The Jaxson: How Streetcars Shaped Jacksonville's Urban Core

Dec 27, 2018

Ennis Davis tells WJCT News Director Jessica Palombo about the street cars that built the city's urban core in The Jaxson on WJCT.  

The shape of Jacksonville’s urban core is largely thanks to a transportation system that no longer exists.  By 1898, Jacksonville had 12 miles of streetcar lines in operation. 

San Marco was one of the neighborhoods affected by the coming and eventual going of the streetcars. Back then it was known as South Jacksonville. Downtown, Riverside and Springfield were also served by streetcars.

By 1924, South Jacksonville had become known as the “Brooklyn of Greater Jacksonville.” It was also a shining example of an existing city investing in public transportation to usher in economic development.

This sentiment is captured in the opening description of South Jacksonville in the 1924 edition of Polk’s City Directory:

Although as old in years as its sister city, South Jacksonville was for more than a decade seriously handicapped in its deserved development because of a lack of adequate transportation over the St. Johns River, and although offering the nearest home-sites on the majestic St. Johns to the heart of the business section of Jacksonville, very little progress was made until Duval County invested in a bridge connecting the two cities, at a cost of $1,500,000, and immediately the connecting link was opened for traffic, home-seekers began to pour across the river. The construction of the bridge, however, only made it more convenient for automobiles, therefore there was still a lack of adequate transportation facilities to attract the man of moderate means looking for a home-site. Realizing this, the City of South Jacksonville voted a bond issue of #100,000 for the purpose of constructing a municipally owned electric railway across the new bridge and running through the city to the city limits, and looping the main business district of Jacksonville, and a celebration was held on May 31st, on the opening of the car line to the public, which was attended by 10,000 citizens of both cities. The effect of the construction of the car line upon the public was immediate, and the building operations, both as to homes and business houses, increased over 100 percent in one month.