‘Hip’ old-Gainesville neighborhood has a lot to offer.
Jack Kerouac and Wilhelmina Johnson are an item in Grove Street.
And if you think America’s iconic Beat Generation writer and Gainesville’s pioneering African American educator are an odd couple, then you don’t know Grove Street.
The two disparate spirits share a flower-bedecked wall, a mural by the artist known as Gaia. It is one of several murals clustered in and around 10th Street on the south edge of the neighborhood.
And it is a difficult work to eyeball. To search it out you have to turn into Grove Street Square — sandwiched between Afternoon and Wildflowers — and then walk behind Working Food. Jack and Wilhelmina live on the back wall of an old warehouse that can barely be seen from the street.
But that’s the thing about Grove Street. It is riven with hidden treasures and secret pleasures that are not always obvious at first blink.
Kerouac’s seminal work “On The Road” has been read aloud in the Dreamers Garden across the street. Johnson appears because Grove Street is old, old Gainesville, and its residents do not wish to lose sight of their heritage.
How old? Well, Gainesville’s oldest still-standing home, the Bailey House, is right around the corner on Sixth Street. Built in 1854, it was owned by Maj. James Bailey, who helped persuade residents to move the county seat from Newnansville, a town that no longer exists, to Gainesville, then barely a town at all.