Jacksonville is not exactly what you’d call petite. The city is the country’s largest when it comes to area, but oddly enough, it falls in population rankings, where New York City reigns supreme and Jacksonville has stood in 13th place since 2009.
One of Elvis Presley’s first headliner shows was at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville. The rock icon was monitored throughout the show by Juvenile Court Judge Marion Gooding, who insisted on ensuring that Presley’s famous hip shake didn’t become too suggestive. Elvis ended the show with the famous line, “Girls, I’ll see you backstage,” which incited his first post-show riot.
Jacksonville has been home to plenty of wonderful animals over the years, but the most famous is Miss Chic. Miss Chic was not only the zoo’s first elephant but also a collective purchase by the city. She was bought from a German animal dealer for $3,000, most of which was raised in pennies collected by children from the area. Miss Chic was also a protected investment and was insured by Lloyds of London, one of the world’s leading insurance specialists.
The most destructive event in Jacksonville history was the Great Fire of 1901. The fire may have destroyed everything within a two-mile block, but it also inspired the creation of one of the most well-known buildings in the city. The void left by the fire attracted the attention and creativity of a young architect, Henry John Klutho, who then built the Dyal-Upchurch Building, the first high-rise structure erected in the burned-out downtown space. Klutho went on to become a famous architect in Jacksonville and constructed many of the buildings you see today in the downtown area.
Without Jacksonville, the country would never have known the wonder of a 30-foot gorilla or the adventurous life of the man who created him. Merian Caldwell Cooper, the creator of King Kong, was born in the city, and Jacksonville stood as inspiration for his adventurous life. During one such adventure, Cooper left Jacksonville to serve his country abroad. He was shot down during WWI and presumed dead... twice. Gen. John J. Pershing even signed his death certificate after the first incident.
JP Small Memorial Stadium has seen many great baseball moments and teams over the decades, including the start of some very promising careers. The stadium was originally built in 1911 under a different name. In 1953, one of the most famous sets of shoes ever to grace the diamond hit the stadium when it became the stomping ground of the newly integrated Jacksonville Braves, the membership of which included a 19-year-old Hank Aaron.
You'd expect that historical buildings in Jacksonville would stay put. The James E. Merrill Residence, however, has been quite mobile for a historic property. The house was moved not one time but two during its restoration: once in 2000 and again in 2002.
Today Jacksonville is home to four breweries: Bold City Brewery, Intuition Ale Works, Seven Bridges and River City Brewing Company. In times past, however, the city was known for its own beer. From 1913 to 1956, locals enjoyed Jax Beer, made by Jax Brewing Company. During the height of its business, the brewery was producing 200,000 barrels of Jax Beer annually.
You have plenty of travel options in and around Jacksonville, with highways, the airport and the city's convenient location at the crossroads of three major railroads. The city was a transportation hub in the past, as well, however, the modes of transportation were quite different. Vehicles pulled by horses, mules and oxen were expected, but carts drawn by ostriches were also an option, thanks to the area’s ostrich farms.
Jacksonville is well-known for its green space, boasting one of the largest urban park systems in the country. This green space is going to the dogs, however, and in a very literal sense: The city is now also home to the country’s largest dog park, which many pet lovers refer to as “dog heaven."
Versed in the history of Florida Theater, Jacksonville breweries and more? Time to beef up on your Brevard history.