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The Seven Wonders of Jacksonville

Today, Metro Jacksonville presents the Seven Wonders of Jacksonville. Throughout the history of the city, there have been amazing obstacles overcome and great successes accomplished.

Published November 1, 2007 in Opinion      12 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

1. Reconstruction after the Great Fire of 1901

There aren't very many cities that have suffered a tragedy on the scale of the Great Fire of 1901. Over 2,000 buildings were destroyed, 140 city blocks were leveled, and 10,000 lost their homes. However, the city didn't just give up after the fire; they immediately started to rebuild.

A New City Hall, Courthouse, and Library were constructed almost immediately, and the private sector followed. The event also brought out of town architects, developers, and others to the city, the most notable being Henry Klutho, who helped design some of Jacksonville's most notorious buildings, such as the St James Building (Jacksonville's City Hall), The Bisbee Building, The Florida Life building, and the YMCA building.

2. Consolidation (1968)

In the 1960, Jacksonville's leadership was at a pretty low point. The schools were on the verge of losing their accreditation, corruption in government was rampant, and services such as Police and Fire were duplicated all over the city.

In 1967, the citizens of Jacksonville voted to consolidate the governments of Jacksonville and Duval County, merging them into one. Consolidating not only provided a more efficient government, it allowed the combined government to utilize all of its resources under one governing body, such as Cecil Field and the Dames Point Marine Terminal.

3. Passing the Better Jacksonville Plan (2000)

It isn't very often that citizens vote to tax themselves at a higher rate, but that's exactly what former Mayor John Delaney managed to get the people of Jacksonville to agree to. In the late 1990's, the government realized that they were lagging in their infrastructure, so they put together a group of projects that were designed to move Jacksonville into the 21st century.

The plan would provide money for roads, transit, a new arena, ballpark, library and courthouse (someday). While some aspects of the plan did not go off as advertised (We hear that the courthouse price is going up yet again), and many have been critical of overpasses effects on neighborhoods, it still is a surprisingly progressive move for a relatively conservative city.

4. Jacksonville's Bridges

Jacksonville is blessed with a river running through it, and we've done a pretty good job over the years showcasing our greatest asset. Jacksonville has some of the most unique bridges in the south. Bridges that are typically only found in some of our sister cities in the north. While some questionable decisions were made regarding the approach ramps for the bridges, they allowed for growth and economic development that would not have been possible without them.

5. The construction of Jacksonville International Airport (1968)

The original Jacksonville Airport was constructed at Imeson Field in 1927, and had its first commercial airline (Eastern Airlines) begin service in 1931. It even had an airline headquartered here (National, which later merged with Pan Am). However, in the 1960, Jacksonville realized that they were quickly outgrowing Imeson Field, and approved a $9 million bond for the construction of a new airport to the north, to be called Jacksonville International Airport.

While this may not seem like a big deal, other cities were not as wise with their airport locations. San Diego's Lindburgh Field was built in 1928 as a single runway airport - and remains that way to this day, largely due to the private development that has encroached the runway. While it is conveniently located to Downtown San Diego (about the same distance as River City Marketplace from JIA), this causes many aviation related problems, such a weight limits and penalties, height restrictions, and other development limiting restrictions. Now, San Diego is looking to build a new airport, but will face a very expensive proposal with today's construction costs.

6. Landing an NFL Franchise (1993)

Since the 1980's (and possibly even earlier), Jacksonville had been looking to land a professional football team. They came close in the early 1980's to landing the Baltimore Colts, but couldn't seal the deal (they went to Indianapolis instead).

The plan resurfaced in 1989 under a group called Touchdown Jacksonville! an organization with one purpose in mind: to secure an NFL franchise. The plan almost fell through multiple times; the most serious in 1993 when the City Council turned down the $112 million construction bill. A month later, the city came to terms on a new construction and lease deal, forming a Public-Private Partnership to build and finance the stadium. On November 30th, 1993 the NFL awarded Jacksonville the 30th NFL franchise.

While we have discussed some of the headaches related to Jaguar games, such as the closing of nearly every street in the downtown area, the Jacksonville Jaguars generate millions of dollars for the local economy year after year, and get the city on television for three hours, 16 weekends a year.

