Since Europeans first settled along Jacksonville’s riverbanks in the 16th century, the area has been a diverse community that thrives not only on commerce, music, and the arts but also on the advantages of a subtropical climate and waterside lifestyle. The city grew up around a crossing point for cattle in the St. Johns River and first became known as Cowford. The Great Fire of 1901 left 10,000 people homeless but not defeated. The ashes gave birth to a new era with strong architecture and a new resolve. Considered a friendly town for African Americans, Jacksonville was home to Harlem Renaissance artists as well as civil rights leaders. A bit laid back, the city has still managed to be on the cutting edge—it was the home of the Navy’s Blue Angels as well as Southern rock and one of the country’s first skateboard parks.
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