History of Jacksonville Florida is the past
occurrences in Jacksonville, Florida that shaped
the way the city is today.
The city began to grow in the
late 18th century as Cowford
, but it truly
flourished in the time after American
, becoming a winter vacation spot. Its development was
halted at times by such tribulations as the Great Fire of 1901
, the Florida Land Bust
of the 1920s, and the economic woes of the 1960s and 70s, but the
city has experienced steady growth in recent years.
Jacksonville has always been a home of the navy
, serving the needs of several countries over the
years. The city today is a thriving metropolis with over a million
citizens, and due to its consolidated city-county
structure, it has the largest municipal population among Florida
cities, as well as the largest land area of any city in the
Jacksonville's Main Street, circa
Archaeological evidence indicates 6,000 years of human habitation
in the area. The Timucua
Indians were the
predominate local tribe when European explorers arrived. The
largest Timucua town in the region was Ossachite, which stood
approximately where the courthouse stands today; its name is the
earliest recorded name for the area.
Colonial and territorial history
Spanish explorers landed in Florida and claimed their
discovery for Spain (see Spanish
Fort Caroline shown in an old
The first Europeans to visit the area were
Spanish missionaries and explorers from this period. Then in February 1562,
French naval officer Jean
Ribault and a 150 settlers were sent out to find land for a
safe haven for the French Huguenots.
explored the mouth of the St. Johns
River before moving north and establishing the colony of
Charlesfort on Parris Island, South
Ribault sailed back to France for supplies, but tensions from
French Wars of Religion
broken out during his absence, delaying his return. Without leadership or
provisions, the colonists abandoned Charlesfort and followed
René Goulaine de
Laudonnière south to the St. Johns River, where they
Caroline atop the St.
Johns Bluff on June 22, 1564.
The settlement trudged on for
another year, when Ribault was dispatched to take command.
meantime, the Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
had established the colony of St. Augustine just 35 miles to the south.
this, Ribault launched a naval expedition of 200 sailors and 400
soldiers to dislodge the Spanish, but a storm at sea incapacitated
them for several days. On September 20, 1565, Menéndez marched his
men overland to Fort Caroline, now defended by only 200 or 250
people, and killed everyone except for about 50 women and children
and 26 others who had managed to escape. With victory in hand, the
Spanish set about picking up the survivors of Ribault's fleet, and
summarily executed all but 20.
The Spanish continued to occupy Fort Caroline, which was the scene
of one more battle between the French and Spanish in 1568, when
Dominique de Gourgues
it to the ground. The Spanish rebuilt the fort, but abandoned it in
1569. Afterwards, the Spanish build Fort San Nicolas further up the
river to protect the rear flank of St. Augustine. "San Nicolas"
served as their name for the Jacksonville area, a placename which
survives in the neighborhood of St. Nicholas. The fort was located
on the east side of the St. Johns where Bishop Kenny
High School now stands, and was abandoned in the late 17th
ceded Florida to the British in 1763, who
then gave control back to Spain in 1783.
The first permanent
settlement in modern Jacksonville was founded as "Cowford" in 1791,
at a narrow point in the St. Johns River where cattlemen could
their livestock across; this was
some 3000 feet west of the location of Fort San Nicolas.
Florida Territory was sold to the
States in 1821, and by 1822, Jacksonville's current name
had come into use.
It first appears on a petition sent on
June 15, 1822 to U.S. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams
, asking that
Jacksonville be named a port of entry
The city is named for Andrew Jackson
the Florida Territory and eventual President
of the United
States. U.S. settlers led by Isaiah
authored a charter for a
town government, which was approved by the Florida Legislative
Council on February 9, 1832. Hart is remembered as the city's most
important founding father, and is memorialized with the Isaiah D. Hart Bridge
over the St. Johns.
