Bicentennial – Looking back, looking forward to next 200 years

Bicentennial – Looking back, looking forward to next 200 years

At this writing, Jacksonville’s 200th anniversary is a few weeks away. The Jacksonville Historical Society has accepted a convening role in gathering the people of this sprawling, complicated city to hear and share their stories. Those range from inspiring to mysterious, and from heroic to heartbreaking. We do not shrink from any of them, because unless history is honest, it is useless. Besides, the truth about Jacksonville is usually far more interesting than fiction!

The people and events of this city’s past are our inheritance. Understanding and explaining them is our history. That’s why history seems to change over time, as we continue to make sense of the past. Knowing about the places where we live and work builds historical understanding. Knowing who came before us, what they did and why, makes us aware that we occupy a place that was conceived and created by others. That makes us aware that today we are the stewards of Jacksonville’s present, and that the generations who come after us will inherit the results of our choices. It makes us care about our homes, our neighborhoods, our cities and our country. It strengthens our citizenship.

That is why Jacksonville’s Bicentennial is about more than a look back at 200 years of people, places and events – good, bad or indifferent. It is about looking ahead at the next 200 years.

As an example, each year the JHS’s Historic Sites Committee publishes a list of Jacksonville’s Most Endangered places. The selections are influenced by the potential each place has to help tell stories about Jacksonville’s people and events. 2022 being Jacksonville’s Bicentennial year, the Committee has announced a list of historic places that we hope will survive over the next 200 years as a legacy to citizens yet to come. You may view the presentation of our 2022 list by visiting our You Tube channel, at .

Buildings and sites that represent our past help make a place authentically different from all other places. That’s how preservation creates identity and citizenship. Not all old buildings or sites can be preserved, nor should they be. But historic preservation is a proven economic development strategy. Wherever preservation takes root, value grows. For example, fifty years ago, the neighborhoods of Riverside-Avondale were at the nadir of their historicity, widely seen as candidates for urban renewal and threatened by a proposed new expressway. Today, some of Duval County’s highest value residential and commercial real estate is in those award-winning National Register Historic Districts, which draw visitors to Jacksonville from across the U.S. and internationally. That is an invaluable legacy of the past, for us and for all Jacksonville’s future generations.

Speaking of generations, which consist of about 25 years, we are eight generations removed from the moment of Jacksonville’s naming 200 years ago. Considered from that perspective, our city seems relatively young. Whether you are descended from the original “Cowford 61” signers of the June 15, 1822 petition, or you just moved to Jacksonville last week, your Jacksonville story matters. This city now belongs to you, and you belong to the city. No matter how you got here, please visit our Bicentennial website, and share something about how it is that you came to be in Jacksonville. Your story will become part of our Bicentennial book planned as an additional gift to the future people of this city.

Jacksonville’s history matters, because all history is local and American history has always happened in local places throughout the nation. At 200 years old this June 15, Jacksonville deserves to claim its contributions to this astonishingly complicated and endlessly interesting country. These are the reasons why there is a Jacksonville Historical Society. Please become a member, and support our work.

Submitted By Dr. Allan Bliss, PH.D.
CEO, Jacksonville Historical Society

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)