Article by Ennis Davis, AICP
Los Gatos: Dreams, Promises and Fraud
A historic Bayard residence near the intersection of Alphons and Snyder Streets.
In early August 1925, J.F. Brandeis made a grand splash in #Jax announcing plans for a radio manufacturing plant. After being wined and dined for several days, Brandeis upped the ante by claiming he had purchased a 5,000 acre tract near Bayard. Not only would he bring a radio factory, he’d build an entire town for 1,200 people called Los Gatos.
Platted in 1884 and promoted as being located halfway between Jacksonville and St. Augustine, many claim Bayard was named after Thomas F. Bayard, a cabinet member and friend of railroad magnate Henry M. Flagler. By the time of the Los Gatos proposal, Bayard had become a small community economically supported by sawmills and turpentine camps in the vicinity.
A historic topographic map of Bayard in 1917.
While rural, Brandeis saw big time economic opportunity in the community during the height of the Florida’s 1920s land boom. Like Pinocchio’s nose, each time Brandeis had an opportunity to promote and market, his plans for Los Gatos grew. By September 1925, Brandeis proclaimed that six manufacturing firms from New York City would relocate to Los Gatos immediately. As for Los Gatos, he estimated the industrial town’s population would blossom to 25,000….within five years! Now described as “The Chicago of Florida,” the Los Gatos Realty Company launched a full scale advertising effort in Jacksonville that included a downtown sales office, full-page newspaper advertisements, and concerts in Hemming Park.
A historic topographic map of Bayard in 1952.
Development plans centered the new town around an unbuilt highway called Los Gatos Boulevard. Despite never breaking ground, sales for home sites began anyway. Plans for Los Gatos flamed out just as quickly as they initially heated up. By December 1925, promotions, advertisements, and references to Los Gatos had ceased and Brandeis was no longer in town. Two years later, he was arrested by federal agents in California for mail fraud and brought back to Jacksonville to stand trial. Entering a plea of guilty, he was fined and given a two year sentence that was served in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary.
The Bayard Antique Village on Philips Highway.
Much of the land earmarked for Los Gatos ended up being owned by J.R. and J.W. Williams of Bayard who utilized it for timber and cattle during the mid-20th century. Eventually, a large portion of the property was acquired by Flagler Development and developed into a 1,022-acre project called Gran Park during the 1990s. During the early 2000s, Gran Park was rebranded as Flagler Center. Today, home to Baptist Medical Center South, Citicorp, Saddle Creek Logistics Services, and thousands of luxury apartment units, more than 20,000 people reside within a three mile radius of the development. It may have taken a federal prison term and 95 years to accomplish, but what Brandeis envisioned during the Florida land boom is finally beginning to materialize into reality.
Baptist Medical Center South