During the American Civil War
Jacksonville was a key supply point for hogs and cattle leaving
Florida and aiding the Confederate
most of the war, the US Navy
blockade around Florida's ports, including Jacksonville. In October
captured a Confederate battery at St. Johns Bluff and occupied
Jacksonville. Throughout the war Jacksonville would change hands
several times, though never with a battle. On February 20, 1864,
Union soldiers from Jacksonville marched inland and confronted the
Confederate Army at the Battle of
which resulted in a Confederate victory. By the end of
the war in 1865, a Union commander commented that Jacksonville had
become "pathetically dilapidated, a mere skeleton of its former
self, a victim of war."
Post Civil War
Winter resort era
the Civil War, during Reconstruction and
afterward, Jacksonville and nearby St.
Augustine became popular winter resorts for the rich and
famous of the Gilded Age.
arrived by steamboat and (beginning in the 1880s) by railroad, and
wintered at dozens of hotels and boarding houses. The area declined
in importance as a resort destination when Henry Flagler
extended the Florida East Coast
Railroad to the south, arriving in Palm Beach in 1894 and in the
Miami area in 1896. Not even hosting the Subtropical Exposition
Florida-style world's fair attended by President Grover Cleveland
in 1888, served to provide
a lasting boost for tourism in Jacksonville.
Yellow fever epidemics
Jacksonville's prominence as a winter resort was dealt another blow
by major yellow fever
outbreaks in 1886
and 1888, during the latter of which nearly ten percent of the more
than 4,000 victims, including the city's mayor, died. In the
absence of scientific knowledge concerning the cause of yellow
fever, nearly half of the city's panicked residents fled despite
the imposition of quarantines and the ineffectual fumigation of
inbound and outbound mail. Not surprisingly, Jacksonville's
reputation as a healthful tourist destination suffered.
the Spanish-American War,
gunrunners helping the Cuban rebels used
Jacksonville as the center for smuggling illegal arms and supplies
to the island. Duval County sheriff and future state governor, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, was
one of the many gunrunners operating out of the city.
Jacksonville to cover the war.
Great Fire of 1901
On May 3, 1901, downtown Jacksonville was ravaged by the Great Fire
-- the largest-ever urban fire in the Southeast, which started when
hot ash from a shantyhouse's chimney landed on the drying moss at
Cleaveland's Fiber Factory. At half past noon most of the
Cleaveland workers were at lunch, but by the time they returned the
entire city block was engulfed in flames. The fire destroyed the
business district and rendered 10,000 residents homeless in the
course of eight hours. Florida Governor William S. Jennings
declared a state of martial law
in Jacksonville and dispatched
several state militia
units to help.
Reconstruction started immediately, and the city was returned to
civil authority on May 17
. Despite the
widespread damage, only seven deaths were reported.
Young architect Henry John Klutho
had just returned to New York from a year in Europe when he read
about the Jacksonville fire and, seeing a rare opportunity, he
headed south. Klutho and other architects, enamored by the
"Prairie Style" of architecture then
being popularized by architect Frank
Lloyd Wright in Chicago and other Midwestern cities, designed exuberant
local buildings with a Florida flair.
While many of Klutho's
buildings were demolished by the 1980s, a number of his creations
remain, including the St. James Building from 1911 (a former
department store that is now Jacksonville's City Hall) and the
Morocco Temple from 1910. The Klutho Apartments, in Springfield, were recently restored and converted into office
space by local charity Fresh
Despite the losses of the last several
decades, Jacksonville still has one of the largest collections of
Prairie Style buildings (particularly residences) outside the
Motion picture industry
early 20th century, before Hollywood, the motion picture industry was based in New York City.
Motion picture scene at Gaumont
Studios, circa 1910s.
In need of a winter headquarters,
moviemakers were attracted to Jacksonville due to its warm climate,
exotic locations, excellent rail access, and cheaper labor, earning
the city the title of "The Winter Film Capital of the World". New
York-based Kalem Studios
was the first
to open a permanent studio in Jacksonville in 1908. Over the course
of the next decade, more than 30 silent film companies established
studios in town, including Metro
), Edison Studios
, Majestic Films, King Bee Film
Company, Vim Comedy Company, Norman Studios, Gaumont Studios
and Lubin Studios
. Comedic actor and Georgia
native Oliver "Babe" Hardy
began his motion picture career here in 1914. He
starred in over 36 short silent films his first year acting. With
the closing of Lubin studios in early 1915, Oliver moved to New
York then New Jersey to find film jobs. Acquiring a job with
the Vim Company in early 1915, he returned to Jacksonville in the spring of 1917 before relocating to Los
Angeles in October 1917.
