Florida has a lot more to offer than beautiful beaches in Miami or Walt Disney’s Studios in Orlando. Travelers visiting Jacksonville will be pleasantly surprised to find a city rich in culture with a history spanning hundreds of years—from the native Timucua people to the Spanish and French settlements, all the way to the Civil Rights Movement.
Visitors can go to the Norman Studios, which focus on African American silent movies, to the Timucuan Preserve to learn about the foreign settlements, or to the Catherine Street Fire Station, which is now a museum about the great fire of 1901.
Kinglesy plantation was built in 1798 during the Spanish era, being the first and oldest in the state of Florida. Kingsley, the owner, fought fiercely for African American rights and, in the 1830s, freed 50 of his slaves and moved to Haiti. Visitors can see the original slave quarters and imagine how life was in those days.
When the Friendship Fountain opened in 1965, it was the world’s largest and tallest at the time. It was designed by Taylor Hardwick and used to pump over 3,500 gallons of water per minute to heights of 100 feet. In 2010 the fountain was restored and the 265 lights were updated to its full functionality.
Florida Theatre was built in 1927 and, at the time, it was the largest one in the state. It was designed by R.E. Hall and fashioned in the Mediterranean Revival style, with French and Italian wall hangings and Moroccan furniture. The most famous performer was Elvis Presley, who played six shows in just two days.
The Timucuan Preserve was established in 1988 to protect the coastal wetlands that once belonged to the native Timucua people. Travelers can visit Fort Caroline and learn more about the French settlement in the area, or just go hiking and kayaking to enjoy the impressive nature all around.
Catherine Street Fire Station
Catherine Fire Station was built a year after the great fire of 1901. It was entirely manned by African American firemen for several years, but it is now rehabilitated as the city’s fire museum. It’s an ideal place to visit for those willing to know more about the great fire as it’s located in the city center, so check out these Jacksonville hotels for you to stay in the area.
The Norman Studios
Jacksonville had a significant movie industry in the 1920s and was one of Hollywood’s biggest rivals during the early years of filmmaking. Richard E. Norman was a white filmmaker, but in the period of increasing racism, chose to produce feature-length movies portraying African Americans in a positive light. It produced silent films using an all African American cast and crew such as “The Bull Dogger” and “The Flying Ace.”
When you take into consideration Jacksonville’s incredible history, it’s easy to see why visitors can find such remarkable sites all over the city. Whether they’re drawn by the interesting foreign settlements, the deep African American history, or amazing nature preserve, travelers will definitely have a fascinating time.