It was during the years following the end of World War II when Jacksonville (along with nearly every major city across the country) saw the most dramatic shift in its metropolitan population. In 1950, two-thirds of Duval County’s population resided within the 30.2 square mile city limits of Jacksonville. During the decade that would follow, Jacksonville’s population declined by 3,245 while Duval County’s increased by 151,382. This abrupt and historical change in the region’s land development pattern was largely fueled by the construction of the Jacksonville expressway system and racially motivated public policies leading to the mid-20th century phenomenon referred to as “white flight”. This era marked the true beginning of Jacksonville’s autocentric sprawl growth pattern largely still in place today.
A redline map identifying most of the original city of Jacksonville as “hazardous” and “definitely declining”.
Jacksonville Decennial Population 1900-2016 [U.S. Bureau of the Census]
2016 880,619 2010 821,784 2000 735,503 1990 635,230 1980 540,920 1970 528,865 1960 201,030 1950 204,275 1940 173,065 1930 129,549 1920 91,558 1910 57,699 1900 28,429
Duval County Decennial Population 1900-2016 [U.S. Bureau of the Census]
2016 926,255 2010 864,263 2000 778,879 1990 672,971 1980 571,003 1970 528,865 1960 455,411 1950 304,029 1940 210,143 1930 155,503 1920 113,540 1910 75,163 1900 39,733
The city’s outward expansion was highlighted during the economic boom after the second World War, when the city broke ground on great municipal and civic projects intended to retrofit and reshape its blighted industrial waterfront.
As suburban development began to pick up steam within the region, the city’s fortunes were also negatively impacted by Desegregation, a decline in passenger rail travel and the containerization of maritime shipping. Desegregation led to “black flight” which resulted in the closing of Brewster Hospital and the economic destruction of African-American business districts across the city. The decline in passenger rail travel led to the eventual 1974 closure of the largest railroad station south of Washington, D.C., the Jacksonville Terminal. Railyards and port activity that were originally the economic lifeblood of downtown, relocated to areas outside of the city’s core, taking thousands of jobs and support industries and businesses with them. In addition, decades old manufacturers like the Gibbs Corporation and Kerr McGee Chemical Company ceased operations laying off thousands. The ultimate result was residents moving out of the city, taking their economic support with them, and the city subsequently suffering from it.
The Jacksonville Brewing Company was once of several major long time manufacturers to cease operation between 1950 and 1970.