Formed by sediments unearthed during the dredging of a shipping channel in the St Johns River, the 34 acre island below the Mathews Bridge started life as an inconspicuous byproduct of progress known as Mud Island.
After WWII, the military dumped a pile of discarded war surplus on the island. In the 1940’s, Mud Island was inhabited by one Capt Augustus William Swan, who ran a houseboat aground on the Southernmost shore and lived on this isolated island kingdom for nearly seven years. Shortly thereafter, a man named R.H. Jones and his wife took residence on the island until the mid-1950’s.
In 1956, the State of Florida transferred the island to the City of Jacksonville for the use and development as a public park. Mud Island was renamed Exchange Club Island, after the civic group that committed to improving the land. During the late 1950’s, a 20x40 ft frame building was constructed on the island, accompanied by picnic areas, restrooms and a well drilled to bring fresh water onto the island.
Throughout the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, unscrupulous users vandalized the park into a state of complete disrepair. The amenities had been destroyed, trash piled up around what were once pristine picnic areas and in 1972 the City capped off the artesian well- effectively ending Exchange Club Island’s days as a fully maintained public park.
NEXT: A look at how Exchange Club Island is changing