In just over eight hours on May 3, 1901, a small fire, started in a LaVilla mattress factory, would sweep through 146 city blocks of Jacksonville, destroying over 2,000 buildings, taking seven lives, and leaving almost 9,000 people homeless in the process.
This tragic event would eventually be known as the Great Fire of 1901, the third largest urban fire in American history behind the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Chicago Fire of 1871.
Around noon on Friday, May 3, 1901 a spark from a kitchen fire during the lunch hour at a mattress factory set mattresses filled with Spanish moss on fire at the factory located in an area now known as LaVilla. The fire was soon discovered and it was thought they could put it out with only a few buckets of water. Consequently an alarm was not turned on until it had gone beyond their control.
Bay Street during the 1870s.
The fire would start in LaVilla on the corner of Davis and Ashley Streets and eventually burn everything in it's path between that point and the St. Johns River. The only thing that stood in its path and the rest of Jacksonville was Hogan's Creek and the St. Johns River.