The origins of what became Yukon date as far back as 1787 when the Spanish granted a large tract of land along the St. Johns River at Black Point to an Englishman named Timothy Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth then established a plantation named after Mulberry trees in the area. During most of its history, cotton was cultivated at the Mulberry Grove Plantation. In later years, it produced oranges, cattle, fruits and vegetables that were harvested and shipped by steamships on the St. Johns River. Prior to the end of the Civil War, the plantation’s last owner, Arthur M. Reed, sold a portion of the property to the former enslaved. There, a community called “Blackpoint Settlement” grew, eventually becoming the town of Yukon with the development of Camp Joseph E. Johnston during World War I. For many years, it was connected to the Jacksonville with a streetcar line that ran through Ortega, Avondale and Riverside.
Historic topographic map of Yukon in 1917.
In 1939, the U.S. government acquired a large portion of the former plantation adjacent to Yukon for the establishment of Naval Air Station Jacksonville. Situated between Roosevelt Boulevard and the Ortega River, during its heyday, Yukon had paved streets, sidewalks, a downtown business district, its own railroad depot and a 300 unit subdivision called Dewey Park. Yukon’s days would come to an end when it was designated as a flight and safety hazard and closed by the Navy in July 1963.
Historic topographic map of Yukon and NAS Jacksonville in 1952.
In 1979, much of what was Yukon was leased from the Navy. Later promoted by then-Councilwoman Tillie Fowler, much of the land was developed into a park featuring nearly seven miles of biking/trails, an observation tower, nature center and outdoor classrooms. Outside of a few blocks centered around 120th Street, most of Yukon was erased from existence decades ago. However, if one pays attention, several elements of Jacksonville’s ghost town, including the Mulberry Grove Plantation cemetery for enslaved people and freedmen, eerily live on in an area being reclaimed by mother nature.
Yukon’s remains can be explored at Tillie K. Fowler Park, which is located at 7000 Roosevelt Blvd.
Thousands of commuters drive by daily, along Roosevelt Blvd., without realizing Yukon’s old business district still remains.
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