MOULTON & KYLE FUNERAL HOME
The remains (pun intended) of the funeral home that embalmed Jacksonville's dead for nearly a century
Moulton & Kyle Funeral Home | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb
"If the floor gives out, display this picture at my funeral," I told Flowerbomb as I stepped lightly over the decaying floor. I'm pretty sure the wooden floor beneath me was completely rotted out at some parts and my weight was only being supported by the carpet that was stretched over it. My last footstep sagged a bit too deeply for my comfort but I quickly stepped into the open coffin in front of me and settled myself into it.
"Print out a banner and hang it next to the picture. Make it say 'SHE DIED AS SHE LIVED; IN A COFFIN.'"
Achievement Unlocked: Climbed Into A Coffin | Photo © 2018 Flowerbomb
Similarly, in 1851, Calvin Oak was also considering the arrangements for his funeral - though probably with less morbid amusement and selfies. Oak was given only six months to live after being diagnosed with tuberculosis. Instead of resigning himself to his fate, he packed up and moved his family from Vermont to Jacksonville in hopes that the warmer climate and sunny weather would improve his prognosis.
Moulton & Kyle Funeral Home | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb
Modern science will tell you that the best treatment for tuberculosis is antibiotics and while I don't disagree, there's clearly something to be said for the fresh air and sunlight theory that prevailed throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries as Calvin Oak went on to live another 30 years. He quickly became one of Jacksonville's most prominent business men and opened Jacksonville's first factory; a gun plant that manufactured guns, barrels, and cartridges. Along with his factory, Oak also purchased and operated a jewelry store on Bay Street. In 1856, he and his son Byron opened and marble and mortuary business which would eventually grow into the Moulton & Kyle Funeral Home.
In 1914, Mark & Shetfall, a local architectural firm was commissioned to build a new, modern facility for the funeral home. The two-story Prairie School style building was located in the heart of downtown Jacksonville on Union Street. The bottom story featured a chapel, office, and the embalming and prep room. Upstairs included a display room for caskets, several family rooms, and a storage area for the extra caskets. A large, wooden elevator was used to lower the caskets from the second story down to the first floor, where the services would be held.
Though aesthetically pleasing, the newly constructed facility hadn't included plans for parking so 12 years later an attached garage was built. This garage featured a turntable so that cars could drive into the building and then turn around and exit back toward the street.
The funeral home went on to be known as the Kyle McLellan Funeral Home after S. M. McLellan purchased the business. In the early 1990's, the funeral home changed hands once again and became known as the Peeples Family Funeral Home.
After nearly a century of operation, the Peeples family business relocated to a larger, more modern facility near River City Marketplace in 2013, leaving behind the old Union Street building and it seems much of what was in it as well. Somehow, the power remains on in the funeral home, even though the ceiling of the second story has collapsed.
Chemicals were left behind in the embalming room, along with the embalming table itself. This embalming table was where Flowerbomb chose to set her (already questionable) gas station pastry down as she entered the room - before promptly picking it back up and continuing to eat it. A week later, when she was miserable from a stomach bacteria that she couldn't fathom how she acquired, I sent her a picture of that embalming table as a friendly reminder - to which she replied, "Everything is a souvenir!" Even stomach bacteria.
I was excited to find an abandoned casket in the abandoned funeral home and I didn't have long to wait because there was an ornate wooden casket sticking half out into the room from the now-broken elevator where someone had apparently tried lowering it to the first floor to presumably take it. I can't really blame them though, if given the opportunity I would probably do the same thing. Catch me riding down I-95 with a casket strapped to the kayak racks on top of my car.
The Embalming Room | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb
There are reports of the people in Jacksonville being afraid to walk past the building at night because of "strange occurrences." This is likely just their imaginations playing tricks on them though - most ghosts would rather hang out in your house than an abandoned funeral home. The only strange occurrences around that area are the homeless we encountered on our visits to Jacksonville; the lady wrapped in rags with a Tuberculosis cough, the gentleman having an intense conversation with the geese in Confederate Park, and the man who followed us for two city blocks screaming "GOD BLESS YOU" very aggressively.
Downtown Jacksonville is always bound to leave you with a story - whether it be about the interesting homeless people that you met, the casket you took a selfie in, or the stomach bacteria you picked up from an embalming table. Everything is a souvenir.