The Great Fire of 1901- May 3rd 1901
Jacksonville's largest disaster began around noon, when a spark from a kitchen fire during the lunch hour at the Cleaveland Mattress Factory set mattresses filled with spanish moss on fire at the factory, located in an area now known as LaVilla. The fire was soon discovered and it was thought they could put it out with only a few buckets of water. Consequently an alarm was not turned in until it had gone beyond their control. By the time the Jacksonville Fire Department arrived, the fire had spread from the outside platform upon which it started, to the pine buildings, which rapidly became a seething mass. Then the breeze sprang up, and fire embers and millions of sparks were dropped on the roofs of nearbyhomes and those blocks away. As the fire at the mattress factory seemed under control, calls for other fires in the vicinity began to come in. Wind had spread embers throughout a several block area. These wind-fanned embers ignited a massive fire that engulfed a major portion of the city. By 8:30 that evening, the wind had died down and the flames quelled. Seven people had lost their lives in the largest and most destructive fire in the history of the Southeastern United States. 2,368 buildings burned, 140 city blocks were decimated, and 10,000 people were left homeless. The National Guard was on the streets of Jacksonville by sun down.
Florida Governor William S. Jennings declared a state of martial law in Jacksonville and dispatched several state militia units to help. Reconstruction started immediately, and the city was returned to civil authority on May 17th, 1901.