Book Chronicles Historic Jax Beach With Vintage Photos

Local authors Maggie FitzRoy and Taryn Rodriguez-Boette recently published a new book, Images of America: Jacksonville Beach, which chronicles the dramatic growth of Jacksonville Beach over the decades; from a quaint, 19th Century seaside resort to today’s bustling community.

Credit Maggie FitzRoy and taryn Rodriguez-Boette

A historic trek through Jacksonville Beach’s heritage and history.

FitzRoy was contacted by Arcadia Publishing to write the history of Ponte Vedra Beach as told through historic photos. She said she would do the book in conjunction with the Beaches’ Museum and History Park, an organization dedicated to the preservation of the First Coast’s history and heritage.

Images of America: Jacksonville Beach features over 200 vintage and modern images from a collection of over 20,000 photos.

“We have a wonderful collection of documents,” Taryn said. “And were able to tap into those documents for the book.”

Jacksonville Beach spans from Mayport to Ponte Vedra and Palm Valley, but its roots in American history reach as far back as 1821, when the Spanish ceded Florida to the United States.

Boette said Jacksonville Beach, named Pablo Beach in 1886, looked more like Guana Island back then; a dune-covered plot of unused land. She said it was much different from the flat beaches of today.

“[The dunes] were all flattened in order to create lots for sale,” Boette said.

Pablo Beach was renamed Jacksonville Beach on June 5, 1925 to attract more people to the growing city.

Over the next three decades, Jacksonville took on a role as the world’s finest resort and resembled New York’s Coney Island, with an amusement park and boardwalk.

“That was Jacksonville Beach in its heyday,” FitzRoy said. “There’s still a lot of people who have very fond memories of the boardwalk.”

After Hurricane Dora in 1964, it was realized that Jacksonville Beach could not afford insurance.

“The boardwalk was going downhill and Jax Beach needed to look at what kind of community they wanted to become,” Taryn said.

She said it took almost 20 years, but the city prospered into a very nice community with great restaurants and bars, amusements, and a wonderful museum dedicated to preserving the annals of local history.

Images of America: Jacksonville Beach is available in local bookstores, and at the Beaches Museum and History Park.