Like really big. Right around 880 squared miles big, give or take (I have seen anywhere from 843-880). That is big enough to fit Manhattan, Chicago, Washington DC, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Miami and Boston and still have a 1/3 of the city left over. This puts us at the biggest city in the continental US (Juno over in Alaska is a bit bigger) and makes us the largest city by population in Florida with a population of 1.3 million as of 2010.
It is a running joke for me when I am coming into Jacksonville from I-10 and I see the Welcome To Jacksonville sign and know that I still have about 30 minutes before I see anything more than just trees. The city might be big, but most of this is just empty space. With so much room to spread out, this is probably why it feels like it takes a minimum of 15 minutes to get to anywhere.
How Did Jacksonville Get So Big?
Like most things that require a lot of people to want change, corruption and scandal. Elected officials in the 60’s mostly got there using the traditional ‘good ol boy’ network. When 11 officials were indicted by a grand jury and forced to resign, the Jacksonville Consolidation led by J.J. Daniel and Claude Yates (I go to his YMCA for my workouts) began to gain momentum and support. The final push for this was in 1964 when all 15 of the Duval County’s public high schools lost their accreditation.
Stated reasons to consolidate Jacksonville and Duval County
- Unified community
- Better usage of public spending
- More effective administration
- Lowered taxes due to savings in redundancy
- Increased economic development
In 1967 voters approved the consolidation and on Oct 1, 1968 the Consolidated City of Jacksonville was officially formed. To celebrate the mayor Hans Tanzler and actress Lee Meredith posed for a sign marking the new border of the city. This would be where Jacksonville got the phrase “Bold City” from.
Why Don’t Other Cities Merge With Their Counties?
With such good reasons to consolidate, you may wonder why other cities don’t. In fact, a lot of cities have, just not all of them did with such a large county as Jacksonville did. New Orleans and the surrounding parishes combined in 1805. Boston, Philadelphia San Francisco and Denver did as well. In most cases, though, politics keeps most consolidations from happening. Having people in power agreeing to give up that power to someone else? Doesn’t usually happen without good reason.