Known as the urban core of the greater Jacksonville area, Downtown Jacksonville fills up with young professionals as well as tourists during the week. It’s just minutes to the beautiful Jacksonville Beaches. But offers its own natural beauty amidst a primarily commercial setting. A sunset walk along the St Johns River is truly a sight to behold. Recent revitalization efforts have begun to transform this area into an exciting urban landscape.
A Brief History
Jacksonville traces its history all the way back to the 1500s, when the Mocama people set up the Ossachite village. Part of the Timucca tribe, the Mocama lived here when European travelers came to the area in the mid-1500s. First, French explorers arrived. Then, Spanish colonists. By the 1700s, only three Timucca villages were shown on the 1717 census.
The British took over the Jacksonville area in the mid-1700s. During the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Thomas Creek took place in what is now known as Jacksonville. During the Civil War, Union soldiers occupied the City. Once the war ended, Jacksonville experienced steady growth, becoming one of the state’s very first tourist destinations. By the late 1880s, Jacksonville annexed its surrounding communities, which included LaVilla, Brooklyn, Southbank, and Springfield.
After the Great Fire of 1901, the City rebuilt itself. Dixieland Park (“The Coney Island of the South) opened its gates in 1907. Jacksonville Terminal opened up in 1919. Construction of the St Johns River Bridge ended in 1921, making South Jacksonville more accessible and bringing a lot of development to the area. In the 1920s, Ford Motor Company built a plant here. Gator Bowl Stadium (originally known as Fairfield Stadium) opened up in 1927. It was later demolished in 1994.
By the 1990s, the downtown Jacksonville area fell into disrepair. It took several years and the creation of Downtown Vision to start the revitalization process. Today, this primarily commercial area boasts a beautiful walkway along the St Johns River with more and more businesses and events added all the time.
Things to Do
One of the most popular events in the City is the Jacksonville ArtWalk. Taking up 15 blocks, guests walk from gallery to gallery, with museums and restaurants scattered throughout on the first Wednesday of every month. It’s a fun way to introduce your children to the art world. Plus it helps support our local artists and businesses. Jacksonville’s Museum of Contemporary Art sits in Hemming Plaza. Exhibits change frequently and it’s a very family-friendly place to explore. The Museum of Science and History showcases animals native to the Jacksonville area. They encourage hands-on learning and feature an amazing planetarium. For a fun way to travel between the North and Southbank, take the Skyway Express.