Green Cove Springs was developed in 1816 by George E. Clarke when he built a sawmill. In 1854 it started as White Sulfur Springs until it was renamed in 1866 as Green Cove Springs. It was the Clay County seat in 1871. The spring was known as "The Original Fountain of Youth." The 1895 freeze destroyed the citrus crops in the area. The city grew in World War II with the opening and expansion of the Naval Air Station Lee Field (in honor of Ensign Benjamin Lee killed in an air crash in World War I.)
In 1991 Green Cove Springs had a U. S. Historic district created bounded by Bay Street, CSX RR tracts, Center Street, Orange Avenue, St. Elmo Street and St. Johns Road. It contains 78 historic buildings and one structure.
George N. Bardin - he was born in Duval county on May 20, 1849 the son of William S. and Jane (Tippens) Bardin. His father was in the Seminole War as a scout for Captain Dade. He escaped the massacre by being on a scouting expedition. In the Civil War he was made an orderly sergeant. George Bardin was too young to join but with a party of boys he attacked a U. S. army post on Black Creek killing several of the sentinels. He was declared a murderer by the United States government and a cavalry company was sent by the United States government to capture him, but he escaped into the swamps. His father had him enlisted as a scout in the Confederate army.
After the war he work in the sawmill and lumber business. He served as constable for one year and as deputy sheriff for four years. For six years he was a justice of the peace. He was an alderman of Green Cover Springs for one term and the mayor of Green Cove for three terms. He was the clerk of the circuit court and the tax assessor. In 1895 he was appointed a county judge to fill an expired term and in 1896-89 he was elected justice of peace. From 1899 he was elected as a county judge.
He married April 13, 1871 to Josephine Gay. They had seven children. He died in 1907. His wife died in 1950. He was buried in Old Hickory Grove Cemetery in Green Cove Springs.
1869 (From Snow to Sun Florida Winter Pleasure Tours Pennsylvania Railroad) In 1869 the hotels included the Green Cove House, by Mr. J. Remington, and boarding houses run by Captain Henderson, and Captain Glinskie. The fare was about $15.00 per week.
The spring was long celebrated for its mineral properties. It is sulfurous, and has been found of value in chronic rheumatism, cutaneous disease and dyspepsia. The water temperature was 78 degrees F at all seasons. The basin varies in diameter from 35 to 40 feet at different points. The water rushes up with force forming what is called a "boil." Recently a portion of the bottom of the spring gave way, and the orifice through which the water rises was covered. But the earth was cleared out, and the "boil" re-instated. Facilities for bathing were afforded.
County Seat Green Cove Springs became the county seat of Clay County in 1871. Clay county was named after Senator Henry Clay, the Great Compromiser, a Whig Senator from Kentucky and a U. S. Presidential candidate.
The Great South by Edward King (1875) Throughout the winter months these health-resorts have the climate of Indian summer, and at Green Cove Spring, just above Magnolia, where there are sulphur waters of peculiar healing virtues in rheumatism and dyspepsia, a goodly company usually assembles with the first advent of "the season."
Florida It's Scenery, Climate, and History by Sidney Lanier, 1876 Three miles beyond [Magnolia], on the same side, is Green Cove Springs, one of the most popular winter-resorts on the river. The springs, with the Clarendon Hotel adjoining, are but a short distance from the river-bank. Connected with this hotel are hot and cold baths, and swimming-baths, of the spring-waters. These waters contain sulphates of magnesia and lime, chlorides of sodium and iron, and sulphured hydrogen, and have a temperature of 76 degrees F. They are used for the cure of rheumatism, gout, Bright's disease of the kidneys, and such affections. Besides the Clarendon, the Union House, a charmingly-located hotel, offers accommodations to visitors; and there are good private boarding-houses.
Green Cove Springs & Melrose Railroad Green Cove Springs & Melrose Railroad was incorporated on February 28, 1881 to build from Green Cove Springs to Melrose on Lake Santa Fe, 15 miles east of Gainesville. J. C. Greely of Jacksonville headed the original management and got the railroad to Sharon (10 miles from Green Cove Springs. The railroad was foreclosed and reorganized as the Green Cove & Midland Railroad. The Western Railway of Florida was organized on July 26, 1886 to build the rest of the line to Melrose. Dexter Hunter of Jacksonville, President of Western, completed the line to Melrose of 33.5 miles in 1890. The railroad had a lumber spur running 10 miles south from Sharon. The railroad had 3 locomotives and 34 cars. The railway had one passenger train daily. On June 6, 1892 the Western Railway and the Green Cove & Midland were sold under foreclosure. It reopened as the Southwestern Railroad of Florida. The railroad operated until mid-1896, when it was shut down. It was abandoned in 1899.
