Creating a Timeline: Through Photographs

While the previous article uses city directories to illustrate the rise and fall of downtown, another effective way to get the point across is the use of historic photographs that correlate with the timeline. The pictures below are intended to give readers a visual image of the rise and fall of downtown Jacksonville from the early 1900's up to the 1970's. (Originally published October 9th, 2006)

Published March 27, 2015 in History -



1910's - city population: 58,000 

Nine years after the Great Fire of 1901, Main Street became a center of commerce, which lasted for over 60 years.  With coordinated planning, at the expense of taxpayers, we've converted this section of roadway into a one way highway out of town.

1920's - city population: 92,000

The northeast corner of Bay and Hogan Streets in 1925.  During this time period, downtown under went its largest skyscraper boom to date.  In 1926 alone, seven buildings of 10 stories or more were constructed.   However, the Great Despression would bring rapid urban development to an abrupt halt. 

1930's - city population: 130,000

This Forsyth Street  photograph was taken during the days when the city had an extensive inner city streetcar system.  Jacksonville's streetcar lines were eventually paved over in favor of buses during this decade.

1940's - city population: 173,000 

In 1941, the Main Street Bridge officially opened to vehicular traffic. 

1950's - city population: 205,000

The late 1940s / early 1950s represented downtown's heyday as a shopping and cultural mecca.  During this time, sidewalks were loaded with pedestrians and streets were filled with automobiles.

Looking North at the corner of Main and Adams Street in the 1950's.  Sterchi's Department Store is now the site of the surface parking lot, next to Burrito Gallery.

During this era downtown was littered with department stores such as Sears, Levy's, May-Cohens and JCPenney.  Furchgott's (shown below) was an Adams Street landmark for years  Today, the structure serves as a warehouse for an internet book company and a ghost of what was.

Window watching was a very popular activity, once the television set hit the market.

While retail boomed, the 1950's also ushered in change for the downtown riverfront.  This picture, taken in 1953, shows the waterfront littered with wharfs, similar to a scene out of San Fransico or Seattle.

During the Haydon Burns Administration, the wharfs were seen as blight and in Jacksonville there was only one way to get rid of decay.  By 1959, most of the wharfs were razed for state of the art surface parking lots.

1960's - city population: 201,000 (*city's population decrease for the first time in the 20th century)

The Haydon Burns Administration's work, issued in the era of urban renewal in the core.  With the city being surpassed in population and importance by other Floridian metropolitan areas, such as Miami and Tampa, leaders eyed the demolition of historic fabric (called blight at city hall) as a positive solution.

Several structures were demolished for this Sears on Bay Street.  Nevertheless, even a vast amount of surface parking could keep this place open long term.  Today, this site houses the Omni Hotel and Wachovia Bank Tower.

1970's - city population: 504,000

This picture of Ocean Street, during the 1970's represents the decline of downtown's importance as the epicenter of the First Coast.  Sidewalks, once littered with pedestrians only have parking meters and occassional vehicles to keep them company.  During this period, with downtown clearly on the decline, city leaders formed a Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to come up with a plan to turn the business district's fortune around.








This article can be found at:

Metro Jacksonville