Dr. Wood has already written several books on Jacksonville history, including the award-wining Jacksonville’s Architectural Heritage. Bill Foley, a veteran writer for the Florida Times-Union and the author of Jacksonville - Images through the 20th Century, passed away in January while working on this book. His regular columns on local historical topics made him one of the city’s most admired writers.
"The 1901 Fire of Jacksonville was one of the most cataclysmic city disasters in American history," Wood points out. "It is right up there with the San Francisco earthquake, the Chicago fire and the Galveston hurricane. Yet with all of its drama and destruction, the story of Jacksonville’s Great Fire has never fully been told."
It began with an errant cinder from a
cookstove at lunch hour. The spark ignited piles of moss that
drying at a mattress factory to the west of town, at Davis and Beaver
The fire erupted with a torrent of flame that quickly spread from block
to block. By the time the fire was brought under control at 8:30 pm, it
had destroyed nearly everything in a 2-mile swath across the city.
The Great Fire was the most destructive event in Jacksonville’s history, wiping out 2,368 buildings while leaving nearly 10,000 people homeless and destroying the majority of Downtown Jacksonville (miraculously, only seven persons died). It was the largest metropolitan fire to have occurred in the South, before or since. This momentous event triggered an unprecedented rebuilding effort that laid the foundation for modern Jacksonville.
Mayor John Delaney presided over the city’s commemoration of the 2001 centennial of the Great Fire. "The 1901 Fire was perhaps the single most important event in Jacksonville’s history," notes Mayor Delaney. "The rapid rebuilding of the City after the Fire was also an amazing accomplishment."
"This book was a focal point in Jacksonville’s celebrating the centennial of the Great Fire. I hope the citizens of Jacksonville will join with me in reflecting on the extraordinary disaster which our City survived a century ago and the spirit with which it has grown to be one of America’s great cities today."
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