By now, most of us are well-aware that Jacksonville is the largest city, by total square-mileage, in the U.S. with the exception of Alaska.
But how did Jacksonville get so big?
Much of Jax’s expansion from its original 1832 grid occurred in a piecemeal manner, as a result of the city annexing nearby properties, until 1968 when the city’s boundaries expanded to include the overwhelming majority of Duval County.
Here’s a brief breakdown of how the city grew over the years:
Early 1800s: landowners begin to establish what will become Jacksonville
In the first few decades of the 1800s, a group of landowners led by Isaiah Hart began plotting out what would soon become the new city of Jacksonville along the Northbank. A bay tree at the corner of what are now Bay and Market streets served as their starting point.
1832: Jacksonville city charter approved
By 1832, state legislators had approved the addition of the new city proposed by Hart and company. It was named Jacksonville in honor of Andrew Jackson.
1850s: City land expands north from its original boundaries
The city’s land holdings were gradually expanded to the north utilizing more land owned by the founding group. Hart’s land becomes home to a new city park, now known as Hemming Park.
1880s: LaVilla, Brooklyn, Riverside, Fairfield, Oakland, East Jacksonville, and Springfield annexed by Jacksonville
Jax expanded significantly during the 1880s as it absorbed several surrounding communities that had popped up following the Civil War. The additions doubled the city’s land holdings.
1925: North Shore, Ortega, and Murray Hill annexed by Jacksonville
In the ‘20s, Jax expanded further west, annexing a few more suburban communities including the historic Ortega neighborhood.
1930s: Panama Park, South Jacksonville (San Marco), and Oklahoma (Southbank) annexed by Jacksonville
In the early ‘30s, the city annexed Panama Park, extending its northern boundaries to the Trout River. Later in the decade it would annex South Jacksonville and Oklahoma, now combined as San Marco, as its first expansion south of the St. Johns River.
1968: Jacksonville and Duval County consolidate after county-wide referendum, with the exception of Baldwin, Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, and Atlantic Beach
A county vote led to the consolidation of Jacksonville and Duval County, adding communities like the Northside, Mandarin, Arlington, and more. The only holdouts were the Beaches communities and the small town of Baldwin. It was with this final round of expansion that Jacksonville became the largest city in the contiguous United States.