History of Jacksonville, Florida
The city of Jacksonville, Florida began to grow in the late 18th century as Cowford, settled by British colonists. Its major development occurred in the late nineteenth century, when it became a winter vacation destination for tourists from the North and Midwest. Its development was halted or slowed by the Great Fire of 1901, the Florida Land Bust of the 1920s, and the economic woes of the 1960s and 70s. Since the late 20th century, the city has experienced steady growth, with a new federal building constructed in downtown in 2003.
Since 1940, Jacksonville has also been a major port for the United States Navy. The city is a thriving metropolis with over a million citizens. Due to its consolidated city-county government structure, it has the largest municipal population among Florida cities, as well as the largest land area of any city in the contiguous United States.
- 1 Early days
- 2 Post Civil War
- 3 20th century
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
- 7 External references
Archaeological evidence indicates 6,000 years of human habitation in the area. Pottery has been found dating to 2500 BC, nearly the oldest in the United States and second to artifacts of the Savannah River area. In the 16th century, the beginning of the historical record period, the area was inhabited by the Mocama, a coastal subgroup of the Timucua indigenous Native Americans. At the time of contact with Europeans, most Mocama villages in present-day Jacksonville were part of the powerful chiefdom known as the Saturiwa, centered on Fort George Island near the mouth of the St. Johns River.1 They had a complex society, well-adapted to the environmental conditions of the area.
In 1513, Spanish explorers landed in Florida and claimed their discovery for Spain (see Spanish Florida). The first Europeans to visit the area were Spanish missionaries and explorers from this period. In February 1562, French naval officer Jean Ribault and a 150 settlers arrived seeking land for a safe haven for the French Huguenots, Protestants suffering religious persecution in France. Ribault explored the mouth of the St. Johns River before moving north and establishing the colony of Charlesfort on what is now Parris Island, South Carolina. Ribault returned to France for supplies, but tensions from French Wars of Religion had broken out during his absence. His return to Florida was delayed as a result. Without leadership or provisions, the colonists abandoned Charlesfort. In 1564 Ribault's former lieutenant, René Goulaine de Laudonnière, launched a new expedition to found a colony on the St. Johns River. On June 22, 1564, the settlers established Fort Caroline atop the St. Johns Bluff.
Laudonnière made an alliance with the local tribe of Timucua Indians, the Saturiwa. He also forged friendly relations with their competitors, the Utina tribe, who lived upriver to the south (around what is now Palatka and the Lake George area). Ribault intended to resupply Fort Caroline in early 1565, but was again delayed. As a result the colony faced famine, three mutinies, and eventually warfare with the Utina. Ribault finally reached the fort with a relief expedition in the summer, and assumed command of the settlement. In the meantime, the Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés had established the colony of St. Augustine 35 miles to the south, with the express mission to displace the French.
When he arrived, 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 and caused numerous deaths. On September 20, 1565, Menéndez marched his men overland to Fort Caroline, defended by 200 or 250 people, and killed everyone except for 50 women and children and 26 men who escaped. The Spanish picked up the survivors of Ribault's fleet, and summarily executed all but 20.
The Spanish took over Fort Caroline, renaming it as San Matteo. In 1568 the French and Spanish confronted each other again here, when Dominique de Gourgues burned it to the ground. The Spanish rebuilt the fort, but abandoned it in 1569. The Spanish next built Fort San Nicolas further upriver 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. The fort was abandoned in the late 17th century.
Following Great Britain's defeat of France in the Seven Years War, resulting in the cession of French colonies in North America, Spain ceded Florida to the British in 1763, in exchange for territory in the Caribbean. The British gave control of the territory back to Spain in 1783, following the United States successful revolution for independence. 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 ford their livestock across; this was some 3000 feet west of the location of Fort San Nicolas. The Spanish accepted settlers from the United States, and offered freedom to escaped slaves if they converted to Catholicism.
Between 1812 and 1814 during the War of 1812 between the US and Britain, the US Navy assisted American settlers in Florida in "The Patriot War", a covert attempt to seize control of Florida from the Spanish. They began with invasions of Fernandina and Amelia Island.2 Spain sold the Florida Territory to the United States in 1821 and, by 1822, Jacksonville's current name had come into use, to honor General Andrew Jackson. 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, military governor of the Florida Territory and eventual President of the United States. U.S. settlers led by Isaiah D. Hart wrote a charter for a town government, which was approved by the Florida Legislative Council on February 9, 1832. Remembered as the city's most important founding father, Hart 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 cause. Throughout most of the war, the US Navy maintained a blockade around Florida's ports, including Jacksonville. In October 1862 Union forces captured a Confederate battery in the Battle of 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 Olustee 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."
Following 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. Visitors arrived by steamboat and (beginning in the 1880s) by railroad, and wintered at dozens of hotels and boarding houses. The 1888 Subtropical Exposition was held in Jacksonville and attended by President Grover Cleveland, but the Florida-style world's fair did not lead to a lasting boost for tourism in Jacksonville. The area declined in importance as a resort destination after Henry Flagler extended the Florida East Coast Railroad to the south, reaching Palm Beach in 1894 and the Miami area in 1896. This drew tourism to the southern Atlantic Coast.
Jacksonville's prominence as a winter resort was dealt another blow by major yellow fever epidemics in 1886 and 1888. During the second one, nearly ten percent of the more than 4,000 victims died, including the city's mayor.3 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. Inbound and outbound mail was fumigated in an effort to reduce contagion. Jacksonville's reputation as a healthful tourist destination suffered.
During 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. Author Stephen Crane travelled to Jacksonville to cover the war.
