The Great Jacksonville Fire of 1901 was the largest metropolitan fire in the American South. The fire began on May 3, 1901, with a spark from a kitchen fire at lunchtime that ignited piles of drying Spanish moss at a nearby mattress factory.

Located at Davis and Beaver streets, the factory fire soon spread to most of the downtown area. Smoke could be seen as far north as Savannah, Georgia.

By 8:30 p.m., when the fire was brought under control, 2,368 buildings were destroyed, 10,000 people were homeless and seven residents were dead. In all, 146 city blocks were destroyed. The Confederate Monument in Hemming Park was one of the few city landmarks to survive the fire.

Governor William Jennings declared martial law, and he sent in the state militia to maintain order. Municipal authority was not resumed until May 17.

The city spent the next decade rebuilding its downtown. Famed "Prairie School" architect Henry John Klutho was brought in to design many of the city's new buildings. Out of the ashes of the fire arose buildings such as the St. James Hotel (later the Cohen Brothers Department Store) which was one of the largest buildings in the nation when it opened in 1911. Today, the St. James building is fittingly used as Jacksonville's City Hall.


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