5 Reasons for Jacksonville's Smell

October 12, 2015 13 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Central Florida papers once described Jacksonville as an industrial city that sweats, and pretty much smells that way. This is a city that could use a shot of municipal-strength deodorant. On the other hand, local advocates countered that the city's rotten egg stench was the "smell of money". Here's a look back at the five places that once gave the city an image it's still trying to rid itself of.



Stop by Metro Jacksonville's Book Launch Party at 6pm today at San Marco Bookstore learn more about Jacksonville's modern history. Click HERE for more information.

Ever wonder why Jacksonville has an inferiority complex today? Despite the fact that 20 years have passed since the city started using municipal strength deodorant, it's long time acrid odor may have had something to do with it. For decades, Jax was described as an industrial city that sweats, and pretty much smells that way. On June 7, 1937, Samuel Kipnis announced to the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce at the Mayflower Hotel, his corporation planned to open a pulp and kraft paper mill on Talleyrand Avenue. Kipnis promised that his National Container Corporation would open a new frontier in Jacksonville industry, by creating hundreds of jobs, utilizing Northeast Florida's natural resources, and putting land on the tax rolls.

Opening in 1938, National Container's pulp and kraft paper mill delivered what Kipnis promised. However, that promise came with a smell. A smell many local civic advocates of the era described as the "smell of money". A pulp mill is a manufacturing facility that converts wood chips or other plant fiber source into a thick fiber board which can be utilized by a paper mill for further processing. Pulp can be manufactured using mechanical, semi-chemical or fully chemical methods. The early 1930s invention of the recovery boiler by G.H. Tomlinson was a milestone in the advancement of the kraft process. The kraft process (so called because of the superior strength of the resulting paper, from the German word Kraft for 'strength') quickly became the dominant method for producing wood pulp at a time when the American paper industry rapidly expanded throughout the south. Crude sulfate turpentine, the main byproduct of kraft pulping was the cause of the malodorous air emissions associated with pulp mills utilizing the kraft process.

Due to their substantial demands, mills of the early 20th century were typically located near large bodies of water, allowing them to discharge their wastes into them. The St. Johns River, an efficient rail network and the region's longtime forest products industry, made Jacksonville an attractive location. In 1953, St. Regis opened a kraft paper, board mill, and new pulp manufacturing facilities along the St. Johns River, a few miles north of National Container. Business was so good that St. Regis expanded the mill in 1957, increasing its pulp capacity to more than four times the original. By 1969, 40% of Florida's paper industry's production capacity was in the greater Jacksonville area. Locally, the industry employed 7,800. However, the negative side effect was bad air quality and pollution of the St. Johns River and its tributaries. To overcome these issues, the industry promised to spend $22 million in new antipollution facilities.


Map of industrial sites highlighted in article.

However, all the blame can't be placed on the mills. The city was also home to turpentine refineries and a JEA wastewater plant that all utilized crude sulfate turpentine in their daily operations. The concentration of industry in such a compact land mass led to an unforgettable smell that really put Jacksonville on the national map. In 1991, in order to phase out Jax's grotesque aroma, the City of Jacksonville enacted an anti-odor campaign, increasing fines for odor violations. The impact of this legislation was boosted by mergers and acquisitions in the national paper industry during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

One local mill was completely retrofitted, becoming a 100% recycling operation and another was shut down for good. Here's a look at the five major sites that once smelled up Jacksonville. Here's an update on the plants that were using crude sulfate turpentine, the worst source of odors back in 1991.

Stop by Metro Jacksonville's Book Launch Party at 6pm today at San Marco Bookstore learn more about Jacksonville's modern history. Click HERE for more information.


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