• The uncrowded, white sand beaches have been drawing tourists to Jacksonville for decades.
    Jacksonville Beach Retro Postcard

    Remember when you could drive on the beach?

    The uncrowded, white sand beaches have been drawing tourists to Jacksonville for decades.

  • Proximity to the St. Johns River and Atlantic Ocean made Jacksonville a prime location for early trade.
    Downtown Jacksonville Retro Postcard

    Where the St. Johns river meets the sea.

    Proximity to the St. Johns River and Atlantic Ocean made Jacksonville a prime location for early trade.

  • Jacksonville first became a popular tourist destination during the 1800s, when the railroads brought Northerners down to visit Florida's sunny beaches.
    Jacksonville Beach Retro Postcard

    Jax's beaches have been a popular vacation spot since the 1800s.

    Jacksonville first became a popular tourist destination during the 1800s, when the railroads brought Northerners down to visit Florida's sunny beaches.

  • Downtown Jacksonville reinvented itself into a modern metropolis after the devastating 1901 fire.
    The Windsor Hotel Vintage Postcard

    A look back at the early days of Jacksonville.

    Downtown Jacksonville reinvented itself into a modern metropolis after the devastating 1901 fire.


Jacksonville Area History

Learn how Jacksonville’s history and development are inked to its beautiful climate, abundant natural resources, and ocean and river trade access.

Native Settlements
Long before Europeans first discovered the mouth of the St. Johns River where it meets the Atlantic Ocean, the Timucuan Indians lived in this densely wooded area. According to archaeologists, the Timucuan’s distinctive culture developed around 500 B.C., but it is unknown whether they were descended from earlier groups or arrived from elsewhere. Because they had no written language, early accounts of the natives came from the first Europeans.

First Europeans
Tumultuous times in Europe in the early 16th century brought explorers to the shores of the New World. In 1562, a small group of French Huguenots built a settlement, Fort Caroline, on the south bank of the St. Johns, just a few miles up river from where it empties into the Atlantic. The French experience in the New World was short-lived, however, when in 1565, their fort was destroyed by the Spanish.

Spanish Reign
Having previously claimed all of the Florida peninsula and vast areas to the north, the Spanish were prompted to actively defend their territory by the French intrusion. They established Fort San Mateo on the site of the former French Fort Caroline, and it became part of their mission system, which stretched from South Carolina to St. Augustine, Florida. For nearly 200 years the Spanish converted natives to the Catholic faith and lived off the land with the help of the natives. In 1763, at the end of the Seven Years War in Europe, Spain gave control of this vast territory to the British in order to keep the city of Havana, which was more important to their New World Empire. When the Spanish left, they took the few remaining Timucuan with them.

British Influence
Though only 20 years passed before the British lost control of the Florida colony, it was an active time of development. Large land grants were issued and plantations were built along the St. Johns River to grow cotton, indigo, rice, and vegetables. Lumber was harvested to expand the mighty British navy and work began on the first road — the King’s Road — from Savannah to St. Augustine. Population grew and commerce in and out of the port expanded. Spanish place names were changed to English. Most notable was the renaming of a narrow plot of land on the river to Cowford, as a place where cows could easily “ford” across the river. Many loyalists settled here during the Revolutionary War, but by 1783, the British were forced to return control of the Florida Colony to the Spanish.

Return of the Spanish
The second time the Spanish ruled the Florida colony was not as successful as the first. Most of the loyalist population left for Canada or the Caribbean, and nearby Georgians having just won their freedom from British rule, saw great opportunity to the South. The Spanish Empire was in decline and after several attempts to oust the Spanish from the Florida colony, including intrusions by Andrew Jackson, Spain ceded its Florida holdings to the United States.

Welcome to the United States
The year 1821 marks Florida’s entry to be a U.S. territory. Plantations had become important economic centers along the St. Johns River. Two settlers donated land on the north bank of Cowford to establish a “proper” town in 1822 and the site was renamed Jacksonville, in honor of the territory’s first provisional governor, Andrew Jackson, who never set foot in the town, but went on to become the seventh U.S. President. Now part of an established commerce network of a new and growing country, Jacksonville exported cotton, lumber, oranges, and vegetables and received manufactured goods from the North. Jacksonville was the center of commercial activity in the territory by the time Florida gained statehood in 1845.

Civil War Years
This was a time of profound change for the fledging United States, especially in the South. Florida seceded from the Union, but there was support for both the Union and the Confederacy in Jacksonville. As a port city, Jacksonville played a major role in the Union blockade of the Confederacy and it was occupied by Union troops four times. The population grew with both freed and runaway slaves seeking safety and a new life.

Post War Recovery
As with many Southern cities, Jacksonville suffered both property damage and economic devastation due to the war. Its location as a port city again proved to be valuable, however. A new item was soon imported into the city — tourists. By the late 1800s, the area was drawing 70,000 people annually seeking a respite from the cold northern climes. Downtown hotel building expanded and communities along the beautiful beaches began to grow. As the railroad expanded south across the river, however, the tourists had a means for exploring other parts of Florida. At the same time, a yellow fever epidemic spurred tourists southward.

