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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Jacksonville, FL

Downtown Jacksonville

Jacksonville is the largest city in the U.S. state of Florida, and is the county seat of Duval County. Since 1968, as a result of the consolidation of the city and county government, and a corresponding expansion of the city limits to include almost the entire county, Jacksonville has been the largest city in land area in the contiguous United States. Consequently the majority of Jacksonville's metropolitan population resides within the city limits, making it the most populous city proper in Florida and the twelfth most populous in the United States. Jacksonville is the principal city in the Greater Jacksonville Metropolitan Area, a region with a population of more than 1,313,228.
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Jacksonville Seal

Jacksonville is located in the First Coast region of northeast Florida and is centered on the banks of the St. Johns River, about 25 miles (40 km) south of the Georgia border and about 340 miles (547 km) north of Miami. The settlement that became Jacksonville was founded in 1791 as Cowford, so named because of its location at a narrow point in the river where cattle once crossed. In 1822, a year after the United States acquired the colony of Florida from Spain, the city was renamed for Andrew Jackson, the first military governor of the Florida Territory and then-future President of the United States.
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Jacksonville Flag

Nickname(s): The River City, Jax, J-ville
Motto: Where Florida Begins

Statue in Memorial Park


The history of Jacksonville spans hundreds of years. Ossachite, the name given by anthropologists to the first settlement in the area, was made over 6,000 years ago by the Timucua Indians in the vicinity of modern-day downtown Jacksonville.

European explorers first arrived in 1562, when French Huguenot explorer Jean Ribault charted the St. Johns River. René Goulaine de Laudonnière established the first European settlement at Fort Caroline two years later. On September 20, 1565, a Spanish force from the nearby Spanish settlement of St. Augustine attacked Fort Caroline, and killed nearly all the French soldiers defending it. The Spanish renamed it Fort San Mateo. With the destruction of the French forces at Fort Caroline, St. Augustine's position as the most important settlement in Florida was solidified.

Spain ceded Florida to the British in 1763, who then gave control back to Spain in 1783. The first permanent settlement in modern Jacksonville was settled as "Cowford" in 1791, ostensibly named for a narrow point in the St. Johns River where cattlemen could ford their livestock across. The Florida Territory was ceded to the United States in 1821, and in 1822, Jacksonville's current name had come into use. U.S. settlers led by Isaiah D. Hart authored a charter for a town government, which was approved by the Florida Legislative Council on February 9, 1832.
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Jacksonville in 1893 Aerial View

During the American Civil War, Jacksonville was a key supply point for hogs and cattle leaving Florida and aiding the Confederate cause. The city was blockaded by the Union, who gained control of the nearby Fort Clinch and controlled the city and most of the First Coast for the duration of the war. Though no battles were fought in Jacksonville, it changed hands several times, and the city was left in a considerable state of disarray after the war.

Fort Clinch

During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, Jacksonville and nearby St. Augustine became popular winter resorts for the rich and famous. Visitors arrived by steamboat and later by railroad. President Grover Cleveland's attended the Sub-Tropical Exposition in the city on February 22, 1888 during his trip to Florida, which increased the visibility of the state's worthiness as a place for tourism. The city's tourism, however, was dealt major blows in the late 19th century by yellow fever outbreaks and the extension of the Florida East Coast Railway to south Florida.

Great Fire of 1901

On May 3, 1901, downtown Jacksonville was ravaged by a fire that was started at a fiber factory. Known as the "Great Fire of 1901", it was one of the worst disasters in Florida history and the largest ever urban fire in the Southeastern United States; it destroyed the business district and rendered 10,000 residents homeless in the course of eight hours. It is said the glow from the flames could be seen in Savannah, Georgia and the smoke plumes in Raleigh, North Carolina. Famed New York architect Henry John Klutho was a primary figure in the reconstruction of the city. More than 13,000 buildings were constructed between 1901 and 1912.
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Jacksonville view, 1909

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". However, the city's conservative political climate and the emergence of Hollywood as a major film production center ended the city's film industry. One converted movie studio site, Norman Studios, remains in Arlington; It has been converted to the Jacksonville Silent Film Museum at Norman Studios.

