1 year ago

Discover Jacksonville 2017

WELCOME Just as St.

WELCOME Just as St. Johns begat Duval, so Duval begat surrounding counties. Clay County, named for Henry Clay, was formed from Duval County in 1858. Baker County was once part of several counties, including Duval, St. Johns, Alachua, Columbia and what is now Union. Named after Confederate senator James McNair Baker, it was created in 1861. Early on, areas around Jacksonville were populated mainly by timbermen, hunters and farmers. For example, Orange Park, part of an area originally owned by slave trader Zephaniah Kingsley, was named for its many orange groves (they eventually succumbed to major freezes in the 1890s). The area’s population grew during the Civil War and Reconstruction. In 1870, there were 3,989 black people and 2,923 white people living in Jacksonville. The city’s population was predominantly black until after World War I. The population increased dramatically when the railroads brought numerous wintering tourists to Jacksonville and its beach resort hotels in the 1880s. In 1890, Henry Flagler financed a train bridge across the St. Johns River, and his Florida East Coast Railway was able to take visitors from New York to St. Augustine, where the magnate had built luxury hotels. It was Flagler who shifted the state’s economic center from Jacksonville to Miami when he expanded his railroad’s tracks, but that didn’t stop the nation’s oldest city from remaining a tourist destination. Throughout this early growth, area waterways continued to play an important part. The building of the jetties in the late 1890s helped grow port business and the shrimping industry was born in Fernandina in the early 1900s. By the start of the 20th century, Jacksonville had begun its reign as the most populated city in the state. On May 3, 1901, however, the city’s fate was forged in a completely different way. Sparks from a chimney ignited a fiber factory and the resulting conflagration destroyed the heart of the city: 466 acres were incinerated; 2,368 buildings were destroyed; 8,677 were left homeless; seven people died. The dollar loss was $15 million (equal to about $2 billion today). As incredible as the devastation was, the rebuilding effort was more so. It began immediately and, 10 years later, more than 11,000 buildings had gone up. During the ragtime years, Jacksonville was indeed a toddlin’ town. The Ostrich Farm was a big tourist draw, racing cars sped up and down the beach and the Philadelphia A’s, led by Connie Mack, came for spring training. Moreover, the movie industry had discovered the city. By 1916, more than 30 companies were churning out movies with such names as Oliver Hardy, Fatty Arbuckle and Tom Mix. But citizens got fed up with noisy explosions and false fire alarms. They voted out Mayor J.E.T. Bowden, a major film booster, and the industry moved to friendlier California climes. The military, though, was always a fixture. As world wars broke out, that military presence really became noticeable. Camp Johnston, the area now called Jacksonville Naval Air Station, held 27,000 men during World War I. Shipyards sprang from the riverfront and churned out wartime vessels. Quiet Ribault Bay became Mayport Auxiliary Air Base at the onset of World War II. The Depression brought hard times, but the corner was eventually turned. Jacksonville’s first condo, the Park Lane in Riverside, was completed in 1926. In 1935, A.L. Lewis opened American Beach, a retreat for African-Americans refused entry to public beaches. Postwar Jacksonville saw a boom, mainly at the hands of Mayor Haydon Burns. Insurance companies were lured; new city buildings, an auditorium and a ballpark were constructed; a modern expressway took shape; and the world’s largest Sears Roebuck store opened in an area that was once skid row. But the bubble burst in the early 1960s amid scandal and school disaccreditation. Pressure built for city and county consolidation, which came to pass in 1968. “The Bold New City of the South” was the largest U.S. city in land mass until Juneau, Alaska, eclipsed it. But growth and prestige were not to be eclipsed. In 1979, the PGA Tour moved its headquarters to Ponte Vedra Beach; 19 years later, the World Golf Village and World Golf Hall of Fame opened in St. Johns County. In 1986, the famed Mayo Clinic opened its Jacksonville campus. And, in 1993, the National Football League awarded its 30th franchise to Jacksonville, which led to the city being the site for Super Bowl XXXIX. Sources: The Great Fire of 1901 by Bill Foley and Wayne W. Wood; Jacksonville’s Architectural Heritage by Wayne W. Wood; The Jacksonville Story; History of Jacksonville, Florida and Vicinity by T. Frederick Davis; Jacksonville After the Fire by James B. Crooks; Old Hickory’s Town by James R. Ward; The Jacksonville Historical Society. In this photo, dated July 15, 1977, the Jacksonville skyline can be seen across the St. Johns River from Friendship Park. (Florida Times-Union file) 14 | 2017 DISCOVER JACKSONVILLE

WELCOME Families from all over Northeast Florida flock to the ocean, including Mickler's Landing Beach Park in Ponte Vedra Beach, for some fun in the sun. (Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union) Discover the flow of the First Coast Water is the crown jewel — and a way of life. By Ronald L. Littlepage You haven’t really discovered Jacksonville until you’ve seen the city from the water. You may think of downtown as nothing extraordinary until you’ve seen the skyline from a boat in the St. Johns River, approaching from the south, in the early evening when the wind is calm and the river smooth, sparkling lights reflected in the water’s mirrored surface. And you may have caught glimpses of the marshes of the Timucuan preserve and the tidal creeks that lace through them from a roadway or a bridge, but you haven’t absorbed their beauty until you’ve experienced them in a kayak, canoe or paddleboard riding the outgoing tide past wading birds and oyster beds. Water is the soul of Jacksonville. The beaches of Big and Little Talbot islands, preserved and protected as parks, are spectacular. The marshes of the similarly protected Timucuan, their grasses ever changing in a parade of yellows, greens and browns, stretch for miles to the Nassau County line. The St. Johns River, one of 14 American Heritage rivers, ends its 310-mile journey here, emptying into the blue-green waters of the Atlantic at Mayport. It was near there that the French explorer Jean Ribault first dropped anchor in the St. Johns in 1562. He was awed by the river’s riches, the abundant fish and wildlife. Those riches are still there today. I’ve been fortunate to spend many hours on the water in Jacksonville. I’ve seen bald eagles, roseate spoonbills, great blue herons, egrets, kingfishers, gallinules, marsh hens, pelicans, wood storks and myriad other birds. I’ve watched as pods of dolphins, swimming in water so shallow it barely covered them, shoot across a tidal bay as swift as a speedboat, herding mullet onto the bank and grabbing a quick meal. I’ve had manatees swim around my kayak. I’ve paddled along the narrow creeks and tributaries of the St. Johns into forests that are undisturbed, lush and green, past deer, turkeys, squirrels and rabbits. The waters of Jacksonville are working waters. They carry commerce, and shrimpers and crabbers earn their livings on them. They are also fun waters, for sailing, fishing and skiing. But to know them, you have to get out on the water. Find a boat, a canoe or a kayak and go exploring. Find an out-ofthe-way place and learn it, make it your own. Or hook up with a group on a party barge, or get behind a ski boat, or find a fishing guide, or take a walk along the beach. But get out on the water. That’s when you will truly discover Jacksonville. Florida Times-Union writer since 1978, Ronald L. Littlepage has traveled, fished and enjoyed the area waters for more than 35 years. 2017 DISCOVER JACKSONVILLE | 15