Known as "The Bold New City of The South", Jacksonville has a very storied past, and an extremely bright future! Also nicknamed "River City", "J-Ville", or just plain "JAX", Jacksonville was chartered by the Florida Legislature in 1832. The area has been documented to having been inhabited since as early as 2500 BC. In its' early years as a city, it was an early prize in the Civil War, changing hands several times before the Union forces captured and held it in 1862. During Reconstruction, it became known as a popular winter resort town for many Northern industrialists. Its location near the mouth of the St. Johns River made it easily accessible by steamboats, and later by railroads. As was the case with many large cities near the turn of the 20th century, Jacksonville fell victim to a devastating fire in 1901, which leveled nearly the entire town. For that reason, it is difficult to find many buildings in the city older than 1901. As Jacksonville began rebuilding from "The Great Fire of 1901", it became desirable for its mild climate, and attracted many film studios, as well as a center for banking, and ironically, the insurance industry.
The 1940's saw Jacksonville explode as a center of shipbuilding for the war effort, and with 3 naval bases nearby (Jacksonville NAS, Cecil Field, and Naval Station Mayport), many sailors shipped out from the port to fight overseas. Many became enamored with the area, and returned after the war was over to raise their families. Jacksonville was exploding with growth, and the government struggled to keep up. The city tried to maintain its' charming neighborhoods, but urban sprawl took over, and residents began moving to the suburban areas outside the city limits, causing the tax base to fall rapidly. The construction of bridges and expressways throughout the 1950's led to further urban sprawl, most notably the opening of the Mathews Bridge in 1953, which connected the downtown area to the Arlington area. Growth exploded in that area, and by 1961, Arlington had over 50,000 residents. On October 1, 1968, the City of Jacksonville consolidated the entire county of Duval to become the Consolidated City of Jacksonville. While making it the largest city in area in the entire US, it also eliminated the need to have duplication of services such as fire, police, recreation, and housing. It also consolidated the tax base of a large area. Only the areas of Baldwin, Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, and Atlantic Beach are not consolidated into the metropolis of Jacksonville. They each voted to remain separate municipalities.
The 1990's and 2000's were a very exciting time in the development of Jacksonville into a world-class city. The first notable event was the awarding of an NFL franchise, the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1993. Jacksonville had 2 pro football franchises prior to that, the Jacksonville Sharks in the 1970's and the Jacksonville Bulls in 1984, but the NFL franchise seemed to add an aura of legitimacy to the city. Equally exciting was the city's hosting of Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005. All eyes were on the city, and it did not disappoint! During this period, the skyline of Downtown Jacksonville also began to change dramatically. Many companies began relocating here, most notably Stein Mart, Fidelity National Financial, CSX Corporation and Southeast Grocers (parent company of Winn-Dixie and BI-LO supermarkets). Many of the companies that relocate here figure prominently into the downtown skyline, and boast modern glass skyscrapers. Jacksonville is home to more than 500 neighborhoods, and has 4 neighborhoods on the National Register of Historic Places (Avondale, Ortega, Riverside, and Springfield).
The 2010's look to be possibly the most promising years of Jacksonville's growth and development. Amazon has committed to constructing 2 facilities here, IKEA is currently in development on a site, and M.D. Anderson Cancer Centers have a project underway. Early on, the moniker of "The First Coast" was bestowed upon the area, possibly because it is the first area of Florida that one encounters coming into the state from the Eastern Seaboard, but it also may be due to our longtime neighbor in the South, St. Augustine, which dates back hundreds of years. Many folks enjoy the historical aspect of the city, as opposed to our numerous "new" neighbors in Central and Southern Florida. Jacksonville is a low lying area (highest point is an estimated 40 feet above sea level), but has been blessed with not being affected by many hurricanes and tropical storms, with the exception of Hurricane Dora in 1964 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Growth has been robust, and shows no signs of slowing down in the near future. It is truly a place where "Old Florida" becomes "The Bold New City of The South". Come and see why our growth outpaces nearly every other area in the state!