Motion picture scene at Gaumont Studios, 1910

During this time, Jacksonville also became a banking and insurance center, with companies such as Barnett Bank, Atlantic National Bank, Florida National Bank, Prudential, Gulf Life, Afro-American Insurance, Independent Life and American Heritage Life thriving in the business district. The U.S. Navy also became a major employer and economic force during the 1940's, with the construction of three naval bases in the city. Jacksonville, like most large cities in the United States, suffered from negative effects of rapid urban sprawl after World War II.

After World War II, the government of the City of Jacksonville began to increase spending to fund new building projects in the boom that occurred after the war. Mayor W. Haydon Burns' Jacksonville Story resulted in the construction of a new city hall, civic auditorium, public library and other projects that created a dynamic sense of civic pride. However, the development of suburbs and a subsequent wave of "white flight" left Jacksonville with a much poorer population than before. Much of the city's tax base dissipated, leading to problems with funding education, sanitation, and traffic control within the city limits. In addition, residents in unincorporated suburbs had difficulty obtaining municipal services such as sewage and building code enforcement. In 1958, a study recommended that the City of Jacksonville begin annexing outlying communities in order to create the needed tax base to improve services throughout the county. Voters outside the city limits rejected annexation plans in six referendums between 1960 and 1965.

In the mid 1960s, corruption scandals began to arise among many of the city's officials, who were mainly elected through the traditional good ol' boy network. After a grand jury was convened to investigate, 11 officials were indicted and more were forced to resign. Consolidation, led by J. J. Daniel and Claude Yates, began to win more support during this period, from both inner city blacks, who wanted more involvement in government and whites in the suburbs, who wanted more services and more control over the central city. The simultaneous disaccredation of all fifteen of Duval County's public high schools in 1964 added momentum to the proposals for government reform. Lower taxes, increased economic development, unification of the community, better public spending and effective administration by a more central authority were all cited as reasons for a new consolidated government.
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News of Jacksonville's consolidation from The Florida Times-Union.

A consolidation referendum was held in 1967, and voters approved the plan. On October 1, 1968, the governments merged to create the Consolidated City of Jacksonville. Fire, police, health and welfare, recreation, public works, and housing and urban development were all combined under the new government. The Better Jacksonville Plan, promoted as a blueprint for Jacksonville's future and approved by Jacksonville voters in 2000, authorized a half-penny sales tax to generate most of the revenue required for the $2.25 billion package of projects that included road & infrastructure improvements, environmental preservation, targeted economic development and new or improved public facilities.



A simulated-color satellite image of Jacksonville, taken on NASA's Landsat 7 satellite.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 874.3 square miles (2,264.5 km²), making Jacksonville the largest city in land area in the contiguous United States; of this, 757.7 square miles (1,962.4 km²; 86.66%) is land and 116.7 square miles (302.1 km²; 13.34%) is water. Jacksonville completely encircles the city of Baldwin. Nassau County lies to the north, Baker County lies to the west, and Clay and St. Johns County lie to the south; the Atlantic Ocean lies to the east, along with the Jacksonville Beaches. The St. Johns River divides the city. The Trout River, a major tributary of the St. Johns River, is located entirely within Jacksonville.


Picture of a very rare Jacksonville snowfall, December 23, 1989

Jacksonville has a humid subtropical climate (Koppen Cfa), with mild weather during winters and hot weather during summers. High temperatures average 64 to 91 °F (18-33 °C) throughout the year. High heat indices are not uncommon for the summer months in the Jacksonville area. High temperatures can reach mid to high 90s with heat index ranges of 105-115 °F. The highest temperature ever recorded in Jacksonville was 105 °F (41 °C) on July 21, 1942. It is common for daily thunderstorms to erupt during a standard summer afternoon. These are caused by the heating of the land and water, combined with extremely high humidity.