The first motion picture made in
and the first feature-length
color movie produced in the United States, The Gulf Between
, was also filmed on
location in Jacksonville in 1917.
Jacksonville was especially important to the African American film
notable individual in this regard is the European American producer
Richard Norman, who created a string of films starring black actors
in the vein of Oscar Micheaux
Lincoln Motion Picture Company. In contrast to the degrading parts
offered in certain white films such as The Birth of a Nation
, Norman and
his contemporaries sought to create positive stories featuring
African Americans in what he termed "splendidly assuming different
Jacksonville's mostly conservative residents, however, objected to
the hallmarks of the early movie industry, such as car chases in
the streets, simulated bank robberies and fire alarms in public
places, and even the occasional riot. In 1917, conservative
Democrat John W. Martin
was elected mayor on the platform of
taming the city's movie industry. By that time, southern California was emerging as the major movie production center,
thanks in large part to the move of film pioneers like William Selig and D.W. Griffith
to the area. These factors quickly
sealed the demise of Jacksonville as a major film
"Gateway to Florida"
The 1920s brought significant real estate development and
speculation to the city during the great Florida land boom
(and bust). Hordes of
train passengers passed through Jacksonville on their way south to
the new tourist destinations of South Florida, as most of the
passenger trains arriving from the population centers of the North
were routed through Jacksonville. Completion of the Dixie Highway
(portions of which became
) in the 1920s began to draw
significant automobile traffic as well. An important entry point to
the state since the 1870s, Jacksonville now justifiably billed
itself as the "Gateway to Florida."
A significant part of Jacksonville's growth in the 20th century
came from the presence of navy bases in the region. October 15, 1940,
Station Jacksonville ("NAS Jax") on the westside became the first navy
installation in the city.
This base was a major training
center during World War II
, with over
20,000 pilots and aircrewmen being trained there. After the war,
the Navy's elite Blue Angels
established at NAS Jax. Today NAS Jax is the third largest navy
installation in the country and employs over 23,000 civilian and
In June 1941, land in the westernmost side of Duval County was
earmarked for a second naval air facility. This became NAS Cecil
Field, which during the Cold War
designated a Master Jet Base, the only one in the South. RF-8
Crusaders out of Cecil Field detected missiles in Cuba,
precipitating the Cuban Missile
. In 1993, the Navy decided to close NAS Cecil Field, and
this was completed in 1999. The land once occupied by this
installation is now known as the "Cecil Commerce Center" and
contains one of the campuses of Florida Community
which now offers civil aeronautics classes.
1942 saw the addition of a third naval installation to
Jacksonville: Naval Station Mayport at the mouth of the St. Johns River.
port developed through World War II
today is the home port for many types of navy ships, most notably
the aircraft carrier USS
John F. Kennedy
from 1995 to 26 July 2007, when Big
John was towed away, eventually to be mothballed in Philadelphia
(see more at http://www.jacksonville.com/usskennedy). NS Mayport
current employs about 14,000 personnel.
Jacksonville is also not far from Naval
Submarine Base Kings Bay in St. Marys, Georgia, which is home to part of the US
Navy's nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) fleet.
The naval base became a key training ground in the 1950s and 1960s
and as such, the population of the city rose dramatically.
half of the residents in Jacksonville had some tie to the naval
base, whether it be a relative stationed there, or due to
employment opportunities, by 1970, necessitating the opening of an
international airport in the area.
Hotel Roosevelt fire
On December 29, 1963, a fire gutted the first couple of stories of
the Hotel Roosevelt on Adams Street, killing 22 people, setting a
record for the highest one-day death toll in Jacksonville history.
