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.
Famed New York architect Henry John Klutho helped rebuild the city. Klutho and other architects, enamored by the "Prairie Style" of architecture then being popularized by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago and other Midwestern cities, designed exuberant local buildings with a Florida flair. While many of Klutho's buildings were demolished by the 1980s, a number of his creations remain, including the St. James Building from 1911 (a former department store that is now Jacksonville's City Hall) and the Morocco Temple from 1910. The Klutho Apartments, in Springfield, were recently restored and converted into office space by local charity Fresh Ministries. Despite the losses of the last several decades, Jacksonville still has one of the largest collections of Prairie Style buildings (particularly residences) outside the Midwest.
Remembering the Fire today
The Catherine Street Fire Station (No. 3) opened 10 months after the Great Fire destroyed the original 1886 structure. Bricks salvaged from buildings destroyed during the fire were used to construct the north, south and west walls of the firehouse. Today, the station has been restored and lives on as the Jacksonville Fire Museum. Here, visitors can learn more about the Great Fire of 1901, as well as other local fire-related historic events, such as the 1963 Roosevelt Hotel Fire that ended up taking 22 lives during Gator Bowl weekend. Located in Kids Kampus at Metropolitan Park, the Jacksonville Fire Museum is open Monday through Friday, from 9am to 4pm.
Jacksonville Fire Museum: www.jacksonvillefiremuseum.com
The Jacksonville Fire Memorial sculpture was erected along the Northbank riverwalk in 2003. It is intended to memorialize the great fire and the city's rise from the devastation.
To learn more about the Great Fire:
The Great Fire of Jacksonville: An Artistic Description of a Gloomy Affair
Acres of Ashes