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Jacksonville History Matters: NEWS & EVENTS

Terminal collage

Jacksonville Terminal: Then and Now

A century ago, on November 18, 1919, the Jacksonville Terminal train station opened as the largest terminal in the American South. It was a big deal for more reasons than just its physical size. 1919 was almost the last year before America’s transportation technology began to shift from trains to cars and airplanes. At the time of the Jacksonville Terminal’s opening, if you traveled almost anywhere overland, you traveled by train. Passenger aircraft barely existed. Airports with runways and passenger terminals, as we know them, did not exist. Not only were there no Interstate Highways, but outside of cities, even paved roads were rare. Ten years earlier, in November 1909, an automobile “Endurance Run” had taken place from Tampa to Jacksonville and back, reportedly a grueling four-day ordeal for the entrants.

In that summer of 1919, to prove a point, the U.S. Army dispatched a motor convoy on a cross-county drive from Washington, DC to Oakland, California. It took the trucks and motorcycles nearly two months, from July 7 to September 5, to cover the 3000 miles along the approximate route of the incomplete Lincoln Highway. One of the officers, a young Dwight D. Eisenhower, formed an impression of the value of good highways that would influence him later in life.

A century later, Jacksonville is at the confluence of two critical Interstate Highways. Its own network of expressways is nearing seventy years old. Its first commercial airfield, opened in 1926, was replaced in 1968 by Jacksonville International Airport. None of today’s complex network of high-tech transportation infrastructure was imaginable in 1919, but without it, the Jacksonville of today is equally unimaginable.

As a train station, the terminal was the center of Jacksonville’s civic identity. Every citizen and visitor who traveled to or from Jacksonville passed through its doors. Years in the planning and construction, it symbolized Jacksonville’s aspirations as a city with big dreams. It remains as an artifact of a historic moment when monumental transportation architecture existed to signal a message, as much as to send travels on their way.

Today, the Jacksonville Terminal is the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center. It stands not only as a place to glimpse the dreams of those who came before us, but as a dramatic example of successful historic preservation and adaptive reuse. That’s why it is a great place to learn about Jacksonville’s history while considering its future. Please join us as the Jacksonville Historical Society does exactly that, on the evening of November 18, 2019, 100 years after the terminal’s grand opening. Details on this Speaker Series event are below – we hope to see you then and there!

Speaking of Jacksonville’s train station, you’ll be able to appreciate it from another perspective at our upcoming Gingerbread Extravaganza. Among the fifty edible creations on display this year will be a gingerbread replica of the old terminal, built for the event by the volunteers of the Florida Coalition of Rail Passengers. Don’t miss this and all the other amazing creations that are now already under construction for the annual Jacksonville Gingerbread Extravaganza, a beloved tradition returning to the Jacksonville Historical Society this December, better than ever! Details appear below.

Alan Bliss
Executive Director

Kings Pointer Volunteers

Merchant Marine Alumni In Action at JHS

Here at the JHS we depend on the engagement of a corps of devoted volunteers. These passionate members and friends tackle a myriad of tasks that include archival work, historic tours, administrative projects and sometimes, heavy lifting. So it was on the morning of Saturday, October 12, when a team from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Alumni Association arrived bright and early to help relocate thousands of pounds of heavy old Duval County Records. The books needed to be removed from our historic Florida Casket Company building (sometimes called the “Casket Factory). This salty crew pitched in with a will, accomplishing an immense amount of work in just four hours. Participants, appearing in this photo, were Tyler Dunagan, Nathan Dunagan, Nic Zoretic, Lowell McClintock, Caeden Carmichael, Claire Carmichael, Phil Carmichael, and Michael Phipps. (Also in the lineup are JHS archivist Mitch Hemann and Executive Director Alan Bliss). A sincere and hearty thanks to the team from the “Kings Point” alumni group for this invaluable help!

Alan Bliss, Ph.D.
Executive Director


This November will be the centennial of the Jacksonville Terminal, and the Jacksonville Historical Society is pleased to commemorate this momentous occasion with an exhibition and program inside the historic landmark on November 18th.