The hotel was later abandoned, with most businesses inside moving
to the nearby Hotel George
Ax Handle Saturday
Jacksonville has a history of racial
and violence. Because of its high visibility and
patronage, the Hemming
Park and surrounding stores were the site of numerous
Civil rights demonstrations in the
began on August
13, 1960 when students asked to be served at the segregated lunch
counter at Woolworths
eateries. The were denied service and frequently kicked, spit at
and addressed with racial slurs. This came to a head on "Ax Handle
Saturday", August 27, 1960. A group of 200 middle aged and older
white men (allegedly some were also members of the Ku Klux Klan
) gathered in Hemming Park armed
with baseball bats and ax handles. They attacked the protesters
conducting sit-ins. The violence spread, and the white mob started
attacking all African-Americans in sight. Rumors were rampant on
both sides that the unrest was spreading around the county (in
reality, the violence stayed in relatively the same location, and
did not spill over into the mostly-white, upper-class Cedar Hills
neighborhood, for example).A black street gang called the
"Boomerangs" attempted to protect the demonstrators. Police, who
had not intervened when the protesters were attacked, now became
involved, arresting members of the Boomerangs and other black
residents who attempted to stop the beatings.
, who worked in Jacksonville
law enforcement for 37 years, including 8 years as Sheriff,
recalled stumbling into the riot. Glover said he ran to the police,
expecting them to arrest the thugs, but was told to leave town or
risk being killed.
Several whites had joined the black protesters on that day.
Charles Parker, a 25-year old student attending Florida
State University was among them.
White protesters were the
object of particular dislike by racists, so when the fracas began,
Parker was hustled out of the area for his own protection. The
police had been watching him and arrested him as an instigator,
charging him with vagrancy, disorderly conduct and inciting a riot.
After Parker stated that he was proud to be a member of the
, Judge John Santora sentenced him to 90 days in
the passage of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, African-Americans in Jacksonville were denied
health care services at every hospital except the negro Brewster
Hospital, even when their condition was critical or
In the aftermath of the Civil Rights Act
and Ax Handle Saturday, the previously segregated black and white
communities worked together in open dialog, integration, and
participatory government. Despite the progress, racial tension was
very evident when the public schools in Jacksonville were fully
integrated in 1971. Black students attending integrated schools
endured racial epithets, being spit on and, in some extreme cases,
being stoned by their white classmates.
On June 1, 2003, John
became Mayor of
after defeating African-American Sheriff Nat Glover
. Matt Carlucci, a white Republican
endorsed Glover (a
) after being
defeated in the open primary. Afterwards, Carlucci's business was
vandalized with the words "NIGGER LOVER", and Glover's campaign
headquarters was vandalized with "NO NIGGER MAYOR". In appreciation
of Carlucci's support of Glover, the Local Democratic Party sent
precinct member James "Jim" Minion, a Democrat and sign contractor
to repair and replace the damaged property. As a gesture of humor,
Jim Minion added "brass balls" to Mr. Carlucci's sign, signifying
the local Democratic Party's respect and admiration for his support
of Mr. Glover.
It should be noted that Nat Glover was the first (and only) African
American sheriff in the state of Florida since Reconstruction
winning two elections before running for mayor. Before he joined
the police force, he was one of the youths who were involved in the
axe handle riots.
Jacksonville is one of the few cities on the Eastern coast that
have been spared from the wrath of hurricanes
. The only recorded hurricane to ever hit the
First Coast directly was Dora, which made landfall on St. Johns
County just after midnight on September 10, 1964.
Augustine with winds that had just barely diminished to 110
mph, making it a strong Category 2 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.
The storm caused $280 million ($1.5 billion in 2000 dollars) in
damage and knocked out power for six days.
Despite the damage and destruction that Hurricane Dora caused in
Jacksonville, the very next day, September 11, 1964, over 20,000
fans attended a LIVE CONCERT at the "Gator Bowl" (Jacksonville
Memorial Municipal Stadium) by the British rock-and-roll band,
." The winds were blowing so
hard that Ringo Starr's drumset had to be nailed down to the
Though Dora was the only storm to affect Jacksonville with
hurricane force winds, the city has been affected by weaker storms
as well as hurricanes that lost intensity before reaching the area.
