According to U.S. News & Report’s annual list of top hospitals, Mayo Clinic Jacksonville is regarded as Florida’s best hospital and nationally ranked in seven adult specialties.

The story of Mayo Clinic Jacksonville began in the 1920s with the establishment of what would eventually become Winn-Dixie. Winn-Dixie traces its roots back to 1925 when William Milton Davis acquired the Rockmoor Grocery in Miami. Changing its name to the Table Supply Company in 1927, the chain had expanded into Central Florida when Davis abruptly passed in 1934, leaving the business to his sons, James Elsworth (J.E.), Artemus Darius, Milton Austin, and Tine W. Davis. Believing that his father had died due to poor medical care, the company’s new chairman J.E. Davis, developed a life-long interest in ensuring that the best medical care would be available to his family.

The first Table Supply store. Identified in the photograph are: W.M. Davis (founder at the far right), third from left is his son J.E. Davis and fifth is son A.D. Davis. Courtesy of State Archives of Florida.

At the same time, William “Bill” Lovett was in the midst of building a massive grocery enterprise of his own in Jacksonville. Founded by Lovett and E.L. Winn in 1920, Winn & Lovett had expanded to 78 stores in Florida and Georgia when Lovett convinced the Davis brothers to mortgage most of their possessions to acquire 51% of his larger company’s stock in 1939. In 1944, the Davis family acquired Lovett’s remaining shares, taking over the Winn & Lovett corporate moniker and relocating their headquarters to Jacksonville.

In 1955, after being listed as Florida’s first industrial corporation on the New York Stock Exchange three years earlier, Winn & Lovett merged with Greenville, SC based-Dixie Home Stores, becoming Winn-Dixie Stores and one of the top ten supermarket chains in the country. By the late 1960s, Winn-Dixie had become the most profitable company in the industry, leading to J.E. Davis being labeled as one of the 10 most powerful men in Florida by the St. Petersburg Times. This power of influence would be successful proven with the recruitment of the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville.

Dating back to 1864, when William Worrall Mayo moved to Rochester, Minnesota to serve as an American Civil War examining surgeon, Mayo Clinic had developed a world-class reputation in the healthcare industry by the 1970s. At the time, the Rochester Clinic was bursting at the seams, seeing more than 280,000 patients a year and earning more than $600 million in revenue annually.

During a winter examination, long-time patient J.E. Davis, teased his doctor of how myopic it was for the institution to have a marketing strategy based on having its only location in a frigid place like Minnesota.

By 1979, Davis had convinced the Mayo Board of Trustees to seriously consider Jacksonville as a solution to the physical constraints of the Rochester facility and a financial opportunity to tap into the Sunbelt’s growing popularity.

In 1982, Davis made Mayo an offer it could not refuse by spearheading a $6 million corporate fund-raising drive along with a donation of 140 acres of his property to the clinic. To up the ante, the offer was based on the condition that Mayo had to commit to build on the property at Butler and San Pablo boulevards within five years or the land would be turned over to another medical-related project.

Plans for Mayo Clinic’s first expansion outside of Minnesota was announced in Jacksonville in August 1984. The decision to put Mayo Clinic near the Intracoastal Waterway gave the city the incentive to run utility lines into southeast Duval County, paving the way for for much of the Southside’s development over the following decades.

Groundbreaking took place on Friday, May 10, 1985 with more than 600 guests and 300 community leaders in attendance, including Mayor Jake Godbold, Governor Bob Graham, Reverend Billy Graham and Paul Volcker, chairman of the Federal Reserve System and trustee of the Mayo Foundation.

Mayo Clinic Jacksonville celebrated its grand opening on October 3, 1986 with a staff of 160 and 35 physicians and Dr. Thane Cody as its first chief executive.

Today, the institution is a comprehensive medical campus employing 6,000, with the latest development underway being a $50 million, 104,350-square-foot expansion of the Mayo South Building. When complete, the project will provide space for cardiovascular, cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery programs, expansion of the spine center and pain rehabilitation programs, surgical rooms, laboratory expansion and a molecular imaging center for radiology. Like the initial offer that drew Mayo to Jacksonville, this project was made possible with a financial donation from the Davis family. What began as a dream of Winn-Dixie’s J.E. Davis continues to expand and serve as a living example of the lasting economic impact that companies can have on the communities they call home.

Mayo Clinic is rated as the #1 hospital in Florida, according to U.S. News & World Report 2023-2024.

Today, Mayo Clinic’s Jacksonville campus is home to nearly 9,000 employees. Since 2016, more than $1 billion has been invested in major construction projects. An additional 600,000 square feet of space for medical destinations, patient care, biomedical research and technology will be completed by 2025. Future expansion plans include the development of a 210-acre North Campus to its San Pablo Road property.

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