Historically speaking, Jacksonville seems to enjoy producing some really smelly products – from the old turpentine factories along Talleyrand Avenue to the smell of (burnt?) coffee from the Maxwell House factory.
And you can add one more highly-fragrant product to that list: cigars.
While maybe not as prolific as the “Cigar City” of Tampa, Jax has been producing cigars since the late 1800s. That’s when several cigar manufacturing buildings popped up along Bay Street in downtown Jacksonville – led by the El Modelo Cigar Manufacturing Company.
El Modelo’s factory, built in the late 1880s, produced hundreds of thousands of cigars and became one of the country’s largest cigar manufacturers – and one of the city’s biggest manufacturers, if not its biggest.
Another of the manufacturers, owned by four-term city councilman Jose Alejandro Huau, set up shop at the corner of Bay and Main streets.
The brief cigar boom in Jacksonville began to fizzle out in the early 20th century, with all of the Bay Street factories eventually shutting down. El Modelo’s building was turned into a hotel, then later into office space, and it still stands as one of the few pre-1901 buildings in downtown Jax.
But as it turned out, the cigar industry couldn’t stay away from Jax. In 1924, Carl Swisher of the Swisher & Son cigar company chose a spot north of Springfield in Jacksonville to establish a new headquarters building.
The Swisher & Son brand grew quickly to become the world’s largest cigar manufacturing operation within just a few decades, aided by its most popular brand, King Edward Cigars. By the late ‘50s, the company had introduced its Swisher Sweets brand, which remains their most popular product.
Today, Swisher International is still the world’s largest cigar manufacturing operation – but its days in Jacksonville are likely numbered. The company has already begun the process of downsizing and moving its operations to the Dominican Republic.
Perhaps we’ll find another fragrant item to produce as a replacement – it’s your guess as to what that’ll be.