Opening its doors just after midnight on November 17th, 1919, the terminal stood as a shining example of the exquisite architecture Jacksonville had to offer. It was also a necessary response to a rapidly growing city.

In 1893, Henry Flagler organized the Jacksonville Terminal Company, and built a Union Depot to accommodate the five major railroads serving Jacksonville. It was an impressive Spanish mission style structure, which opened on February 4, 1895. However, by 1912, it was seeing as many as 92 trains a day, and planning began once again to build an even larger station on the same site.

In 1915 a nationwide search began for the best possible design, and New York City Architect Kenneth Mackensie Murcheson was selected as the winner.
Murcheson was inspired by New York City's Pennsylvania Station, which in turn had been inspired by the Roman baths of Caracalla, Titus and Diocletion. The Jacksonville Terminal was designed with that same splendor in mind.

Being near McCoys Creek presented some challenges. The creek had to be re-channelled and approximately 2,000 pilings were driven into the marshy earth. When it was complete, Murcheson's 180-foot facade of 14 Doric columns, each rising 42 feet high, was truly a sight to be seen, and the waiting rooms, concourses, shops and rail yards were just as impressive.


Terminal Waiting Room, circa 1920s (Florida Memory)

On its inaugural day, the terminal handled more than 110 trains and 20,000 passengers. During World War II, as many as 100,000 servicemen and civilians passed through the station daily. Florida enjoyed a reputation of being the winter playground for presidents, celebrities and royalty, and the terminal was at the center of all the action. During its 55 years of service, millions of travelers have walked through its enormous halls.

On January 3rd, 1974, the last train chuffed out of the station and the terminal closed forever. For several years, the building languished and fell into disrepair.

In 1982, a partnership of civic and business leaders joined forces with former CSX chairman Prime F Osborn III to rescue the terminal from demolition. It stands today as the Prime Osborn Convention Center, a constant reminder of the elegance and grandeur of a bygone era.

This is just one part of a multifaceted story we plan to tell next month. We hope you’ll join us as we celebrate 100 years of this iconic and beloved structure.

Mitchell Hemann
Head Archivist

Reception and Exhibits 6:00pm

Presentation 7:00pm

Jax Terminal postcard 1920 s FL Archives

The Jacksonville Terminal is turning 100! Please join us as rail industry veteran and former CSX president, Clarence Gooden, pays tribute to this icon of Jacksonville’s social, cultural and economic heritage. Once the largest rail terminal in the South, the Jacksonville Terminal transported millions of passengers over 55 years, until the last passenger train departed in 1974.
When: Monday, November 18, 2019
Reception & Exhibits - 6:00pm
Presentation - 7:00pm
Where: Prime Osborn III Convention Center, 1000 Water St, Jacksonville, FL 32204
Parking: West Lot

Gift Shop

Reduce Reuse Recycle

JHS is accepting gently used holiday treasures to re-sell in the Gingerbread Holiday Shop. Your donations will find new homes and help generate operating funds for JHS. Bring them to any and all JHS events, or drop them off at the office between 9am - 5pm.


Make gift giving easy this year. Order some of these impressive books or historic ornaments for your friends and family. JHS is proud to be a retailer for the 50th Anniversary Edition of the Quiet Revolution, which chronicles the consolidation of Jacksonville and Duval County governments. Hardback history books are always an impressive gifts to recieve. Your purchases from the JHS Bookstore support the operations of the Jacksonville Historical Scoiety!


Special opportunity: Holiday parties at Old St. Andrews!

Impress your friends, clients or staff by hosting your holiday party in this beautiful building surrounded by Gingerbread Extravaganza. Our Venue Coordinators have catering resources available to provide a turnkey event for you! For more information, contact our Venue Coordinators:
Jade Stanley: 904-878-8122
Rob Jackson: 904-878-2241

GBX tryptiche

The Jacksonville Historical Society is proud to welcome over fifty talented builders to the 17th Annual Gingerbread Extravaganza this December! Builders, bakers, families, friends, students and organizations from all corners of the community will display their handmade edible creations in Old St. Andrews during December. We can't reveal too much, but this year's entries are full of spirit and intrigue!

