Downtown Jacksonville’s Bicentennial Celebration

Photo by Visit Jacksonville

The Jacksonville Historic Society is planning many events and projects for the residents of Jacksonville, in celebration of our thriving city turning 200! Two hundred years after the city was established, Jaxons will be able to celebrate throughout the month of June, thanks to the Jacksonville Historical Society and sponsors such as the City of Jacksonville, Visit Jacksonville, 904 Happy Hour, Haskell, Wingard, JAX Jacksonville International Airport, Arbus Magazine, the Downtown Investment Authority (DIA), the Daily Record and more.

Originally known as “the cow-ford,” the Jacksonville name first appeared on a petition dated June 15, 1822, in which 61 St. Johns residents asked John Quincy Adams, the U.S. Secretary of State of the time, to designate “Jacksonville” as an official port of entry in Florida. Though he didn’t approve the petition, the Jacksonville name slowly but surely replaced the previously known Cowford, and the city’s development began. Almost a decade later, in February of 1832, the territorial legislature officially granted Jacksonville its own local government charter.

After becoming Jacksonville in 1822, William J. Mills was named the city’s first Mayor. Unfortunately, little is known about Mayor Mills due to the destruction of city records by the Great Fire of 1901, which destroyed much of city data kept in the courthouse from this time. The Great Fire of 1901 occurred on May 3rd, starting at the American Fiber Company. The fire burned through 146 city blocks, destroying more than 2,000 buildings, killing seven people, and leaving close to 10,000 Jaxons homeless. Within the first five months after the fire, residents eager to rebuild their city were given over 1,000 building permits and created a large portion of the beautiful homes we now see in the neighborhoods of Riverside and Springfield.

In 1866, Francis F. L’Engle purchased land in the now-Downtown area, creating the Town of LaVilla, for which he becomes the first mayor. LaVilla became the heart of Downtown Jacksonville and one of the most exciting places to be for entertainment and the arts: the blues were born, jazz artists played on every corner, and musical legends were regulars to the town’s clubs and hotels. Cultural leaders and intellectuals such as James Weldon Johnson and Eartha M.M. White were born here and shaped the cultural landscape as their influences traveled. We can see LaVilla in today’s Downtown, as portions of this area’s buildings were fortunately left unharmed. We are grateful to the Jacksonville Historical Society, started in 1929, for being an invaluable service to our city for so long and through which we learn more about #DTJax to this day.

As Jacksonville’s population grew, a bridge became a necessity for the booming city. Begun in 1919, the St. Johns River Bridge (known today as the Acosta Bridge) took two years to complete, and South Jacksonville’s new sense of accessibility made way for a burst of new development. Today, we can see these developments have only continued and become the Downtown Jacksonville we know and love to play, live and work in! For more #DTJax History, check out our timeline for more information.

Celebrate 200 Years of #DTJax

There will be a kids’ art competition, the Vystar Kidz Wall of Art, in which children under age 10 can submit any 2-dimensional work they wish! The theme is “My Jacksonville: Past to the Present,” and the entry deadline is June 1st.

Photo by @904happyhour

Painting the Scenes: Noon-3 p.m. Artists painting streets scenes live at eight locations on Laura Street.

Noon-3 p.m. The Imposters, character actor re-enactors, perform on Laura Street.

Noon-4 p.m. “My Jacksonville” Art Exhibition at the Jacksonville Public Library, 303 N. Laura Street and at The New Jacksonville Art Center, 331 Ashley Street.

Laura Street Live! Noon to 5 p.m. In James Weldon Johnson Park, family-friendly performances and programming will be found all along Laura Street including John Lumpkin Jazz band, LPT Afro-Cubano salsa band, Jacksonville Children’s Chorus and more. Residents can look forward to historical re-enactors, exhibits, booths, vendors, food trucks, the Vystar Children’s Art Wall, historic tours, and more all while they stroll!

Opening Ceremony 3 p.m. After a performance by the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus, the reading of the original charter and of the Mayoral Proclamation will follow and more.

4:15 p.m. Parade begins from James Weldon Johnson Park  down Laura Street to Riverfront Plaza.

Photo by Honey Hounds Music

5 p.m. Live Music, from multiple bands: Let’s Ride Brass Band; the Honey Hounds; Love and Theft.

9:04 p.m. Headliner Band: Flipturn

10:15 p.m. Fireworks Display! 

Photo by AdLib Luxury Tours & Transportation, Inc.

More events in #DTJax in celebration of the bicentennial:

Jacksonville Pub Walks – Legends & Liars: #Jax200 Edition

Gary Sass of AdLib Luxury Tours, Inc. hosts a special edition of his Jax Pub Walks during three Friday nights (May 27, June 10, June 17)! Beginning at Bold City Brewery Downtown, this interactive tour spans 15 blocks of Downtown while teaching tour-goers all about Jacksonville history!

#Jax200 Bicentennial Trivia– Friday, June 10, 9p.m. at Ruby Beach Brewing

Immediately following the Jax Pub Walk on June 10, there will be a special edition of #Jax200 Bicentennial Trivia at Ruby Beach Brewing, created by local journalist Shelton Hull! This trivia will include rapid-fire questions about all aspects of our city’s history and tailored to our residents. Over $500 in prizes has already been collected! Sponsored in part by AdLib Luxury Tours Inc., the Jacksonville Historical Society, Folio Weekly, the Jacksonville Music Experience, the River City Wrestling Con, Ruby Beach Brewing, Bold City Brewery, the Jacksonville Symphony, Bold City Music Productions and Downtown Vision, Inc. This event has free admission, but you can RSVP here!

If you choose, you’re able to make a contribution here and have a helping hand in ensuring Jacksonville properly commemorates its 200th anniversary!

Whether you’ve lived and loved Jacksonville all your life, are new to town or just visiting, we hope you’ll celebrate this awesome city with us! Enjoy all the events in store, share your photos with us at #DTJax, and don’t forget to wish our Bold City a happy bicentennial. Onto the next 200!