During winter, the area can experience hard freezes during the night. Such cold weather is usually short lived, as the city averages only 15 nights below freezing. The coldest temperature recorded in Jacksonville was 7 °F (-14 °C) on January 21, 1985, a day that still holds the record cold for many locations in the eastern half of the US. Even rarer in Jacksonville than freezing temperatures is snow. When snow does fall, it usually melts before touching the ground, or upon making contact with the ground. Most residents of Jacksonville can remember accumulated snow on only one occasion—-a thin ground cover that occurred December 23 of 1989.

Jacksonville has suffered less damage from hurricanes than most other east coast cities. The city has only received one direct hit from a hurricane since 1871, although Jacksonville has experienced hurricane or near-hurricane conditions more than a dozen times due to storms passing through the state from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, or passing to the north or south in the Atlantic and brushing the area. The strongest effect on Jacksonville was from Hurricane Dora in 1964, the only recorded storm to hit the First Coast with sustained hurricane force winds. The eye crossed St. Augustine, with winds that had just barely diminished to 110 mph (180 km/h), making it a strong Category 2 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Jacksonville also suffered damage from 2008's Tropical Storm Fay which crisscrossed the state, bringing Jacksonville under darkness for four days. Similarly, four years previous to this, Jacksonville was inundated by Hurricane Frances and Hurricane Jeanne, which made landfall south of the area. These tropical cyclones were the costliest indirect hits to Jacksonville. Hurricane Floyd in 1999 caused damage mainly to Jacksonville Beach. During Floyd, the Jacksonville Beach pier was completely destroyed. The rebuilt Jacksonville Beach pier was later heavily damaged by Fay, but not destroyed.

Rainfall averages around 52 inches (1.3 m) a year, with the wettest months being June through September.


Jacksonville skyline panorama.


Downtown Jacksonville has a memorable skyline with the tallest building being the Bank of America Tower, constructed in 1990 as the Barnett Bank Center. It has a height of 617 ft (188 m) and includes 42 floors. Other notable structures include the 37-story Modis Building (once, with its distinctive flared base, the defining building in the Jacksonville skyline), originally built in 1972-74 by the Independent Life and Accident Insurance Company, and the 28 floor Riverplace Tower which, when completed in 1967, was the tallest precast, post-tensioned concrete structure in the world.


As the largest city in land area in the contiguous United States, Jacksonville’s official website divides the city into six major sections:

Sections of Jacksonville

Greater Arlington (Arlington) is situated east and south of the St. Johns River and north of Beach Blvd.

North Jacksonville, (Northside) officially considered to be everything north of the St. Johns & Trout Rivers and east of US 1.

Northwest Jacksonville is located north of Interstate 10, south of the Trout River.

Southeast Jacksonville (Southside, Mandarin), referring to everything east of the St. Johns River and south of Beach Blvd.

West Jacksonville (Westside) consists of everything west of the St. Johns River and south of Interstate 10.

Urban Core (Downtown Jacksonville) includes the south and north banks of the narrowest part of the St. Johns River east from the Fuller Warren Bridge and extending roughly 4 miles (6.4 km) north and east.

Jacksonville is divided into several sections; Northside, Southside and Westside, with each section having several distinct neighborhoods.

Today, what distinguishes a "section" of Jacksonville from a "neighborhood" is primarily a matter of size and divisibility. However, definitions are imprecise, and sometimes not universally agreed upon. Each of these sections not only encompasses a large area, but also, each is divided into many neighborhoods. Each of these neighborhoods, in turn, has its own identity. Some, such as Mandarin, LaVilla and Bayard had existed previously as independent towns or villages, prior to consolidation, and have their own histories.

Parks and gardens

Jacksonville operates the largest urban park system in the United States, providing facilities and services at more than 337 locations on more than 80,000 acres (320 km²) located throughout the city. Jacksonville gathers significant natural beauty from the St. Johns River and Atlantic Ocean and many parks provide access for people to boat, swim, fish, sail, jetski, surf and waterski. Several parks around the city have received international recognition. Kids Kampus, in particular, is a unique facility for families with young children.

The Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens broke ground on a new center in April, 2007 and held their grand opening on November 15, 2008.

The Veterans Memorial Wall is a tribute to local servicemen and women killed while serving in US armed forces. A ceremony is held each Memorial Day recognizing any service woman or man from Jacksonville who died in the previous year.

