Jacksonville is the seat of Duval County, Florida and the largest city in the state. It covers an area of eight hundred and eighty-five square miles and has a population of over eight hundred thousand people. Jacksonville is located on the banks of St. John’s River and is twenty-five miles south of the Georgia border. It is also three hundred and forty miles north of Miami. Jacksonville’s economic strength comes through its diversity. Its economy is based
on financial services, distribution, consumer good, biomedical technology and manufacturing. Jacksonville can trace its history back to the sixteenth century, when the Spanish built a military establishment name Fort San Nicolas to protect their colony St. Augustine. In the eighteenth century, Florida was ceded to the British, who in turn handed the area back to the Spanish twenty years later. In 1791, a town called Cowford was established in what is now modern Jacksonville. In 1821, Florida was sold to the United States, and the following year Cowford was renamed Jacksonville. It was named after Andrew Jackson, who was the military governor of the Florida Territory. In 1832, Jacksonville was incorporated as a city. During the Civil War, the city was a supply point for cattle leaving Florida and giving aid to the Confederates. Most of the war saw Jacksonville encamped by Union forces who had a naval blockade of the city in effect. After the war, the city became a popular destination for the rich and famous during the winter. It lost some of its importance as a winter resort when the Florida East Coast railroad was extended to Palm Beach and Miami during the 1890s.
Today, Jacksonville is a major tourist destination. Each year the city receives over three million visitors who come to enjoy the history, nightlife and attractions that the city has to offer. One of the most popular attractions in the city is the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. This zoo is situated at the opening of the Trout River and sits on one hundred and ten acres of land. It has over two thousand animals in its collection and is considered to be one of the premiere attractions in the city. It originally opened in 1914 in the Springfield neighborhood of the city. In 1925, it was relocated to a thirty-seven acre site on the Trout River. Over the years, the zoo has continued to grow and feature a collection of animals that has progessively become larger. In 2003, the zoo was changed its name to Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Current exhibits of the zoo include African Exhibits, Plains of East Africa, River
Valley Aviary, Giraffe Overlook, Elephant Plaza, Wild Florida, Great Apes of the World, Range of the Jaguar, Children’s Play Park, Australian Adventure, Asian Bamboo Garden, Stingray Bay, Komodo Dragon Exhibit, Monsoon Asia and Renovation of the Plains of East Africa. Animals included in the zoo’s collection include Southern Three-banded Armadillo, North American Black Bear, Slender-tailed Meerkat, Red-necked Wallaby, Dutch Belted Rabbits and Guinea Pigs. The botanical gardens exhibits include Gardens of Trout River Plaza, Savanna Blooms and Asian Bamboo Garden. Another popular attraction in the city is the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens. This museum is dedicated to American and European paintings. It also contains a large collection of Meissen porcelain. This museum was founded in 1961 at the former residence of Arthur Cummer. The grounds has three flower gardens that date back to the beginning of the twentieth century. This museum contains over six thousand pieces of art in its collection.
Kingsley Plantation is another attraction that one shouldn’t miss during a trip to Jacksonville. This plantation was named after its original owner, Zephaniah Kingsley. It is situated at the tip of Fort George Island and is a part of Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. At one point in time, the plantation covered an area of one thousand acres. Most of it has now been reclaimed by the forest, and it only consists of about sixty acres. The main house of the plantation is a two story home that was constructed in 1797. The house has a large center room and four one story pavilions located at each corner. Located on the estate are twenty-three of the original thirty two slave houses. These are situated about one thousand feet south of the main house. Only one of the cabins has been restored to its previous nineteenth century state, the other ones are in various stages of disrepair. The Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the biggest contemporary art museum in the Southeastern portion of the United States. It was founded in 1924, as the Jacksonville Fine Arts Society. Twenty-four years later it was incorporated as the Jacksonville Art Museum. In 1978, it was accredited by the American Association of Museums. Exhibitions here include “The Shape Of Things: Selections From The Permanent Collection”, “Essence and Materials Works by Minoru Ohira”, “Coherent Structures Recent Silverpoint Paintings by Carol Prusa”, “Contemporary Visions A Focus on Jacksonville Collections”, “Ultra-Realistic Sculpture: By Marc Sijan” and “Raddle Cross & Dowsing Installations by Martha Whittington”.
Other popular attractions in the city of Jacksonville include the Museum of Southern History, Huguenot Memorial Park, Bird Emergency Aid and Kare Sanctuary, Timucuan Ecological & Historical Preserve, Little Talbot Island State Park, Cimarrone Golf Club, Bent Creek Golf Course, Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra , Anheuser-Busch Brewery, Theatre Jacksonville, Atlantic Beach, Marsh Landing Country Club, Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, The Champions Club at Julington Creek, Mandarin Museum, Windsor Parke Golf Club, Jacksonville Landing, Valley Course, Hyde Park Golf Club, Ortega River Nature Preserve, Ritz Theatre & LaVilla Museum, Alexander Brest Planetarium, Prime F. Osborn Convention Center, Fort Caroline National Memorial, Big Talbot Island State Park, Veterans Memorial Wall, Yellow Bluff Fort, Morocco Shrine Auditorium, Westside Regional Park, Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail, Museum of Science and History, River City Brewing Company, Great Florida Birding Trail, Edward Waters College, Jacksonville Municipal Stadiums, University of North Florida National Recreational Trails and Islands Initiative Preserve.