Located in the northeastern portion of Florida, Jacksonville is the most populated city in Florida and the largest city (in terms of area) in the continental U.S. The dramatic skyline of glass and steel skyscrapers is complimented by the lush tropical scenery and white sandy beaches. The St. Johns River, which winds through the heart of Jacksonville, empties into the Atlantic Ocean just 20 miles from downtown. The largest deepwater port in the south operates at the mouth of the river, overseen by the Jacksonville Port Authority.
Jacksonville began its life as Cowford, a tiny settlement at a narrow point in the St. Johns River where cattlemen could ferry their livestock across. In 1821, the same year that the U.S. purchased the Florida territory from Spain, a settler named Isaiah D. Hart moved to the area. In 1822, he laid out the plans for the town and petitioned that it be named a port of entry. He named the town Jacksonville after Andrew Jackson, the former military governor of the Florida territory and eventual President of the U.S. Although it was not a part of the Confederacy during the Civil War, both sides fought for the land. The Union Army occupied the city four times during the course of the war. The city was decimated in the aftermath of the war, recovering just long enough to succumb to the yellow fever outbreaks in 1886 and 1888. The Great Fire of 1901 dealt another harsh blow to the struggling city, destroying the business district and leaving over 10,000 residents homeless in just eight hours.
Despite the hardships, the town managed to regroup and rebuild. Famed New York architect Henry John Klutho, inspired by the "prairie style" conceptions of Frank Lloyd Wright, designed the new buildings with a Florida flair. Much of his work can still be seen in Jacksonville today, including the St. James Building (which currently serves as the Jacksonville City Hall) and the Morocco Temple.
Today, Jacksonville is a thriving coastal city. Downtown Jacksonville, along the St. Johns River, has developed into a bustling commercial area full of shops, restaurants, arcades, and museums. Commemorative plaques placed along the Riverwalk provide fascinating historical information, and water taxis are available for convenient travel between the two riverbanks. A number of musical legends, from Pat Boone to Lynyrd Skynyrd to Limp Bizkit, have come from Jacksonville, and the city continues to exhibit its musical diversity to this day. The Jacksonville Jazz Festival, held every April, is the second-largest jazz festival in the nation. Come Together Day, Planetfest, and Springing the Blues are also annual festivals that celebrate hip hop, rock, and the blues. Jacksonville is also the home of the Gator Bowl, a major event in college football held every January 2.