Jacksonville has more than luxury homes and condos. In fact, our city has a rich, interesting history that locals are proud to share and discuss. Most of us are proud to share that Jacksonville’s major developments came as a result of our status as a destination city—a place for tourists to escape the cold weather of the north. See below for a brief but complete history of our wonderful city.
Archaeological evidence indicates that humans have lived in the Jacksonville area for at least 6,000 years. Pottery has been found dating to 2500 BCE—nearly the oldest in the United States. In 1513, Spanish explorers landed in Florida and claimed their discovery for Spain. The city of Jacksonville began in the late 18th century; settled by British colonists, it was known originally as Cow Ford.
During the American Civil War, Jacksonville was a key supply point for hogs and cattle aiding the Confederate cause. As a result, the US Navy maintained a blockade around Florida’s ports, and in 1862 Union forces captured and occupied Jacksonville. The city changed hands several times throughout the war, though never saw battle. At the end of the war, the city was nearly gutted, with few residents, few resources, and, itself, a victim of the war.
Though devastated during the war, Jacksonville saw a resurgence during Reconstruction. The city, along with nearby St. Augustine, became a very popular destination for wealthy northerners and Midwesterners looking to escape the harsh winter weather. Gilded Age visitors arrived in the city via steamboat and by railroad, which facilitated the development of dozens of hotels and boarding houses. However, railroad expansion and a yellow fever epidemic drew tourists away from the city.
The 1920s brought incredibly real estate development to the city. The Florida Land Boom allowed hordes of train passengers to pass through Jacksonville on their way south, with many trains being routed through the city. The increased traffic facilitated the completion of the Dixie Highway, and technological advancements in theater and attractions allowed the city to bill itself, justifiably, as the “Gateway to Florida.”
Currently, Jacksonville is the largest city in Florida and the 13th largest in the United States. It has a greater land area than any other American city outside Alaska.