The Treaty Oak is a massive, 250 year-old tree at Jesse Ball Dupont Park in downtown. Office workers from nearby buildings sit on benches to eat lunch or read a book in the shade of its canopy.

The Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail is a linear city park which runs 14.5 miles (23.3 km) from Imeson Road to a point past Baldwin, Florida.


Jacksonville, Florida, ca. 1910

Entertainment and performing arts

The Florida Theatre

The Florida Theatre, opened in 1927, is located in downtown Jacksonville and is one of only four remaining high-style movie palaces built in Florida during the Mediterranean Revival architectural boom of the 1920's.

Theatre Jacksonville was organized in 1919 as the Little Theatre and is one of the oldest continually producing community theatres in the United States.

The Riverside Theater opened in 1927. It was the first theater equipped to show talking pictures in Florida and the third nationally. It is located in the Five Points section of town and was renamed the Five Points Theater.

The Ritz Theatre, opened in 1929, is located in the LaVilla neighborhood of the northern part of Jacksonville's downtown. Rebuilt and opened in October, 1999.

The Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts consists of three distinct halls: the Jim and Jan Moran Theater, a venue for touring Broadway shows; the Jacoby Symphony Hall, home of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra; and the Terry Theater, intended for small shows and recitals. The building was originally erected as the Civic Auditorium in 1962 and underwent a major renovation and construction in 1996.

The Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, which opened in 2003, is a 16,000-seat performance venue that attracts national entertainment, sporting events and also houses the Jacksonville Sports Hall of Fame. It replaced the outdated Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum that was built in 1960 and demolished on June 26, 2003.

The Alhambra Dinner Theatre, located on the Southside near the University of North Florida, has offered professional productions that frequently starred well-known actors since 1967. There are also a number of popular community theatres such as Players by the Sea at Jacksonville Beach. Atlantic Beach Experemental Theatre (ABET), and Orange Park Community Theatre

In 1999, Stage Aurora Theatrical Company, Inc. was established in collaboration at Florida Community College at Jacksonville North Campus as. Currently, Their goal is to produce theatre that enlightens, and is the most popular theatre on the Northside, and is located at Gateway Town Center.

Jacksonville is also home to The Teal Sound Drum and Bugle Corps, a junior team that competes in Drum Corps International Open Class competition.

Jacksonville also houses live improv comedy. The Mad Cowford Improv Troupe performs weekly at Northstar Substation every Friday night. Mad Cowford is Jacksonville's only improv group. Shows consist of 100% on-the-spot material and audience participation. The troupe is led by director John Kalinowski.

In the early 1900s, New York-based moviemakers were attracted to Jacksonville's warm climate, exotic locations, excellent rail access, and cheaper labor, earning the city the title of "The Winter Film Capital of the World". Over 30 movie studios were opened and thousands of silent films produced between 1908 and the 1920's, when most studios relocated to Hollywood, California.

Since that time, Jacksonville has been chosen by a number of film and television studios for on-location shooting. Notable motion pictures that have been partially or completely shot in Jacksonville since the silent film era 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), Ride (1998), Why Do Fools Fall In Love (1998), Forces of Nature (1999), Tigerland (2000), Sunshine State (2002), Basic (2003), The Manchurian Candidate (2004), Lonely Hearts (2006), Monster House (2006), Moving McAllister (2007), The Year of Getting to Know Us (2008).

Notable television series or made-for-television films that have been partially or completely shot in Jacksonville include Intimate Strangers (1986), Inherit the Wind (1988), Roxanne: The Prize Pulitzer (1989), A Girl of the Limberlost (1990), Orpheus Descending (1990), Pointman (1995), Saved by the Light (1995), The Babysitter's Seduction (1996), Sudden Terror: The Hijacking of School Bus #17 (1996), First Time Felon (1997), Gold Coast (1997), Safe Harbor (1999), The Conquest of America (2005), Super Bowl XXXIX (2005), Recount (2008), and American Idol (2009). In an episode of NCIS, the suspect/criminal was stationed at Naval Air Station Jacksonville even though it wasn't really filmed there.