history of jacksonville

Fast Facts

How well do you know Jax?

From history and geography to famous residents and just plain old trivia, how well do you really know Jacksonville? 

  • Jacksonville is the largest city in the continental United States with over 840 square miles.
  • Duval Street, like the county was named for William Pope Duval, the first Territorial Governor of Florida.
  • As of 2007, the median age in Northeast Florida is 36 years old - younger than all major cities in Florida.
  • Jacksonville was named for General Andrew Jackson, the first military governor of Florida who, incidentally, never visited Jacksonville
  • Isiah Hart, who founded Jacksonville, named two of the city's first streets after his daughters, Julia and Laura.
  • Hemming Plaza is named for Charles C. Hemming, a Civil War veteran and Jacksonville native.
  • The Mayport Ferry is Florida's only public auto ferry and connects Jacksonville's beaches to the Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island areas.
  • The St. Johns River is one of two rivers in North America that flows north instead of south.
  • The eclectic Five Points area, with unique shops and dining experiences, is named for its landmark five-way intersection.
  • The military employs over 30,000 active-duty personnel and nearly 20,000 civilians in the Jacksonville area.
  • Jacksonville was named one of the top five "Up and Coming" cities in America by Good Morning America in 2006.
  • The Mayo Clinic opened the doors to its Jacksonville campus in 1986.

Jacksonville Architecture & Landmarks

  • When the Prudential Building, now known as the Aetna Building, opened in 1955, it was the tallest office building in the South at 22 stories.
  • The Dames Point Bridge opened in 1989 at a cost of $117 million dollars.
  • The Dames Point Bridge is the second longest concrete cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere.
  • The Confederate statue in Hemming Plaza survived the Great Fire of 1901.
  • When Friendship Fountain opened in 1965, it was billed as the world's largest and tallest fountain.
  • The Jacksonville Navy Memorial, on Downtown's Southbank Riverwalk, commemorates the relationship between the people of Jacksonville and the U.S. Navy. The statue is of a young sailor looking out to sea, dressed in uniform with his duffel bag at his feet.
  • Famed architect, Henry John Klutho was commissioned to design the St. James Building in 1912 serving as a department store. Jacksonville's City Hall now calls this building its home.
  • When the Regency Square Mall opened in 1967, it was billed as the largest air-conditioned shopping center in the South.
  • Planted in 1822, the Treaty Oak, located on the Southbank of Downtown has a circumference of 25 feet and reaches more than 70 feet into the sky.
  • There are 219 steps to the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

Historical Jacksonville Facts

  • The fire of 1901, sparked from a chimney and igniting a fiber factory, destroyed the heart of the city - 466 acres and 2,368 buildings were destroyed, 8,677 residents were left homeless and seven people died. The damage was $15 million - $2 billion today.
  • In the early 1900s the Ostrich Farm, located on what is today's Southbank of Downtown, was the city's biggest tourist draw.
  • In 1916, over 30 movie companies called Jacksonville home with stars such as Oliver Hardy and Fatty Arbuckle making movies in town. Citizens became fed up with the noise and the industry moved to California.
  • In 1935, A.L. Lewis opened American Beach, a retreat for African Americans who were refused entry to public beaches.
  • An Ahrens Fox steam pumper used in the Great Fire of 1901 can be found on display at the Jacksonville Fire Museum in Metropolitan Park.
  • In 1840, Jacksonville's population was a whopping 350 residents.
  • Fort Caroline is a near full-scale rendering created to memorialize the 16th century French effort to establish a permanent colony in Florida.

Jacksonville Sports Facts

  • The PGA Tour moved its headquarters to Ponte Vedra in 1979.
  • The National Football league awarded its 30th franchise team to Jacksonville in 1993.
  • In 2000, Jacksonville was selected as the site for Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005.
  • Jacksonville native Bob Hayes is the only man to win an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ringg.
  • The World Golf Hall of Fame opened in 1998.
  • Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, with 16,000 seats opened in 2003.
  • TOUCHDOWN, the jaguar statue outside of EverBank Field is 16 feet long and weighs in at 2,850 pounds.
  • The first River Run, an annual 15-kilometer race, took place on April 1, 1978. Today, the race boasts over 13,000 runners each year.
  • The 1930 city directory listed approximately 15 miniature golf courses, including the Woman's Golf Club of South Jacksonville Miniature Golf Course at the corner of Hendricks Avenue and Atlantic Boulevard.
  • In 1901, Jacksonville hosted the first-ever college football game played in Florida, with a crowd of 2,000 watching Florida Agricultural College take on Stetson University.

Arts & Culture Facts

  • The Florida Theatre was home to one of Elvis Presley's first indoor concerts in 1956. A local judge sat through the performance to ensure Presley's body movements would not become too suggestive.
  • Elvis Presley performed in Jacksonville eight times during his career, beginning in 1955 when he performed at Wolfson Park and ending in 1977, a few months before his death, at the old Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
  • The Florida Theatre opened in 1927 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Built in 1997, Jacoby Symphony Hall is the only true orchestra hall in Florida and is home to the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.
  • In its mid-20th century heyday, the LaVilla neighborhood, home to the Ritz Theatre and LaVilla Museum, was known as the "Harlem of the South."
  • Local chocolate shop, Peterbrooke Chocolatier, was named after the owners two children - Peter and Brooke.
  • Pete's, the oldest bar in Duval County, was featured in the John Grisham novel The Brethren.
  • Since 1977, the Sally Corporation, has created animatronics figures and theme rides for adventure and amusement parks worldwide. Past clients include - Universal Studios, Disney on Ice and Six Flags Belgium.
  • The oldest, continuously operating community theater in the country is Theatre Jacksonville, in operation since 1919.

Nature and Outdoors Facts

  • The St. Johns River is one of two rivers in North America that flows north instead of south.
  • The University of North Florida is home to more than 500 acres of protected forest and wildlife with hiking trails, fishing and canoeing open to the public.
  • Jacksonville is home to the country's largest urban park system with 111,669 acres of parks.
  • The Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, Jacksonville national park, covers 46,000 acres.
  • Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park offers more than 20 miles of mountain biking trails marked for beginning, intermediate and expert riders.
  • The 60-acre freshwater lake in Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park is perfect for fishing, bird watching, kayaking, paddle boating and canoeing.
  • Huguenot Park boasts more than 70 primitive campsites, with many facing the ocean or inlet providing spectacular sunrise and waterfront views.
  • The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, founded in 1914, began its animal collection with one red deer fawn. Today, the zoo is home to more than 1,400 animals and over 1,000 unique plant species.

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