The Secrets of Jacksonville You Should Know About

Jacksonville has incredible stories and most of them are still largely unknown.

Published October 21, 2013 in History -

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The SS Gulfamerica was torpedoed off the coast of Jacksonville Beach by Nazi submarines in 1942 because it was illuminated by the lights of Jacksonville Beach, which at the time was not observing a mandated blackout. A total of two officers, two armed guards and 15 crewmen were killed in the sinking.

Full Article on SS Gulfamerica

William H. (Big Bill) Johnston, owner of Jacksonville's dog tracks (Jacksonville and Orange Park Kennel Clubs) and Chicagoland's Sportsman's Park during the mid-20th century, had ties with Al Capone. Johnston had taken over the tracks after the former owner, Edward J. O'Hare, the Capone syndicate's czar of dog racing was murdered in 1939. Prior to this, Johnston had been described as a publicity man.

Read about Big Bill and the George Washington Hotel

Charles Ponzi's 1911 mug shot. Image courtesy of

Notorious con artist and Jacksonville resident, Charles Ponzi, opened the Charpon ("CHAR"-les "PON"-zi) Land Syndicate in 1925 to sell residential lots for the affordable cost of $10 each. Unknown to buyers, much of the land was underwater.

Full Article on Charles Ponzi

Image courtesy of the Florida State Archives

Jacksonville was home to one of the South's largest red light districts in the early 20th century, with more than 60 bordellos clustered in a four-block stretch of Ward Street (now Houston Street).

More about Jacksonville's Bordello District

Image courtesy of the Florida State Archives

The Six Pack was invented in Jacksonville. The Jax Brewing Company, the last brewery in America built before Prohibition, sold beer, six to a sack, for the first time in history shortly after World War II.

More about Jax Beer

There is an underground Jacksonville. Remnants of a network of century old tunnels connecting several downtown buildings still exist.

More About the tunnels

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Metro Jacksonville