The Great Fire of 1901 and the Rebuilding of Jacksonville

From a terrible fire, a whole new city was born.

On May 3, 1901, an ember from a lunch-shack kitchen ignited a moss pile drying in a nearby mattress factory. The fire spread quickly and by that evening a two-mile swath of downtown Jacksonville was in ashes. More than 2,300 buildings were destroyed and 10,000 people left homeless; amazingly, only seven people were killed. From the ashes of that urban fire rose the Jacksonville we know today.

Architects flocked to the city after the fire to begin the rebuilding. Famed New York architect Henry John Klutho led the influx, bringing his love of the Prairie style popularized by Frank Lloyd Wright. Many of Klutho's buildings remain to this day, including a former department store that’s now Jax City Hall. Klutho houses dot the streets of the historic neighborhoods of Riverside, Avondale and Springfield. To this day, Jacksonville has one of the largest collections of Prairie-style buildings outside the Midwest.

Piers, docks, shipyards and terminals were quickly rebuilt after the fire, too. More than 13,000 new buildings went up in Jacksonville from 1901 to 1912.

After the fire, the city reinvigorated its shipping industry, too. In 1907 the St. Johns River was dredged to allow bigger ships into Jacksonville's port. The local government took control of the port in 1912 and built even more terminals, growing the Port of Jacksonville from a regional river port into an international seaport.

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