell House coffee became so popular with the clientele; they used the hotel’s name as the trademark for the Cheek-Neal Coffee Company.
The company expanded opening a plant in Jacksonville in 1910. When they outgrew this original facility along the river, they built the 1924 larger plant across the street. This is the building you see today on Bay Street which is easily identified by the “Maxwell House” sign.
Leon Cheek, the oldest son of the co-founder, was the Vice President put in charge of the Jacksonville factory. He had his house built in the picturesque Riverside area. Architect Roy Benjamin designed a Jacobethan Revival style residence that was completed in 1929. Features including a 3 ½ story tower, parapets, leaded glass windows, and masonry trim work must have made the owner feel like he was living in an English castle.
As the story goes, it was President Teddy Roosevelt who was drinking the Maxwell House blend and said, “Good to the last drop”. The legend lives on along with the family mansion and iconic sign in Downtown Jacksonville.
Sass is a freelance writer and President of
AdLib Luxury Tours & Transportation, Inc.
The company gives personalized tours and neighborhood
tours in North Florida.
Photo caption: Leon Cheek Mansion in Jacksonville