New Beginnings
The spark that started a devastating downtown fire in 1901 in which over 2,300 buildings burned to the ground may have ignited the trend for transformation that Jacksonville needed. From the ruins of a colonial frontier past emerged a modern skyline of concrete and stone. A public library donated by Andrew Carnegie was built in 1905. Noted New York architect Henry Klutho brought the new Prairie-style to the city. The first paved road connecting the city to the beach was opened in 1910. The new industry of film production came to the city in the early 1900s and was an important part of the economy until World War I.

Modern Developments
Growth spread from the downtown center to outlying areas in the 1920s. Fine homes and lovely parks were built along the river’s north bank and expanded to the south bank after the first bridge was completed. By 1923, electric trolley cars linked the two sides. The city became a major transportation hub for those investing in the Florida land boom. Development slowed during the Great Depression, but Jacksonville’s location was again responsible for its next economic boom. The buildup of three military installations during World War II made Jacksonville the Navy’s third largest military complex in the country.

In 1968, the City of Jacksonville and the county of Duval merged into a single governmental unit in order to improve how services were delivered. This created an entity that is nearly 900 square miles, the largest city in land area in the contiguous United States.

In 1993, a major dream was realized when the city was awarded an NFL franchise, the Jacksonville Jaguars. In 2005, Jacksonville emerged into the international spotlight as home to Super Bowl XXXIX with a matchup of the Philadelphia Eagles versus the New England Patriots. Today, Jacksonville is a dynamic economic center offering a quality life style for residents and an exciting destination for visitors.



City-Wide EventsFeatured Events
Visit Jacksonville

Floral Arranging

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens

Instructor Ann Evans with Cypress Creative Floral Design will host two afternoon flower arranging workshops. Each workshop will include all arrangement supplies, discussions on selecting the right flowers, proper stem cutting, as well as handy tricks and

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  • Saturday, November 22, 2014
    Visit Jacksonville

    ACKSONVILLE SHOWCASES BEST OF CELTIC NATIONS WITH 2ND ANNUAL CELTIC FESTIVAL AT SEAWALK PAVILION

    Lannadoo Returns to Jax Beach with Flogging Molly November 22-23 Lannadoo, Jacksonville’s 2nd annual Celtic festival, returns to Jacksonville Beach November 22-23.…

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  • Saturday, November 22, 2014
    Visit Jacksonville

    Jacksonville Celtic Festival

    A celebration of celtic music, food, scottish/highland games, kid's zone and more!

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  • Tuesday, November 25, 2014
    Visit Jacksonville

    Annual Surprise Gingerbread Unveiling

    Each year, the culinary team at One Ocean Resort & Spa wows visitors with the unveiling of a surprise gingerbread structure. A tasty holiday tradition evokes wide-eyed…

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  • Tuesday, November 25, 2014
    Visit Jacksonville

    TRIVIA 8pm

    You may be smarter than a 5th grader but how are you at trivia? Join us at Fionn's every Tuesday at 8pm for TRIVIA and a pint!

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  • Wednesday, November 26, 2014
    Visit Jacksonville

    Live Music by Spade McQuade

    Live music at Fionn MacCool's by Spade McQuade.

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  • Wednesday, November 26, 2014
    Visit Jacksonville

    TRIVIA

    Trivia every Wednesday!

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  • Wednesday, November 26, 2014
    Visit Jacksonville

    WHISKEY WEDNESDAY

    A different featured whiskey every Wednesday at Fionn's!!

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  • Thursday, November 27, 2014
    Visit Jacksonville

    Thanksgiving at Azurea

    Thursday, November 27th Ala carte Menu Price Range | Beginnings - $8 to $15, Entree - $22 to $28 Children's Menu is available Breakfast Service | Available until…

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  • Thursday, November 27, 2014
    Visit Jacksonville

    Thanksgiving Day Dining at Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront

    Make this Thanksgiving a little more relaxing for you and your family by joining the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront for special Thanksgiving Day dining on Thursday,…

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Local Experts | All Blogs

  • Void Magazine
  • Gary Sass
  • Jacksonville Moms Blog
  • First Coast Magazine
  • Visit Jacksonville
Blogs by Void Magazine
  • Growing Jax – A Guide to Our Regional Farmers Markets

    September 12, 2014 3:08 pm EDT

    According to critics, the most problematic feature of our region is the geographic size of Jacksonville. It’s just a really big city. If you drove from Baldwin in West Jacksonville, all the way to where Atlantic Boulevard dumps you on the ocean, it would take you almost an hour – and you would have never left the city limits of Jacksonville.

  • The Fantasy Football Food Experience — Eat like a local on gameday

    September 12, 2014 2:49 pm EDT

    Over the past two years, Shad Khan and the leadership of the Jacksonville Jaguars have made extensive efforts to transform the team from relative obscurity (for those outside Duval) into one of the most visible franchises in the league.

