The modern history of the town of Jacksonville Beach began with the construction of Jacksonville and Atlantic Railway Company’s new railroad path running from the south bank of the St. Johns River straight through to the beach in 1883.
A few opportunistic families started settling the newly-accessible land, which wasn’t too far from the growing port town of Mayport. Among those families was the Scull family; civil engineer Edward and his wife Eleanor set up a temporary house as well as a general store and post office for the area.
Because they ran the post office, the Sculls got the first crack at naming the area. It was dubbed Ruby in honor of their daughter.
In 1884, Jacksonville and Atlantic Railway Company began selling dozens of lots for houses – including one for the Scull family. By 1886, the growing town was given a more formal name of Pablo Beach.
Several resort hotels popped up in the area – though a few of them were quickly destroyed by fire. An amusement center that came to be known as Little Coney Island sprang up.
Pablo Beach was incorporated by the state in May 1907. Three years later, the completion of Atlantic Boulevard provided automobile access to the town from Jacksonville, spurring further growth.
The mid-1910s saw the establishment and growth of the beach boardwalk, which featured restaurants, music pavilions, boxing rings, bowling alleys, and all kinds of other entertainment amenities. Roller coasters and other amusement rides were also added later.
In 1925, the town was renamed Jacksonville Beach. That same year, the historic Casa Marina Hotel – designed by Marsh and Saxelbye – was completed. A few years later, Beach Boulevard would add a second direct route between Jax and Jax Beach.
By the ‘50s, the boardwalk era in Jacksonville Beach had begun to crumble. Business suffered after bans on gambling and driving on the beach, and gradually the amusement rides and venues began to shut down.
When Jacksonville and Duval County consolidated in the ‘60s, Jacksonville Beach opted to remain a separate municipality within Duval County. They would maintain their own town government and also vote in greater Duval County elections.
The development of J. Turner Butler Boulevard in the late ‘70s brought about a third direct Jax-to-Jax Beach route. The following decades would bring safety upgrades to the Butler/A1A junction.
Jacksonville Beach continues to operate as an independent town. And despite being its own town, it’s arguably one of Jacksonville’s greatest assets.