7. Renovation of the St. James Building (1993-1997)

In 1993, Mayor Ed Austin proposed the River City Renaissance Plan, a bond initiative that would fund a group of projects in the downtown core, including the renovation of the St James Building on Hemming Plaza, into Jacksonville's city hall.

In the early 1990's, Hemming Plaza wasn't exactly a happening place. There was the vacant St James Building to the north, the vacant Robert Meyer hotel to the west, the vacant buildings on the south (after the Morrison’s Cafeteria closed), and the vacant Western Union Telegraph building to the east. Hemming Plaza itself was serving as the JTA bus terminal.

By moving City Hall to Hemming Plaza (in combination with moving the bus terminal to FCCJ), it provided an instant boost to the pedestrian activity in the Hemming area. While there could have been some things done differently with the renovation, such as restoring the original Duval Street retail spaces, the move not only provided activity in Hemming Plaza, it laid the groundwork for getting government off of the river.

What else should be on this list? Add your thoughts below.

Coming Tomorrow - The Seven Blunders of Jacksonville



November 01, 2007, 08:42:35 AM
Excellent Topic and article.   

I would have added the Preservation Project.  Although the Parks system including the Preservation lands are VERY, VERY far from there full potential, the fact remains that the most difficult and expensive part of having a massive and spectacular park system (land acquisition) is complete.  Now we just need to make it a priority and bring it to it's full potential.

One correction is in order about Consolidation.  The school system wasn't 'on the verge' of losing it's accredidation, It DID lose it's accredidation.

I think I would put Bridges a little lower on the list too.


November 01, 2007, 08:59:36 AM
I think the bridges are there with reason.

Remember, the People of Jacksonville have lacked vision for a pretty long time. When it was proposed to build the Mathews Bridge and Broward bridges (at very different times), they were commonly referred to as "the bridge to nowhere". When the Acosta Bridge was proposed, the Ferry Lobby fought against it tooth and nail, though to be fair it did open to great fanfare.

The fact that we have 7 bridges really is quite amazing considering how short sighted the citizenry of Jacksonville have proven themselves to be over the years.


November 01, 2007, 09:59:09 AM
I agree Bridges belong on the list, but perhaps 5th or 6th instead of 4th.   


November 02, 2007, 12:13:25 AM
FINALLY! We have something positive to talk about! :D


November 02, 2007, 05:35:01 AM
I think that we should add the completion of Independent Square (Modis Tower) in 1975. That building happens to be the most photographed of all the buildings in Jacksonville. I read that it was played the most important role in the 1976 Bicentenial celebration as the centerpiece of downtown. 8)


November 02, 2007, 07:56:27 AM
It is nice to read some good things for once.


November 02, 2007, 11:04:46 AM
It is nice to read some good things for once.
a now all we have to do is send it to every one in the country .....and they might think about visting.


November 03, 2007, 12:01:25 AM
Removing the tolls, and the paper mills are some noteworthies IMO.

The thrill of victory concerning the 7 wonders. ;)

And the agony of defeat when it comes to the 7 blunders. :-[



November 05, 2007, 11:03:45 AM
Removing the tolls is definitely a wonder.  I'm suprised that didn't make the cut.

I think the old fella holding the ladder found the 8th wonder....  ;)


November 05, 2007, 11:41:58 AM
The tolls should have never been there in the first place and they may be on their way back, so they were left off the list. 

The paper mills weren't listed because one is still in operation and the other closed down due to it being a struggling industry.

That old fella holding the ladder is Mayor Tanzler.  I think he's the one who jumped into the St. Johns to prove that it was clean.


November 05, 2007, 11:30:24 PM
That old fella holding the ladder is Mayor Tanzler.  I think he's the one who jumped into the St. Johns to prove that it was clean.

Mayor Tanzler is the one with her boobs in his face.  I have no idea who is holding the ladder. 


November 06, 2007, 11:16:38 AM
That old fella holding the ladder is Mayor Tanzler.  I think he's the one who jumped into the St. Johns to prove that it was clean.

Mayor Tanzler is the one with her boobs in his face.  I have no idea who is holding the ladder. 
i hope the mayor was smashing her but why is the creepy old guy peeoing up his womans skirt
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