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Jacksonville

The most populous city in the State of Florida and the thirteenth most populous city in the United States, the City of Jacksonville had a population of 782,623 in 2005; the metropolitan area has a population of approximately 1,349,000. Since 1968, the city has shared a consolidated government with Duval County, making it the largest city in land area in the contiguous United States (874.3 square miles).

location of Jacksonville
location of Jacksonville

History

The first European to see the area that is now Jacksonville was French Huguenot explorer Jean Ribault, who charted the St. Johns River in 1562. The first European settlement was Fort Caroline, established by the French in 1564. The fort was destroyed in 1565 by troops from the Spanish settlement of Saint Augustine.

The first permanent European settlement was founded as Cowford in 1791; it was so named due to its location at a narrow point in the river where cattle could be driven across. Isaiah D. Hart, a Georgia plantation owner, moved to the area in 1821. The next year, he mapped out a town, which he named Jacksonville in honor of Andrew Jackson, the first Military Governor of the Florida Territory and eventual seventh President of the United States. The Florida Legislative Council approved a charter for a town government on February 9, 1832.

During the Civil War, Jacksonville served as a key supply point for hogs and cattle. The city was blockaded by the Union and changed hands several times during the war, but no battles were ever fought in or near the city.

bird's-eye view of Jacksonville, 1893
bird's-eye view of Jacksonville, 1893

On May 2, 1901, downtown Jacksonville was ravaged by a fire that started at a fiber factory. One of the worst unnatural disasters in Florida history, the fire destroyed the business district and left some 10,000 people homeless. Reconstruction began almost immediately after the embers cooled, and more than 13,000 new buildings had been erected by 1912.

In the 1910's, New York-based moviemakers were attracted to Jacksonville's warm climate, exotic locations, excellent rail access, and cheap labor. Over the course of the decade, more than 30 silent film studios were established, earning Jacksonville the title "Winter Film Capital of the World." The emergence of Hollywood, California, as a major film production center effectively ended Jacksonville's film industry.

movie being shot at Gaumont Studios, 1910
movie being shot at Gaumont Studios, 1910

On October 1, 1968, Duvall County voters approved the merger of city and county governments to create the Consolidated City of Jacksonville.

Government

Jacksonville uses the Mayor-Council form of government. The mayor holds veto power over all resolutions and ordinances made by the City Council, and has the power to hire and fire city department heads. Fourteen of the nineteen City Council members are elected from single-member districts; the other five are elected "at-large." In the early 1990's, voters approved a change in the city government which divided the city up into five districts unrelated to any other districts, solely for the purpose of electing the at-large council members. Each at-large council member is elected from his/her respective at-large district by the voters of the county as a whole.

left: Jacksonville flag
right: Jacksonville seal

flag of the City of Jacksonvilleofficial seal of the City of Jacksonville

Economy

The largest deepwater port in the South, Jacksonville is a leading port in the United States for automobile imports. It is also the leading transportation and distribution hub in the state. Other major industries include distribution, financial services, biomedical technology, consumer goods, information services, and manufacturing. Major manufactures include wood and paper products, chemicals, processed food, and cigars. Tourism and U.S. Navy operations (including Mayport Carrier Basin and the Naval Air Training Center) are also important to the city's economy.

According to Forbes magazine, Jacksonville is ranked in the top ten U.S. cities to relocate to for a job, beating out New York and Atlanta.

The area is served by Jacksonville International Airport, Craig Airport and Herlong Airport, as well as an Amtrak terminal.

downtown Jacksonville
downtown Jacksonville

Education

Along with the standard district schools, Jacksonville is home to two International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme High Schools -- Stanton College Preparatory School and Paxon School for Advanced Studies.

Institutions of higher learning which call Jacksonville home are: Jacksonville University, the University of North Florida, Edward Waters College, Florida Coastal School of Law, Trinity Baptist College, Jones College, Florida Technical College, Logos Christian College, Brewer Christian College, and Florida Community College at Jacksonville.

Sites and Attractions

Fort Caroline National Memorial contains a reproduction of the first European structure built on the site of what is now Jacksonville.

Although Jacksonville's movie industry all but ended after the establishment of Hollywood, the city still hosts an annual Film Festival every May. The festival features a variety of independent films, documentaries and shorts, with screenings held at different historic venues throughout the city.

The Jacksonville Jazz Festival is held every April and is the second-largest jazz festival in the nation.

Other major annual events include the Great Atlantic Seafood and Music Festival (March), the Blessing of the Fleet Parade of Boats and the Jacksonville International Boat Show (April), the World of Nations Celebration (May), and the Jacksonville Light Parade (November).

Cultural attractions include: the Museum of Science and History, which features three stories of hands-on science and local history exhibits; the Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art; and, the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, which holds a large collection of European and American paintings, as well as a world-renowned collection of early Meissen porcelain. The Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts is home to the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.

The Jacksonville Zoological Gardens boast the second largest animal collection in the state, and is considered one of the premier zoos in the country.

Jacksonville is home to several professional and semi-professional sports teams: Jaguars (NFL), Barracudas (Southern Professional Hockey League), Suns (baseball, Southern League), Stallions (National Indoor Football League), Jam (American Basketball Association), Dixie Blues (Women's Football League), Northsiders (United Soccer League), and Axemen (American National Rugby League).

Other Information

Several motion pictures have been partially or completely shot in Jacksonville since the film industry left for California. The most notable of them include Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking (1988), Brenda Starr (1989), G.I. Jane (1997), The Devil's Advocate (1997), and The Manchurian Candidate (2004).

A list of notable Jacksonville residents includes: James Weldon Johnson, civil rights activist and Harlem Renaissance author; John Rosamond Johnson, musical composer; Merian C. Cooper, writer and director of the 1933 film classic King Kong; Pat Boone, singer; Gary U.S. Bonds, singer and songwriter; Norman E. Thagard, astronaut; Ray Mercer, professional boxer; Lynyrd Skynyrd, rock band; .38 Special, rock band; Limp Bizkit, rap band.

OFFICIAL WEBSITES
Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce www.myjaxchamber.com
Jacksonville Convention and Visitors Bureau www.jaxcvb.com
Official Website of the City of Jacksonville www.coj.net

SEE ALSO
Fort Caroline
Saint Augustine
Andrew Jackson
Civil War
New York City

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The Robinson Library >> American History >> United States: Local History and Description >> Gulf States >> Florida

This page was last updated on February 07, 2017.