  • Coffee Shop Review – Bold Bean Coffee Roasters

    July 10, 2014 4:55 pm EDT

    Out with the old, in with the bold! Bold Bean Coffee Roasters has just opened its second location in South Jacksonville Beach, ironically where the old Starbucks was located. Bold Bean specializes in handmade, single-origin coffee, espresso beverages, craft beer and a community-orientated atmosphere.

  • Top Ten Romantic Restaurants in Jacksonville

    June 10, 2014 5:31 pm EDT

    What makes a restaurant romantic? If you’re not sure, you probably ought to ask someone female. When I asked my husband for his suggestions for this article, he said, “Is Guzzle Pipes and Gutty Works open yet?” Having an excellent beer list is not usually high on the list of most women’s romance requirements.

  • Locally Brewed Beers Perfect for The Summer

    June 02, 2014 12:02 pm EDT

    We all love a nice summer night with friends and a cool beer in our hand. This list will be your locally-brewed beer guide for the summer, no matter the occasion.

Blogs by Gary Sass
  • His-tor-ee That’s Free

    November 05, 2014 3:12 pm EST

    We call it the “First Coast”, home of the first European settlements and a region steeped in history. Read on for a brief description of some of our local museums and sites which are free or have a nominal fee.

  • Pioneers of Aviation – Still Flying High

    October 10, 2014 2:56 pm EDT

    The most spectacular annual air show is right here in Jacksonville.

  • Main production building - photo courtesy of Norman Studios

    Jacksonville in the Movies

    August 13, 2014 11:05 am EDT

    “On location in Jacksonville”, has been part of movie production history for over one hundred years. From the silent movie era to today’s modern films, it is entertaining to watch scenes with Jacksonville in the background.

  • Lifesaving Landmark at the Beach

    July 16, 2014 5:24 pm EDT

    Where can you find the best volunteer lifeguards in the world? Just go to Jacksonville Beach and look for the iconic white tower (a.k.a. “The Peg”) along the ocean. This is home for the American Red Cross Life Saving Corps.

  • May Rocks with History

    May 02, 2014 9:17 am EDT

    May is a month teeming with excitement in Jacksonville. There are many historical events which happened in May and the weather is optimal for the outdoor celebrations.

Blogs by Jacksonville Moms Blog
  • Mom’s Guide to Jacksonville’s Kid-Friendly Hiking Trails

    November 18, 2014 8:55 am EST

    Have I mentioned that I love the fall? Yes, I think I have! Besides all the fun activities like visiting pumpkin patches and enjoying great family traditions, the beautiful weather in the fall makes it the perfect time of year to enjoy many outdoor activities that can be limited by the heat and humidity of our Florida summers.

  • The Ultimate Guide to Holiday Events in Jacksonville 2014

    November 15, 2014 10:33 am EST

    There is always something exciting to see and do in Jacksonville and the holidays are no exception!

  • Kid-Friendly Activities and Eats: The Beaches

    November 02, 2014 11:30 am EST

    I thought I would start dissecting our little (HUGE really) city by areas and talk about some fun, kid-friendly places to go and eat! Since I am a beach newbie, I have decided to start there. We have been exploring the area over the past few months and finding tons of great places. Everyone comes to the beach at one time or another, so I hope this will be helpful!

  • Top Five Favorite Running Destinations in Jacksonville

    November 01, 2014 10:41 am EDT

    It’s that time of year again! Time to get off the treadmills, skip the gym and get outdoors to run and enjoy the cooling fall temps. Fortunately for us, Jacksonville is a city of many different scenic landscapes, from the St. John’s River to the beautiful Atlantic Coast, so you will never get bored on your runs.

  • Kid-Friendly Activities and Eats: Downtown, San Marco, & Riverside

    October 10, 2014 11:11 am EDT

    The downtown, San Marco, and Riverside areas in Jacksonville are FULL of great things to do with kids! There are so many kid-friendly restaurants I had a hard time narrowing them down to a few. So here you go!

Blogs by First Coast Magazine
Blogs by Visit Jacksonville
  • Five Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About Jax

    October 20, 2014 10:17 am EDT

    Unless you’re an expert on our fine city (and who knows? You might be, it is pretty awesome here) here are some things you probably didn’t know about Jacksonville, Florida.

  • The Time Is Now…Fall in Jax!

    October 06, 2014 12:17 pm EDT

    Summer months have come and gone, but the fun has just begun.

  • 488,000 Yards of Greens, 1,200 Holes, 70 courses…Come Sink a Hole-In-One in JAX.

    September 23, 2014 12:36 pm EDT

    From easy to hard, historic to championship, beach to river – Northeast Florida offers more than 1,200 holes of golf on 70 public and private courses, pristine course conditions, affordable rates, great fall deals and comfortable weather all year.

  • Weekend Getaway on a Budget

    August 31, 2014 1:14 pm EDT

    Music, art, fun, food, beer, sports, adventure, and fun await you in Jacksonville on any given day, and the best part? We guarantee it won’t break your bank!

  • Get Hooked in Jax!

    August 19, 2014 12:47 pm EDT

    Some people might call them fish shacks, holes in the wall, dives- but here in Jax we call them Fish Camps!


Jacksonville Social