Jacksonville: Like No Place Else

A great fire, Southern music and the U.S. Navy have shaped Jacksonville's history and heritage.

By: Jennifer Nelson

The Great Fire of 1901

On May 3, 1901, an ember from a lunch-shack kitchen ignited a moss pile drying in a nearby mattress factory. The fire spread quickly and by that evening, a two-mile swath of downtown Jacksonville was in ashes. More than 2,300 buildings were destroyed, 10,000 people were left homeless and seven died. From the ashes of that urban fire rose the Jacksonville we know today.

Architects flocked to the city after the fire to begin the rebuilding. Famed New York architect Henry John Klutho led the influx, bringing his love of the Prairie style popularized by Frank Lloyd Wright. Many of Klutho's buildings remain to this day, including a former department store that’s now Jax City Hall. Klutho houses dot the streets of the historic neighborhoods of Riverside, Avondale and Springfield. To this day, Jacksonville has one of the largest collections of Prairie-style buildings outside the Midwest.

Piers, docks, shipyards and terminals were quickly rebuilt after the fire, too. More than 13,000 new buildings went up in Jacksonville from 1901 to 1912.

After the fire, the city reinvigorated its shipping industry, and in 1907, the St. Johns River was dredged to allow bigger ships into Jacksonville's port. The local government took control of the port in 1912 and built even more terminals, growing the Port of Jacksonville from a regional river port into an international seaport.

Turn It Up

Jax has long been known as the epicenter of Southern rock. Lynyrd Skynyrd, .38 Special and Molly Hatchet hailed from here. 

The widow of Skynyrd lead singer, Ronnie Van Zant, owns a music club at Jax Beach called Freebird Live, billed as a living tribute to the band. It's one of the area’s premiere live-music venues, showcasing both local and national artists.

Nu-metal band Limp Bizkit also came from Jacksonville.

Yes, We Are Southern

Jacksonville is named for Andrew Jackson, the Tennessean who served as a major general in the War of 1812 and went on to become the seventh president of the United States.

Yes, We Are Southern, Part 2

Grits are a breakfast staple at every local restaurant. Okra comes fried. Green beans are cooked with bacon or ham hocks. Barbecue is accompanied by a variety of sauces on the table, from fire-hot to sweet honey-mustard.

U.S. Navy

The Navy has two active installations in Jacksonville and is a powerful economic and cultural force in the city. The Naval Air Station on Westside was the first Navy installation in the city, opening in 1940. The Naval Station Mayport opened in December 1942 at the mouth of the St. Johns River. A nuclear-powered aircraft carrier will be home-ported at Mayport in the future, bringing up to 5,000 Navy families with it. Thousands of people work on both bases, making it the largest employer in Northeast Florida. Go Navy!

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