1. Dixieland Park

Dixieland Park in 1908. (State Archives of Florida)

Dixieland Park opened on March 9, 1907 in a city still recovering from financial and emotional scars of the Great Fire of 1901. Covering nearly 30-acres, Dixieland Park billed itself as “Jacksonville’s greatest resort” and “Florida’s playground.” Its advertisements promoted the finest merry-go-round outside of Coney Island, the best roller coaster south of New York, “more free attractions than any other park in the South” and a Dixieland band “which is the finest in the South.”

The park featured a 160-foot bamboo slide called the “Dixie Dewdrop,” a figure eight ride, a toboggan, a laughing gallery, a “House of Troubles,” and a large merry-go-round called “The Flying Jenny,” which boasted 56 wooden animals. Babe Ruth once played baseball at Dixieland, and the famous bandleader John Phillips Sousa gave a concert. Many movie companies filmed their silent flicks there also. These included jungle films, which brought elephants, tigers, camels, and horses to the park. Alligators, dog & pony shows, lion wrestling, hot air balloons, parachute jumps, comedy acrobats, high-wire performers, and vaudeville acts were also featured. Visitors could refresh themselves at a swimming pool or the bathing beaches - there was also an electric water fountain. Despite a ten cent admission fee, Dixieland Park had closed its doors by the time the country entered World War I in 1917.

Now, all that’s left of the venue which called itself “The Coney Island of the South” is the Treaty Oak on the Southbank. The majestic tree was once part of Dixieland Park.

2. Jacksonville Beach Boardwalk

A postcard view of the old Jacksonville Beach Boardwalk. Photo courtesy of the Beaches Museum

Dating back to the late 19th century, Jacksonville Beach’s boardwalk entertained generations of Jaxsons. Major attractions along the boardwalk included the Ocean View Pavilion amusement park and Playland Park. The Ocean View Pavilion was established by W.H. Adams in 1925. Its main attraction was a 93-feet high coaster, with cars reaching up to 50 miles per hour. Unfortunately, due to its size and being so close to the beach, the “Beach Coaster” was extremely vulnerable to damage. Eventually, the coaster was deemed unsafe, and was destroyed in 1949 and replaced by a smaller coaster called the “Wild Mouse”. Business declined with the loss of the huge, distinctive coaster. Eventually a fire put an end to Ocean View, during the 1950s. Located a few blocks north of the Ocean View Pavilion, Playland Park’s attractions included a ferris wheel, bumper cars, and a penny arcade with pinball machines and arcade-type games. In 1964 much of this scene was destroyed by Hurricane Dora. While the old boardwalk is gone, the SeaWalk is a remnant of the boardwalk’s golden era.

3. The Ocean Street Market

A 1928 Sanborn Map of the Ocean Street market. (Jacksonville Public Library Special Collections Department)

Prior to World War II, the foot of Ocean Street was Jacksonville’s answer to the type of interactive riverfront tourist seek when visiting cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. Located along the Northbank, the foot of Ocean Street was the location of a large open air seafood market. Because seafood is quick to spoil, commercial fish markets like Ocean Street’s were historically most often found in waterfront communities. Following the Great Fire of 1901’s destruction of the city’s indoor public market, additional vendors settled around the commercial seafood market on the Ocean Street riverfront. Soon, most of Ocean Street, south of Bay Street, was lined with produce, meat, dry goods, seafood vendors and restaurants.

For decades, it was an authentic scene where one could experience local cuisine and the area’s cultural diversity. At its height, the working waterfront included an ice manufacturing plant and crabmeat processing factory and railroad tracks serving nearby wharves and industries along the riverfront. Known for having a stench of fish, the Ocean Street market declined after World War II due to aging infrastructure and the disbursement of the city’s population base. Determined to clean up the city’s blighted waterfront, Mayor Haydon Burns proposed an urban revitalization plan that would replace downtown’s market and working waterfront with parking lots. By 1956, the place where Jaxsons had come to purchase their fresh catch had become one of the most scenic surface parking lots in the South.

A busy day at the commercial fish section of the market during the 1910s. Catches of fish were sold here. The building at right is the Consolidated Building. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.