Jacksonville in the 1870s is an unrecognizable place when compared to today. No bridges existed, the St. Johns River was wider, the city limits comprised of present-day downtown, and in 1870, the population was just over 9,000. A walk through this Jacksonville would kick up dust and dirt as the roads were not paved with concrete. Two-story or three-story brick buildings could be seen all throughout the area from Bay Street to Forsyth Street. At this time, Main Street was called Pine Street.
Despite its size at the time, Jacksonville was beginning to grow into the industrial powerhouse of North Florida. The waterfront wharfs were busy with incoming and outgoing ships. A new luxury hotel opened in 1870 called the St. James Hotel. Another luxery hotel a few blocks away, called the Grand National Hotel, displayed a grand exterior design complete with an opulent clock tower. As tourists came to Florida to stay for the winter, they realized that Jacksonville could be a winter home. Tourism led to the building of needed hotels, boarding houses, and an increase in ship traffic.
The Civil War had ended not long before, and Southerners still had fresh memories in their minds. The city rebuilt itself after being occupied continually by Federal troops and suffering a fire that destroyed several buildings, including the court house. Some areas of Jacksonville were spared from the destruction that the Civil War caused throughout the South. One photograph shows a market in 1875 which can be seen in another photograph taken during the Civil War. A fire had also occurred in 1870, destroying buildings south of Bay Street. However, the Great Fire of 1901 destroyed most remnants of the 1870s in Jacksonville, which are now only seen in photographs or sketches.
The accompanying photos are mostly from stereoscopic postcards by Robert Dennis that are now stored in the New York Public Library archives. The date of these photos are said to be from the 1870s. The photos reveal the post-Civil War era of Jacksonville as it rebuilt itself; laying the foundation for the inevitable major city it would soon become.
Looking east on Bay Street in 1876 from the Grand National Hotel. The TIAA Bank Center building currently occupies the location of where this photo was taken.
For perspective, here is a photo of Bay Street, looking east in 1982, taken roughly where the previous photograph was taken. This photo shows a smaller width of Bay Street, smaller width of the St. Johns River, and a new street to the right of Bay Street called Water Street, which was underwater pre-19th century Jacksonville. (University of North Florida, Lawrence V. Smith collection)
Bay Street looking west in 1875.
On Ocean Street in front of C. Parkhurst, a wholesale and retailer in goods such as hay, flour, corn, liquor and cigars. This photo was taken around 1875.
The Grand National Hotel opened around 1874 as a luxury hotel. It was built on the former site of the Judson House, a hotel that was burned down in 1862 during the Civil War. This photo was taken on a dock on the St. Johns River looking north at the hotel. The Grand National Hotel was later renamed the Everett Hotel. The hotel survived the Great Fire of 1901 but did not survive Jacksonville’s demolition ways.
View on St. Johns River at Jacksonville in 1875.
Bay Street looking west in 1875.
The St. James Hotel opened in 1869 as a luxury hotel for the influx of tourists coming to Jacksonville. The hotel was one of the most famous hotels in Jacksonville at the time. In 1872, a three-story brick addition was built to the left of the original hotel, extending towards Hogan Street. This photo shows a busy day at the St. James Hotel in 1875 with the new addition to the left. The Great Fire of 1901 destroyed the St. James Hotel and it was not rebuilt. In 1910 the St. James Building, initially Cohen’s Brothers Department Store, was opened on the former site of the hotel.
A view of the St. James Hotel and St. James Park. This park later became Heming Park, which is now James Weldon Johnson Park. It is also interesting to note that Johnson’s father James Johnson was the headwaiter at the St. James Hotel in the 1870s.
The Windsor Hotel was built in 1875 on the corner of Hogan and Monroe Streets. This photo was taken some time in the late 1870s. The Windsor Hotel burned down in the Great Fire of 1901, was rebuilt immediately afterwards, and was demolished in 1950. The Bryan Simpson United States Courthouse now occupies the former site of the Windsor Hotel.
The Carleton Hotel opened in 1876 on the corner of Bay and Market Streets. This photo shows the Carleton Hotel in the late 1870s.
Tremont House was a large hotel built in 1871 on the corner of Pine and Forsyth Streets. The photograph shows Tremont House in 1875. The author of this photograph does not indicate what is going on.
The Warner House was built in 1871 on Union Street as one of the smaller hotels for tourists. The photograph shows the Warner House in 1872.
The lumber wharf in 1875. This photograph was taken somewhere in the vicinity of McCoys Creek.
A photograph of wharfs and shipping on the St. Johns River in Jacksonville around 1875.
A market in 1870 which survived the Civil War. A photograph taken during the Civil War showed this market with a Federal steamer docked behind it.
The Stanton Institute opened in 1868 as Florida’s first and only public secondary school during the Reconstruction Era. There were around 62,000 newly emancipated slaves in Florida and many of them went to Jacksonville for opportunities. One notable child that attended Stanton in the 1870s was James Weldon Johnson. The photograph shows Stanton in 1875. The original Stanton Institute was located at Ashley and Broad Streets.
Bay Street looking west from Pine Street around 1870.
This stereograph was taken in 1875 at an unknown location near Bay Street. The caption for this stereograph only says “15th Amendment” with no other information provided by the author. The 15th Amendment was passed in 1870 and states in Section 1, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Section 2 of the 15th Amendment also states, “The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” Because the caption only reads, “15th Amendment,” then this may indicate that it was photographed during a local election. This was during the Reconstruction Era and it was only 10 years prior to this photograph that the 13th Amendment officially abolished slavery in the United States.
The Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Mandarin in 1875. Stowe is notable for writing “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in 1852 to show the brutalities of the American slave system. It is speculated that Stowe’s book influenced the anti-slavery rhetoric in the North and angered the pro-slavery South, thereby furthering the inevitable Civil War. In 1867 Stowe and her husband built a house in Mandarin where it was their winter home until 1888.
Edited by Kelsi Hasden