Jacksonville: The “City of Jacksonville” Returning Home to Astor’s Wharf c. 1895


In the last quarter of the 19th century, Jacksonville was Florida’s largest city. “The winter City in Summerland” was the social place to winter and annually attracted many more visitors than residents. The magnificent St. Johns River provided a stunning setting and an important transportation artery 200 miles south into central Florida. Industrial barons flocked to develop railroads, shipping, real estate, banks, timber and orange groves.

Jacksonville was a bustling seaport and an equally busy river port. Fast, oceangoing steamers kept regular schedules with New York, Charleston and Savannah. Wharf space was crowded with railroad freight and passenger terminals and vessels.

This composition of Astor’s Wharf shows the “City of Jacksonville” front and center in the moonlight as she returns after an all day run. The magnificent iron hulled flagship of the Clyde St. Johns River Line entered service in 1882 and made her last run over Memorial Day 1928. Napoleon Bonaparte’s new tug, “Three Friends,” stands by to assist.

In the foreground is the impressive Astor building, completed in 1879. half a block from the river at Bay and Hogan Streets, Standard Oil magnate Henry M. Flagler housed the offices of his Jacksonville, Tampa & Key West Railroad swing-span bridge, built by Flagler to provide through rail service from New York to his hotels in St. Augustine.

Though the landmarks depicted in my view of Astor’s Wharf survived the Great Fire of 1901, they no longer exist having been torn down or replaced.

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