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Located just east of Downtown Jacksonville, Arlington is often thought of as just another residential neighborhood, but Arlington actually holds a big historical significance for our city. Arlington was one of the first areas in the United States visited by Europeans. It is estimated that the original French Settlement of Ft. Caroline, established in 1564, was in this area. Nowadays you can visit The Fort Caroline Memorial, operated by the National Park Service, in Arlington on the banks of the St. Johns River. This historic neighborhood was also the site where many Jacksonville plantations were located in the 18th century and the home to the only still standing historic film studio in the city. This community is packed with historical sites to explore.
Here are 12 historical sites you can explore:
1. Fort Caroline: A historic replica of the fort settled by French colonists in 1564, complete with cannons, flags and breathtaking views of the St. Johns River. Step back in time and learn about the French and Spanish rivalry in the area during the 16th century at the Timucuan Preserve Visitor Center located in the park.
Location: 12713 Fort Caroline Road, Jacksonville, FL 32225
2. Chesterfield Plantation: In 1847, Anna Madgignine Jai Kingsley, the native of Sengal who had been sold into slavery and had become the wife of planter Zephaniah Kingsley (see Kingsley Plantation for more info), bought this 22-acre farm on what is now the Jacksonville University campus. The farm, which she named Chesterfield Plantation, was between the Arlington homes of her daughters, Martha Baxter and Mary Sammis. A historical marker discusses life on a mixed-race plantation, a common phenomenon in pre-Civil War Arlington.
Location: Jacksonville University Campus. (30°21'05.1"N 81°36'12.6"W; University Oaks Dr., 32211.)
3. Chaseville Community: After the Civil War, Samuel Chase opened a shipyard at the point of land where the St. Johns River turns east. He hired African American Civil War veterans to work for him and by 1876 the Chaseville community even had a post office, the first in the Old Arlington area.
Location: 4012 University Blvd N, Jacksonville, FL 32277.
4. McNeil Plantation - Reddy Point: Two 400-acre tracts located where the St. Johns bends eastward were purchased by William Reddy in 1772. 182-acres were granted to Zephaniah Kingsley in 1784. That land continued as a working plantation by Kingsley’s nephew Charles McNeil in the 1850s. NcNeil's sister was the mother of the artist James Whistler.
Location: 4499 Yachtsman Way, Jacksonville, FL 32277
5. Floral Bluff: In 1832 Robert Bigelow established Floral Bluff Plantation on the riverfront in an area slightly south of what is now Jacksonville University. It was subdivided in 1887 and the town of Floral Bluff was established. It had its own post office until 1919. Location: (30.34295, -81.60578) 5396 Floral Bluff Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32211
6. Arlington Town Center Ferry Landing: Beginning in 1914 the Alderman Realty Co. sponsored a ferry that ran from the foot of what is now Arlington Road across to Fairfield, the area now occupied by the Downtown Sports Complex. Ferry service was discontinued in 1933 and the ferry landing became what it had been before, a public boat landing.
Location: (30.33391, -81.61215) 5100 Arlington Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32211
7. Crossroads: What is now the busy intersection of University Boulevard and Arlington Road began as the intersection of wagon roads, one which ran parallel to the St. Johns River, and one of which ran east from the river to a mill built on a pond created by damming Strawberry and Red Bay Branch creeks. Before 1959, University Boulevard was Chaseville Road. Arlington Road was created out of several roads including St. Johns Avenue and Elizabeth Street.
Location: (30.33363, -81.60292) 1299 University Blvd N, Jacksonville, FL 32211
8. The Jacksonville, Mayport and Pablo Railroad: From 1888 to 1895, the JM&P offered twice-daily service from Arlington to Mayport and Pablo Beach. A steamboat carried passengers from downtown Jacksonville to the railroad's Arlington station near the current site of the Mathews Bridge. Other Arlington communities served by the railroad included Eggleston, Verona, Gilmore, Cosmo, ldlewild and Mount Pleasant. In 1892 owners added a spur connecting to Clifton and South Jacksonville.
Location: (N 30° 20.007 W 081° 36.108) 5700 Arlington Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32211
9. Norman Silent Film Studios: Originally built for the Eagle Film Studio, this complex of buildings on what is now Arlington Road was purchased by filmmaker Richard Norman in 1922. Norman made eight silent feature films for African American audiences. The coming of sound put him out of the feature film business, but he produced industrial films until his death in 1960. His wife Gloria operated a dance school at the studio. Location: 6337 Arlington Road. Jacksonville and the Movie Industry: This marker, which will be placed at the Norman Studios, celebrates Jacksonville's heyday as a movie production center. From 1908 to 1916, at least 30 production companies filmed in what became known as the 'Winter Film Capital of the World." After an anti-movie mayor was elected in 1916, most studios left Jacksonville for the friendlier atmosphere in California.
Location: 6337 Arlington Rd.
10. Frederick W. Bruce: This marker in Bruce Park honors the engineer and surveyor who moved to Arlington in 1912 and helped found Alderman Realty Co., which developed Arlington Heights, Arlington Heights Addition and Alderman Farms. The park, honoring him and his family, was dedicated in 1955.
Location: 30.33351, -81.58996 6631 Arlington Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32211
11. Tree Hill Nature Preserve: Originally a farm, in 1972 the Preservation Association of Tree Hill began acquiring land between Lone Star Road and the Arlington Expressway. Today, Tree Hill is a 50-acre nature preserve. In the days when Strawberry and Red Bay Branch creeks were dammed, creating a mill pond, the highest part of Tree Hill was an island.
Location: 7152 Lone Star Rd.
12. Strawberry Mills, Sammis Plantation & Cemetery, Clifton Community: Strawberry Mills: Francis Richard, using land acquired in a Spanish land grant, dammed Strawberry and Red Bay Branch creeks in 1817. The resulting 150-acre mill pond powered a sawmill, a grist mill, a sugar mill, a cotton gin and a brick yard. Sammis Plantation: In the 1840’s John Sammis bought the 8,000-acre Strawberry Mills and Plantation. In the 1850s Sammis and his wife, Mary, one of the children of Zephaniah and Anna Kingsley, built a plantation home that is still in use as a private residence. Sammis Cemetery: Established in 1841 by the Sammis Family, descendants of Zephaniah Kingsley. Interments at this site continued until 1942. Clifton Community: Part of the Sammis Plantation, this area was purchased in 1873 by the Ocean Grove Association, a religious group from New Jersey. The plantation house became a hotel and named the resort "The Florida Winter Home." The ferry "Clifton" began crossing from Jacksonville four times a day to what became known as Clifton Landing. Clifton is now a residential community.
Location: 30.3221, -81.6093 507-599 Magnolia Bluff Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32211
Find out more about the Arlington neighborhood HERE.