Sky scrapers, skate parks, a brothel queen and one famous "fat boy." They're all subjects of interesting facts we betcha didn't know about Jacksonville. From its early days as the Winter Film Capital of the World to a starting role in a John Grisham novel, the River City is full of surprises.
The world’s first building using skyscraper technology still stands in Downtown Jacksonville. The 6-story Dyal Upchurch Building was erected just after the Great Fire of 1901 by another passionate person, architect Henry Klutho. From then-state-of-the-art buildings to charming prairie style homes, you’ll find “Kluthos” all over town.
Elvis Presley’s first indoor concert was at the Florida Theatre Downtown in 1957. A juvenile court judge sat in the audience to ensure Presley’s performance wasn’t too much shakin’ goin’ on. Later, Elvis reportedly had to shimmy out a theatre window to elude overzealous female fans and get safely to his hotel room at what is now the Crowne Plaza Jacksonville Riverfront.
Kona Skatepark in Arlington is the oldest private skate park still open in the U.S. Dozens of famous skateboarding pros, including Tony Hawk, competed in some of their earliest competitions at Kona, which, unlike hundreds of skate parks around the nation, remained open while skateboarding’s popularity peaked during the late 1970s and early 1980s, then waned, then came back big with the extreme sports craze.
Jacksonville was Hollywood before Hollywood was Hollywood? During the 1910s and 1920s, dozens of top film production companies, including one that would become today’s MGM, relocated from New York (the real birthplace of American film) to Northeast Florida for the winter, taking advantage of the area’s year-round mild climate and wide range of settings. Famous names who worked here include John and Ethel Barrymore, Rudolph Valentino, Theda Bara and Oliver “Babe” Hardy, who came to Jacksonville in response to a classified ad seeking a “fat boy” to appear in a comedic film.