A map showing the general location of six lost towns within Jacksonville’s borders.

Mandarin: 1841-?

Located 15 miles south of Downtown Jacksonville on the east bank of the St. Johns River, what’s now called Mandarin was initially settled as St. Anthony in 1765 during Florida’s British period. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the site of plantations worked by enslaved Gullah Geechee people and had its own post office. Postmaster and plantation owner Calvin Read renamed the small but growing frontier community after the mandarin orange, a key local crop, in 1830. In 1841, amid the Second Seminole War, residents incorporated Mandarin as a town. That December, Seminole forces attacked Mandarin, killing four white settlers.

Mandarin’s status as an independent town appear to have disappeared by the time of the Civil War, during which Union troops liberated the enslaved and confiscated crops. During the Reconstruction era after the war, Mandarin emerged as a destination for Gullah Geechee and white farmers and flourished into a major exporter of citrus. The town became the winter home of author and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, who founded a church and integrated school. Mandarin remained largely rural until the 1960s, when suburbanization transformed the area into the residential community familiar today. Along with the rest of unincorporated Duval County, Mandarin became part of Jacksonville in the 1968 Consolidation.

LaVilla: 1869-1887

Jacksonville’s oldest suburb, LaVilla traces its roots to 1866 during the Reconstruction era. The area had been slave plantation land since 1802; its name derives from the LaVilla Plantation established in 1851. During the Civil War it was occupied several times by Union forces, including members of the U.S. Colored Troops. After the war, the land immediately west of Jacksonville was divided into plots for Gullah Geechee freedmen and women, many of them veterans.

LaVilla grew rapidly and incorporated as a city in 1869. The town’s population was largely African-American with a sizable white minority. LaVilla also became a hub for immigrants to Jacksonville, ultimately serving as home to members of the city’s Arab, Cuban, Chinese, Eastern European Jewish, Greek, and Italian communities.

In 1887, the booming town voted to be annexed into Jacksonville along with the town of Fairfield (more on that in a minute) and several unincorporated neighborhoods. Growth continued in LaVilla with the arrival of Henry Flagler’s railroad, and LaVilla became an epicenter of Black culture, music and the arts. Like many urban neighborhoods, LaVilla faced a decline in the later 20th century, and a failed urban renewal project in the early 1990s led to the destruction of most of its buildings. Today, there’s a renewed interest in preserving what’s left of LaVilla’s history and building on it to once again create a thriving urban neighborhood.

Fairfield: 1882-1887

Prior to the civil war, the area east of Jacksonville and Hogans Creek was a sparsely populated place littered with sawmills along the St. Johns River. What would become known as Fairfield materialized in 1868 with the arrival of Jacob S. Parker, a New Yorker who acquired over 150 riverfront acres. To promote development, Parker worked to get a road built between Jacksonville and the suburb of Panama Park, with a path that would penetrate his property.

Now known as Talleyrand Avenue, the East End Shell Road opened as a toll facility in 1873, becoming one of the first paved roads in the region. With an adequate connection to Jacksonville and Panama Park, that same year Parker attracted developers to open the Roseland Hotel along the riverfront at present day Clarkson Street. The three-story hotel quickly became of the area’s most popular destinations during the Gilded Age, as Jacksonville became a major winter destination for the rich and famous.

In 1876, fairgrounds were established on the northernmost portion of Parker’s property, with Parker serving as the manager of the first Florida state fair. Featuring an oval track for horse racing, it transformed the growing suburb into the region’s most important sports and entertainment district. In 1882, the community was incorporated as a town, with Parker being elected as its first mayor. Due to the fair’s popularity, the surrounding community became known as the Town of Fairfield. Fairfield didn’t remain an independent city for long. In 1887, its 543 residents were annexed into the City of Jacksonville.