Visitors to the Extravaganza will test their skills in the Scavenger Hunt, vote for the Peoples’ Choice Awards, explore the Gift Shop and enjoy tours of the Historic Merrill House. Mark your calendar, because you won't want to miss this year's show!

The Gingerbread Extravaganza was launched in 2003 by the South Jacksonville Rotary from the inspiration of member, Joseph Miller (1956 – 2017), a professionally trained culinary arts chef. The South Jacksonville Rotary and the Junior League of Jacksonville are still involved in the Extravaganza today providing valuable time and talent to successfully stage the elaborate month-long event. The proceeds from all this fun and creativity benefit the educational programs and archives of the Jacksonville Historical Society.

For dates, details and other fun facts, visit Extravaganza Headquarters here.

Delores Barr Weaver Forever Logo
Pumpkin Run Collage

20th Annual Pumpkin Run: A Success from Start to Finish

A few thousand people gathered at Evergreen Cemetery before daylight October 27 to participate in the 20th Annual Pumpkin Run. Michael Ondina, General Manager of the Evergreen Cemetery, remembers the run originating in 1999 at the recommendation of J. F. Bryant IV, a current board member of the Historical Society and the Evergreen Funeral Home. With each year, the run has gained popularity and has become a tradition for many runners and their families. Thank you to the Evergreen Cemetery, 1st Place Sports, many volunteers, and 2,500 runners for another successful Pumpkin Run!

More About Evergreen Cemetery
Evergreen Cemetery is the oldest fully operating cemetery in Jacksonville, Florida. Founded in 1880, its first burial occurred on April 8th, 1881. When Evergreen was opened, remains were moved to it from a downtown area near State Street and from the Old City Cemetery. Evergreen has numerous sections for various fraternal, military and religious groups — especially a large Catholic section and two large sections set aside for the Hebrew Cemeteries. Evergreen also includes the old Woodlawn Cemetery and Mount Olive, an African American section. Today Evergreen’s 170 acres have over 70,000 individuals resting in the cemetery. Notable residents include: Isaiah Hart, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, Cora Crane, Sara Hogans, Bion Barnett, Arthur Cummer, Waldo Cummer, Ninah Holden Cummer, James Eugene Merrill, Helen Pearly Merrill, Arthur R. Merrill, Richard E. Norman, Henry J. Klutho, Helen Hunt West, Grace Wilbut Trout, Captain James Floyd, St. Elmo W. “Chic” Acosta, Sr., Mary Nolan, the United States Colored Troops (USTC), Rocco Morabito, T. Frederick Davis, John Elie Matthews, John T. Alsop, Jr.

Imani Phillips
Archives Assistant


Our Mission:

To educate and inspire the greater Jacksonville community to value its history, by fostering understanding of how the region's past shapes our present.

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JHS is thankful for the many organization that support us in our mission!



Alan Bliss, Ph.D. , Executive Director | Mitch Hemann, Archivist | Susan Prattos, Administrator | Imani Phillips, Archives & Office Assistant | Sherrard Ceglia, Archives Assistant | Anna Verney, Archives Assistant | David Woodard, Facilities Manager

2018-19 JHS Board

Michael Fackler, Esq., President | Frederick H. Kent III, Esq., Vice-President | Jeffrey K. Graf, Treasurer | Charisse Thornton, Secretary | Pat Andrews, Immediate Past-President | J. F. Bryan IV | Ed Booth, Esq. | David Chauncey, Esq. | Drew Haramis | Hon. Gary Flower | Larry Kanter, M.D. | Doug Milne, Esq. | Maggie Means | Harry Reagan | Skip Willbach | Wayne Wood, O.D. Hon. AIA


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