September 1999, after Hurricane
Floyd struck the
Bahamas, over one million Floridians were evacuated from
coastal areas, many of them from Jacksonville.
announced the mandatory
evacuation of the Jacksonville
and other low lying neighborhoods early on September
14; in total, nearly 80,000 Jacksonville residents left their
homes. Ultimately the storm turned northward 125
miles off the coast, causing only minor damage in Jacksonville and
the southeastern US before making ground in North
Through the 1960s Jacksonville, like most other large cities in the
US, suffered from the effects of urban
. To compensate for the loss of population & tax
revenue and endwaste & corruption, voters elected to
consolidate the government
of Jacksonville with the government of Duval
The move was carried out on October 1,
1968, and Hans Tanzler
mayor of Jacksonville
before, became the first mayor of the consolidated government.
Jacksonville became the largest city in
Florida and the 13th largest in the United States, and has a
greater land area than any other American city outside Alaska and Hawaii.
of Duval County are considered part of Jacksonville besides the
four independent municipalities of Jacksonville
Beach, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, and Baldwin, although residents of these towns vote in city
elections and are eligible for services provided by
began the "quiet
revolution" with the Yates Manifesto
and J.J. Daniel
chairman of the Local Government Study Commission
was Executive Director of the
commission and the key architect of Jacksonville's consolidated
government, transition coordinator and chief administrative officer
Some issues the city deals with today include: how to fix the
school system (including violence on school buses), and solving
transportation problems created by the explosive growth
Jacksonville has undergone since the 1990s. A $2.2 Billion
initiative called The Better Jacksonville Plan
developed by the administration of mayor John Delaney
and was approved by voters to
address issues brought about by this rapid growth, and drive to
host the Super Bowl
. Jacksonville also
faces a double-edged sword of development. While the population
increases, the city is forced to deal with maintaining an
infrastructure that keeps up with this growth. Roads are
increasingly clogged with more cars and public schools are crowded
with more students. The city is struggling to keep a balance
between traditionally lower taxes and accommodating its rising
population. This initiative also is taking aim at Urban
Revitalization. Jacksonville, like many other U.S. cities, is
trying very hard to turn back the tide of inner city slums.
Jacksonville is spending millions of dollars
in an effort to restore inner city neighborhoods such as Springfield and the Greater Eastside Community to their past
glamour and glory by encouraging economic development.
Super Bowl XXXIX
Jacksonville hosted in 2005, presented many opportunities and
challenges for the Jacksonville area. Many services, such
as the monorail system known as the JTA Skyway, have been underutilized for many years.
Skyway specifically has been criticized in that it goes from
"nowhere to nowhere" in its limited route, which encompasses only
Jacksonville Mayor John
has also spearheaded two new initiatives. The Blue
Print to Prosperity
is designed to muster the community to
identify innovative ways to increase Jacksonville's per capita
income, and the other is RALLY Jacksonville!
, a campaign
designed to raise the city's literacy rate by promoting early literacy
. Like many Southern cities,
Jacksonville suffers from a lower literacy rate than the national
- Crackers and Carpetbaggers: Moments in the History
of Jacksonville, Florida by John Wilson Cowart
- Heroes all: a history of firefighting in
Jacksonville by John Wilson Cowart
- Florida Times-Union: August 24, 2000:
Discrimination in all its forms must be axed
- Florida Times-Union: February 21, 1999-Civil rights
by Alton Yates
- Dr. Bronson Tours: St. Augustine Civil Rights
1960-1965 by Gil Wilson
- Florida Times-Union: August 25, 2000-40 years ago
this weekend, Jacksonville gave itself a national reputation for
violence by Alliniece T. Andino
- Pemberton, John:  Florida Times-Union, February 22, 1998,
"Focus on: Nat Glover"
- Weathersbee, Tonyaa:  Florida Times-Union, February 4, 2008, "The
story of a white man who joined the '60s sit-ins"
- Florida Times-Union: December 18, 2000-x