top of page


The remains (pun intended) of the funeral home that embalmed Jacksonville's dead for nearly a century.

Moulton & Kyle Funeral Home

One of the many coffins left behind at the Moulton & Kyle Funeral Home | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb

"If the floor gives out, make sure this is the picture shown 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 in 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, grinning.

"Print out a banner and hang it next to the picture. Make it say, 'SHE DIED AS SHE LIVED; IN A COFFIN.'"

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. Rather than 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.

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 businessmen and opened Jacksonville's first factory; a gun plant that manufactured guns, barrels, and cartridges. An ad by C. Oak & Son declared they were “prepared to manufacture at short notice any kind of rifle or other gun in a style unsurpassed by other manufacturers.”


Along with his factory, Oak also purchased and operated a jewelry store on Bay Street. In 1856, he and his son Byron opened a marble and mortuary business, advertising “metallic burial cases and wood coffins” as well as “ladies’ and gentlemen’s roses,” with “embalming done when required.”

Moulton & Kyle Funeral Home

Words cannot express how enamored I was with this pink couch | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb

It was said that Calvin Oak would stand at the docks when steamboats from Charleston came in via the St. Johns River and gauge the height of the passengers as they left the steamboat using a tall rod. He would estimate the size of the coffin for any of the passengers he thought would not survive the winter, then return to his shop and get them ready so there would be no delay when the time came.

Moulton & Kyle Funeral Home

The former display room at the Moulton & Kyle Funeral Home | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb

Sometime before Calvin Oak's death in 1881, brothers Charles and George Clark joined Oak and his son in the undertaking business. Byron Oak continued his father's business until his own death in 1889, after which the Clark brothers took over the business. The brothers had studied embalming in New York and would use makeup and wax to prepare a corpse for an open casket viewing, a novel concept at that time.

In 1891 Charles and George Clark had parted ways. Later that decade, George partnered with Thomas M. Burns and together they founded Clark and Burns, Undertakers, becoming Charles’s main competitor. Harry S. Moulton and Samuel A. Kyle learned undertaking from George Clark and Thomas Burns, just as the Clark brothers had learned it from Calvin and Byron Oak. In 1909 Moulton & Kyle was established.

In 1914, Mark & Shetfall, a local architectural firm was commissioned to build a new, modern facility for Moulton and Kyle. 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, wood-frame 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.

Samuel Allen Kyle of Moulton and Kyle Funeral Home ordered one of the first two Dodge hearses in Florida, according to the Begg's Museum in Madison, Florida. The first one was delivered by train to T. J. Beggs, Sr in Madison, Florida distinguishing him as the “first” to own a motorized hearse in Florida. S. A. Kyle’s motorized hearse was delivered to Jacksonville second, being the first in Jacksonville but the second in Florida.

Moulton & Kyle Funeral Home

The first floor...oh how I love that chandelier | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb

In 1913, Moulton and Kyle became caught up in a gruesome scandal that elicited headlines such as “Gruesome Story in Dixie in Dissection of Remains.” In late May of that year, undertakers Harry Moulton and Samuel Kyle had fished Edward O. Painter out of the St. Johns River. A friend who was with Painter at the time said that he had lost his balance in “a fit of coughing” that flung him overboard. Though he was purported to be “a good swimmer” friends saw him “struggling in the water” before he sank. Painter, a printer and fertilizer manufacturer who’d taken over the Jacksonville newspaper Florida Agriculturist in 1886 at the age of twenty-six, had almost $2 million in life insurance – equivalent to nearly $52 million today.

Insurance agents were desperate to find evidence that Painter had either “suicided” or been murdered in order to find a way out of paying out the policy. A headline in the Tampa Tribune on June 1, 1913 read “Insurance Companies Take Painter’s Body.”

“Cold in death in the undertaking establishment, and before the inquest was held, doctors representing insurance companies invaded the death chamber with knives, saws and surgical instruments, and literally cut the body of E.O. Painter to pieces,” reported the Tribune. “The skull of E.O. Painter was sawed off and his brain removed," the story continued, "his stomach was cut open and his intestinal organs removed – his chest was cut open and his heart removed.” Though the coroner expressed “great indignation”, he told the press that it was doubtful surgeons acting as agents of an insurance company could be arrested or prosecuted for stealing and mutilating a corpse.

Ownership of the funeral home would shift several times throughout the mid-twentieth century. Harry Moulton died in 1936 and the mortuary was briefly Kyle-Swanson until Swanson died in 1938. For the next two decades it was S.A. Kyle, Inc. until Samuel McLellan joined Samuel Kyle in 1961. The funeral home took on the name Kyle-McLellan and remained as such, even following Kyle's death in the latter part of 1969.

Moulton & Kyle Funeral Home

The second floor with the elevator that was used to lower caskets | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb

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 (at least as of early 2018) even though the ceiling of the second story has collapsed. Robert J. Peeples Jr. still owned the building until its ultimate demise in 2021. He is director of Peeples Funeral Services Inc and bought the Moulton and Kyle property in 1992, property records show.

Chemicals were left behind in the embalming room, along with the stainless-steel 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’d 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.

Moulton & Kyle Funeral Home

The embalming room in the back of the building on the first floor | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb

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 halfway 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.

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 old embalming table. Everything is a souvenir.

On January 9, 2021, the abandoned Moulton and Kyle Funeral Home caught fire, sending large plumes of smoke and flames into the air in downtown Jacksonville. Jacksonville Fire Rescue stated the first reports came at around 5:30 p.m. The fire burned through and gutted the building, rising to a three-alarm blaze and threatening a nearby 7 Eleven gas station and another building on either side, as well as a propane tank near the gas station. More than 100 firefighters worked through the night to get the fire in the historic building under control and putting out hotspots in the building, and HAZMAT worked to keep the tank cool as flames burned.

Moulton & Kyle Funeral Home

The chapel...with the electric still on somehow even after years of the building being abandoned | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb

The structural integrity of the funeral home and the danger to nearby buildings were a concern for firefighters and parts of State and Union Streets were closed. The cause of the fire was not immediately known, and the state Fire Marshal is investigating. The charred remains of the century-old building were deemed unsafe, and the area was shut down for several days before an emergency demolition permit was approved. On January 13, 2021, the old Moulton and Kyle Funeral Home was demolished.

The building was one of only five of its architectural style left in downtown Jacksonville. It was listed on the historical society’s list of endangered buildings for about five years. “It goes back to some of the very early days of Jacksonville as well as the wonderful period when Jacksonville was in its heyday architecturally.” said Dr. Wayne Wood, the historian at large for the Jacksonville Historical Society. Dr. Woods said Jacksonville’s architecture stems from the Midwest and is rarely seen in the south. “It’s a tragedy because there are so few great historic landmarks left in Downtown Jacksonville after the Great Fire (of 1901).” Unfortunately, now there is one less.

Moulton & Kyle Funeral Home

Several of the caskets left behind when the funeral home was abandoned | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb

bottom of page