On May 3, 1901, downtown Jacksonville was ravaged by the Great Fire—the largest-ever urban fire in the Southeastern United States, 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 Ministries. Despite the losses of the last several decades, Jacksonville still has one of the largest collections of Prairie Style buildings (particularly residences) outside the Midwest.
In the early 20th century, before Hollywood, the motion picture industry was based in New York City. 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 Pictures (later MGM), Edison Studios, Majestic Films, King Bee Film Company, Vim Comedy Company, Norman Studios, Gaumont Studios and the Lubin Manufacturing Company. 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 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 Technicolor 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 industry. One 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 and the 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 roles".
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 destination.
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 U.S. 1) 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, Naval Air 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 were established at NAS Jax. Today NAS Jax is the third largest navy installation in the country and employs over 23,000 civilian and active-duty personnel.
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 was 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 Crisis. 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 College which now offers civil aeronautics classes.
December 1942 saw the addition of a third naval installation to Jacksonville: Naval Station Mayport at the mouth of the St. Johns River. This port developed through World War II and 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.
The naval base became a key training ground in the 1950s and 1960s and as such, the population of the city rose dramatically. More than 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.
On December 29, 1963, a fire7 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 Washington.
Offshore Power Systems (OPS) was a 1970 joint venture between Westinghouse Electric Company, who constructed nuclear generating plants, and Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock, who had recently merged with Tenneco, to create floating nuclear power plants at the Port of Jacksonville.89 Construction of the new facility was projected to cost $200 million and create 10,000 new jobs when completed in 1976.10 Contracts were signed by Public Service Electric and Gas Company with PSE&G paying for the startup costs for the manufacturing facility.8 Westinghouse named Zeke Zechella to be president of OPS in 1972.11
OPS obtained 850+ acres (3.4 km2) on Blount Island from the Jacksonville Port Authority (JPA) for $2,000/acre,9 then installed infrastructure using over 1,000 workers. A total of $125 million was invested in the property and facility,9 however; no plants were ever built.8
Because of its high visibility and patronage, the Hemming Park and surrounding stores were the site of numerous civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s. Black Sit-ins began on August 13, 1960 when students asked to be served at the segregated lunch counter at Woolworths, Morrison's Cafeteria and other eateries. They were denied service and 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.12 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.131415
Nat Glover, who worked in Jacksonville law enforcement for 37 years, including eight years as Sheriff of Jacksonville, 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.16
Several whites had joined the black protesters on that day. Richard 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 NAACP, Judge John Santora sentenced him to 90 days in jail.17 Jacksonville remained as two cities, one white and one black well into the 1970s and beyond. Throughout this time there remained a "Colored Town" section that was almost exclusively Black with its own businesses, professional offices, restaurants, theaters and was a near photo-negative reflection of the nearly all-white downtown area. Ghettos and shacks could be seen below the highways into the 1970s and beyond.
Jacksonville is one of the few cities on the Eastern coast that have been largely spared from the wrath of hurricanes. 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 Stadium by the British rock-and-roll band, "The Beatles."citation needed The winds were blowing so hard that Ringo Starr's drumset had to be nailed down to the stage.citation needed
Dora was the only storm in recorded history to affect Jacksonville with hurricane force winds, though the city has been affected by weaker storms as well as hurricanes that lost intensity before reaching the area. In September 1999, after Hurricane Floyd struck the Bahamas, over one million Floridians were evacuated from coastal areas, many of them from Jacksonville. Mayor John Delaney announced the mandatory evacuation of the Jacksonville Beaches 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 Carolina
Through the 1960s Jacksonville, like most other large cities in the US, suffered from the effects of urban sprawl. To compensate for the loss of population and tax revenue and end waste and corruption, voters elected to consolidate the government of Jacksonville with the government of Duval County. The move was carried out on October 1, 1968, and Hans Tanzler, elected mayor of Jacksonville the year 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. All areas 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 Jacksonville.
Claude Yates began the "quiet revolution" with the Yates Manifesto and J. J. Daniel was chairman of the Local Government Study Commission. Lex Hester was Executive Director of the commission and the key architect of Jacksonville's consolidated government, transition coordinator and chief administrative officer following consolidation.18
- Milanich, Jerald (1999). The Timucua. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 48–49. ISBN 0-631-21864-5. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
- "Jacksonville Historical Society". Retrieved 18 June 2012.
- John Wilson Cowart, Crackers and Carpetbaggers: Moments in the History of Jacksonville, Florida
-  Waymarking, Five Points Theater, Jacksonville
- "Five Points Theatre". jacksonville.com (The Florida Times-Union). Retrieved 2010-01-01.
- "5 Points Theater". www.5pointsjax.com. Retrieved 2010-01-02.
- Heroes all: a history of firefighting in Jacksonville by John Wilson Cowart
- Adams, Rod: "Offshore Power Systems: Big Plants for a Big Customer" Atomic Insights, August 1996
- Putnam, Walter: "Floating nuclear plants may become reality" Boca Raton News, November 15, 1981
- "Urban waterfront lands" ISBN 0-309-02940-6 Page 136, National Research Council Committee, 1980
- Kerr, Jessie-Lynne: “ALEXANDER P. 'ZEKE' ZECHELLA: 1920-2009” Florida Times-Union, August 18, 2009
- 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
- Photographic exhibit on the Great Fire of 1901; presented by the State Archives of Florida.
- The Jacksonville Historical Society
- Bartley, Abel A. Keeping the Faith: Race, Politics, and Social Development in Jacksonville, Florida, 1940–1970. (2000). 177 pp. online edition