The reason the Mathews Bridge was painted maroon

The Mathews Bridge was dedicated to Judge Mathews, who had advocated building the bridge since the early 1930s. The 1953 completion of the steel cantilever truss structure opened the door to suburban growth in Jacksonville. It measures 7,382 feet long, and consists of six main panels and 59 approach spans. Originally silver, the bridge was painted maroon in honor of the city’s United States Football League (USFL) franchise, the Jacksonville Bulls, in 1984. A year later, the USFL folded.

Philips Highway was once known as the Miracle Mile

Before there was a St. Johns Town Center or Avenues Mall, there was Philips Highway Plaza. When it opened at the intersection of Philips Highway and Emerson Street in November 1960, it was the Southeast’s largest, and Jacksonville’s first, enclosed shopping mall. There was even talk of Saks Fifth Avenue and Riches coming in as co-anchors to Jax’s first Montgomery Ward. Overnight, hotels and restaurants, like Red Lobster, sprouted up along Philips Highway resulting in the strip being known as Miracle Mile.

The Motor City of Florida? Ford wasn’t the first auto sssembly plant in Jax

If not for the untimely death of Henry Innes, Jacksonville could have blossomed as a major southern automobile manufacturing center. Most marvel at the ruins of Henry Ford’s automobile assembly plant under the Mathews Bridge. However, very few know that another Michigander discovered Jacksonville before Ford and that his building still stands….at least temporarily. American Motor Export Company opened in Durkeeville in 1921, three years before Ford’s plant, to manufacture the Innes Automobile.

Before coming to Florida, Innes spent time working with the Dodge brothers on the first Dodge car, on the management staff of William Durant’s General Motors and Chevrolet, and served briefly as the vice president of Doble-Detroit Steam Motors Company.

Determined to finally launch his own luxury vehicle brand, Innes selected Jacksonville for the site of his operation. Unfortunately, Innes died right after the completion of his Fairfax Street factory. When he died, only six automobiles had been manufactured. His assembly plant, which is just as impressive as Ford’s is currently be eyed by code enforcement for demolition.

St Johns Cathedral pre-dates the downtown street grid

According to Dr. Wayne Wood’s Jacksonville’s Architectural Heritage, in 1842, St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral was given property at the crest of “Billy Goat Hill,” the highest point in the original city. This property was originally on the outskirts of town at the head of Market Street. As the town expanded and the residential area grew up around the church, special permission from the City Council had to be granted for the church property to remain in the centerline of the street, leaving a permanent quirk in the map of the city’s grid system.

The zoo was originally downtown

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/31364

With no admittance fee, Jacksonville’s zoo instantly became a popular destination after its establishment in Springfield Park in 1914. Eventually, monkeys were donated to the zoo and placed on an island in the middle of Springfield Park Lake, that became known as “Monkey Island”. By 1924, nearby Springfield residents began to protest against foul odors coming from the zoo. This set the stage for the zoo’s ultimate relocation to the Trout River site in 1925.

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com