In 1562, French Huegenots sailed into what is now known as the St. Johns River. They called the waters, the River of May and founded a settlement there, Fort Caroline. A few years later, Spanish forces from the fort in St. Augustine attacked the French and wiped out the settlement. Spain controlled Florida for the next two centuries.

In 1763 the Spanish would trade Florida to the British in exchange for Havana, Cuba. The British sought to establish a road system from Savannah, Georgia to St. Augustine, Florida. The road crossed the St. Johns River at a point known as The Cowford, located roughly where downtown Jacksonville is today.

The Spanish again took control of Florida from 1783 until around 1821. At this time, Florida was ceded to the United States and Americans began to move in and settle the state.

The ferry crossing provided a good means of commerce and a settlement gradually began to grow around it. In 1822 the area was surveyed by Isaiah Hart, who is considered the founder of the town, and given the name Jacksonville for General Andrew Jackson who was the first military governor of the area.

Lumber mills helped the town to grow up until the Civil War. The town was burnt numerous times during the war. When the war was over, the city became a popular winter resort. As Jacksonville grew, the railroad eventually came through the city and farther south into Florida. The city suffered an outbreak of yellow fever in the 19th century as well as one of the worst fires in the south in 1901. The fire destroyed over 2400 buildings. After recovering from the fire, the city became a center for banking in the state and over 300 silent movies were filmed in the city.

After World War II, two U.S. Naval bases were located in Jacksonville. The city also began to attract companies in the insurance industry. In 1967 citizens of Jacksonville and the surrounding county, Duval, voted to consolidate the city and county governments. This made Jacksonville one of the largest cities in the nation based on land mass. The city of Jacksonville encompasses over 840 square miles.

Jacksonville currently sits at the intersection of two transcontinental highways, I-10 and I-95. The population of the metropolitan area is over one million. The city is home to the Florida Coastal School of Law, the University of North Florida and Jacksonville University. The city hosts the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, a Double A minor league baseball team, the PGA's TPC golf tournament, the ATP headquarters and many other sports related events. Perhaps one of the biggest events is the annual {Florida-Georgia] football game. This has also been called the South's largest outdoor cocktail party. It's worth going to Jacksonville just once to see that and the drunken mayhem that goes along with it, if nothing else. This may be the closest thing the city has to it's own Mardi Gras.

On a more cultural note, the city also is host to an annual jazz festival. The Florida Theatre hosts lots of events from concerts to old movies during the summer. The Cummer Gallery is a museum and garden located in the Riverside area.

If you are looking for nightlife the Jacksonville Landing is a good place to start. There are a lot of bars and restaurants there. After dinner, there are some dance clubs downtown. The only one I remember is on Forsyth Street called Club 618, I think. Supposedly there is a new club down there called the Voodoo something and I think it is also on Forsyth Street. Grab a copy of the Folio Weekly which is the local liberal events rag. The city can pretty much be broken down into two main sections (the Northside doesn't count, ask anyone, unless they are on that side of town, it's where the airport is). The two sections are the Southside and the Westside.

The Southside is the more stuck up section, though no one who lives there will admit it. The beaches area is included in the Southside, along with San Marco (an area where you are considered alternative or gay and just have extra money to burn on rent), Mandarin (this is where a lot of rednecks move when they get a decent job) and Baymeadows/Deerwood (where they really have their noses up their asses).

The Westside includes the Riverside area (this is the poor man's San Marco even though there are a lot of rich ass mofo's there), Murray Hill (an even poorer man's Riverside), Orange Park (which is, actually another city, but you are getting on the verge of redneck land), Marietta/Whitehouse (which is redneck land) and Middleburg (this city is southwest of Orange Park and is DEEP redneck land).

There are a lot of clubs at First Street and Atlantic Boulevard which is at the beach. You can park and hit probably five or six clubs within walking distance of each other. The best is probably Pete's bar (I think that's the name, I was usually smashed by the time we got there but it's in a big white building). All of the yuppies hang out at Ragtime. On the other end of the beach, near the Red Cross lifeguard station there are more clubs (Third Street and Beach Boulevard). San Marco has some good restaurants, with my favorites being Sushi Rock and Pappa's (I don't think it's actually called this but it's an Italian place across the street from Sushi Rock). Firehouse subs has some great sandwiches also. Everyone talks about Cafe Carmon, though I have only gotten drunk there, never eaten. If you head towards downtown from San Marco, you will see European Street on your left. They have a ton of beer on draft and in bottles. The food is pretty damn good too. This is a good place to adjust your attitude before hitting the clubs (it closes at 10).

Over in Riverside, the place to start is Five Points. There are some restaurants there but mostly alternative (tattoo's, bongs, smokes, clothing, magazines, leather items, etc.) shops. Club Five is also located here. They have Saturday night seduction you know when, which features S&M, bondage and some other interesting stuff. Deeper into Riverside (in the Avondale area) you will find the Art Bar (Saturday night used to be the night to go) and around the corner from it another European Street. There's also Partners, Monty's (not the actual name but it's what everyone calls it, Wednesday night is open mic night and it's usually packed), and the Hookah Lounge (may or may not be the name but it's next to Monty's). A little farther west into Riverside is Gene's Seafood, the Loop, Harpoon Louie's (a great place to hang and they have good inexpensive food and cheap beer) and the Eclipse (Friday night is the night to go but don't get there before 11 or you will think I'm full of shit. In Orange Park, there is a place called the Roadhouse, that has good bands sometimes on Friday and Saturday night (warning, you will see rednecks). Another interesting club is the Fat Kat Lounge in Murray Hill on Edgewood Avenue (I don't know what nights go off here). Walk across the street to my favorite hole in the wall bar, the Alibi (the people are friendly and sometimes strange but drinking IS encouraged and the beer is pretty cheap).

Despite the negative commentary, truly not a bad place to live. The growth in the region has been steady in nearly all sectors, even during recent economic downturns. Unemployment is low, taxes are low (Florida has no state income tax), the cost of living and housing costs are extremely reasonable. The heat gets somewhat oppressive in the summer, but there's miles of beaches and lots of swimming pools. There's more than enough to do: decent clubs, lots of water sports, professional and semi-pro sports, endless golf, good fine arts (including a really nice symphony orchestra). There's an excellent community college system, as well as a good state school (the University of North Florida) and a great private university (Jacksonville University). The University of Florida and Florida State are reasonably close.

The slight inward bend in the state along the coast is credited with keeping most Atlantic hurricanes at bay. (They tend to run up the coast and slam into the Carolinas.

Nothing is perfect: the growth has created some traffic problems. The city's school system has a history of problems, but they're workable. (The systems in the surrounding suburban counties are all excellent). You must have air conditioning in the car and house from May through September, or you will die. There's not much useful mass transit. There are a lot of redneck types, but enough of us smart aleck yankees to keep them culturally challenged.

That there are worse places in America to live is an absolute certainty. I've lived in a few myself.

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