If you’re familiar at all with the history of Jacksonville, then you are probably familiar with the Great Fire of 1901. Around noon on May 3, 1901, a spark at a mattress factory in the LaVilla area of Downtown ignited the largest and most devastating fire in the history of the Southeastern United States. It is considered the third largest urban fire in the history of the United States, behind the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the Chicago Fire of 1871, respectively.
By the time the fire was put out and the smoke subdued, the devastation had destroyed 146 city blocks, over 2,300 buildings, left 10,000 Jacksonville residents homeless and it took the lives of seven. Yet one week after the devastation of the fire, an outstanding reconstruction of the city started taking place, setting the path for modern day Jacksonville.
In 2003, Bruce White’s sculpture, Memorial to the Great Fire of Jacksonville, was erected along the Northbank river walk. His was the first work created after the City of Jacksonville adopted the Art in Public Placed Ordinance. Standing at 40’ high, this sculpture symbolizes all the buildings that were destroyed by this horrific fire so many years ago.
It truly is a splendid work of art. Absolutely breathtaking when you look it and think about what it stands for, not just the fire, but life in general. So, next time you’re down in that area of town, I recommend you check it out and revel in the history of our city. If you want to learn more information about the history of the fire, check out The Jacksonville Fire Museum while you’re at it.