When the city of Jacksonville and Duval County consolidated into one government in the late 1960s, there were a few communities that opted not to join the newly-expanded city.
Most of those were coastal communities – Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, and Jacksonville Beach all held out. But one, Baldwin, is actually surrounded on all sides by Jacksonville.
The small town of Baldwin encompasses roughly two square miles near the western border of Duval, at the intersection of U.S. Routes 90 and 301. It’s accessible from I-10 and serves as an important terminal for Jax-based railroad company CSX.
The town was first settled as Thigpen in the late 1840s, named for a prominent resident of the settlement. In the late 1850s, two sets of intersecting railroad tracks were built, and the town became an important terminal for Florida Atlantic and Gulf Central Railroad’s Lake City-to-Jacksonville line.
The town was renamed in honor of the railroad company’s founder and president, Dr. Abel S. Baldwin.
Much of Baldwin was destroyed during the Civil War, but it was quickly rebuilt and grew around its railroad operations. Over the next few decades, its population expanded from around 250 to just under 800 by 1930.
By the ‘60s, the town had a population of just over 1,200 – but the construction of I-10 started to take business away from its main streets. Its high school became the first in Duval County to racially integrate in 1965.
In 1968, Baldwin chose not to join the newly-expanded city of Jacksonville when it consolidated with Duval County, instead remaining as its own municipality.
And rather than re-drawing county or city lines, Jacksonville ended up wrapping around the town.
Today, the Baldwin has a population of around 1,500. It boasts Baldwin High School, a small commercial corridor, and a skate park at its stop along the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail.
It’s far from a big city and lacks the big-money investments and job opportunities found in Jacksonville. Just under 18% of its population lives below the poverty line, compared to around 14% in Jax.
Because of its existence as a municipality within Duval County, Baldwin has its own government but also votes in elections for Jacksonville’s city government – as they also represent Baldwin residents. Unlike the Beaches communities, Baldwin no longer operates its own police force – meaning JSO serves the Baldwin community as well.
So as a result of the wackiness of geopolitics, Baldwin remains very much a part of Jacksonville, while also not being part of it.
Really interesting that they chose not to opt in!! Great read!