The Visit to Green Cove Springs (the Express News, Vol IX, 1884) En-route the boat landed at Green Cove Spring, a charming winter resort on the west bank of the St. Johns. The entire party, headed by the Government Band, proceeded to the springs, a short distance from the pier and spent a few minutes in viewing the famous springs and the magnificent surrounding scenery.
Green Cove Springs is one of the springs for which Ponce de Leon made search.
This spring is situated in a park near the landing, in the center of the village. Water boils from a fissure some twenty feet below the surface at the rate of three thousand gallons per minute. It is clear, and when the sunshine falls upon it, the objects in the basin are tinged with prismatic colors.
Imagine a pool of running water, pure as the air you breathe, and more translucent--a pool fringed about with bananas and palmettos, canopied by magnolia leaves. Such is a mid-winter picture of the swimming pools at Green Cove.
Handbook of Florida (Norton, 1890) Population 1,200. Twenty-nine miles from Jacksonville, twenty-seven miles from Palatka. Hotels - Clare, $3 to $4 a day; Clarendon, $4 a day; Morganza, $1.50 to $2 a day; St. Clair, $3 to $4; The Pines, $3 a day. Also several smaller hotels and boarding-houses. Railroads and Steamboats. Several trains north and south daily by J., T. & K. W. Ry. All the St. Johns River steamboats touch at this landing.
This town has been for many years a place of considerable resort, owing to its fine sulphur springs, and the natural advantages of its situation. Even as seen from the windows of a passing train its attractions are evident, for considerable labor has been expended in laying out streets, fencing off parks with massive pine logs, and removing evidences of recent clearnings.
A short walk or ride from the station brings the visitor to Magnolia Avenue, the business street of the place. A short distance farther is the great spring, which discharges three thousand gallons of water every minute, at a temperature of 78 degrees F., the year round. The wonderful purity of the water, its green, mysterious depths, reflections and colors are a source of never-ending pleasure. The water is slightly impregnated with sulphur, but loses it by evaporation after a short exposure to the air. Excellent bathing arrangements have been provided, and comfortable rustic seats are found at almost every turn. Borden Park, including about five acres lies along the river on high ground with its native growth of magnolia, live oak, and palmetto, the rubbish only having been cleared away. It is private property, but open to the public, though a quaint inscription posted at the entrance may properly prove discouraging to vandals. Much ingenuity has been displayed in the adapttion of natural tree trunks for fences, gate-posts, tree-seats, and the like. On the river bank, and projecting out over the water, is a tree said to have been used as a lookout by the Seminoles during their wars, for this was one of their permanent camps. Beyond the park a fascinating foot-path extends far along the river side and across Governor's Creek to Magnolia, one of the pleasantest resorts on the St. John's.
Green Cove Springs contains many charming winter residences, some of them surrounded with carefully tended gardens full of horticultural rarities, and most attractive to visitors from a colder climate.
The town itself contains churches of all the leading denominations, schools, stores, livery stables, tramways. Excursions may be made by boat up the river as far as Palatka, or down as far as Jacksonville, returning by boat or rail the same day, and on both sides of the river there are many points of interest easily within reach.
1891 (From Snow to Sun Florida Winter Pleasure Tours Pennsylvania Railroad) GREEN COVE SPRINGS. 29 miles by rail or boat, reached via Western Railway of Florida or Jacksonville, Tampa and Key West Railway.
The wonderful Sulphur Spring, discharging 3000 gallons of water a minute, from which the place takes its name, is located in a handsome grove of live oaks draped with Spanish moss, in the midst of a wide expanse of surrounding pine forests. The grounds are attractively laid out in romantic walks and parks. The bathing pools are extensive, and the baths are commended not only to invalids but to all who enjoy a plunge into limpid and pellucid waters. Think of bathing in open air in December, and yet this is a common everyday enjoyment here. Governor's Creek is very close by, and its romantic windings present pictures of rare natural beauty while offering excellent boating facilities. Its transportation facilities are excellent. Three large piers jutting out into the St. John's afford convenient access to sea-going vessels and river craft of every kind, and no more fascinating scene could well be imagined than the light and shadow effects on water and land as the health-restoring sun sinks down after its faithful day's duty), leaving a wake of golden light on this beautiful winter resort. Excursions may be made by boat from here to Palatka.
PRINCIPAL HOTELS. Clarendon Hotel . . . . $4.00 per day. Riverside House, |2. 00 to $2.50 per day. Morganza Hotel, $2.50 to $3.00 per day. St. Clair Hotel . $3.00 to $4.00 per day. Oakland Hotel . $2.00 to $2.50 per day.
1899 (Pennsylvania Railroad Tours to Florida 1899) GREEN COVE SPRINGS. 30 miles from Jacksonville, via Tropical Trunk Line; also reached via boat.
The wonderful Sulphur Spring, discharging three thousand gallons of water a minute, from which the place takes its name, is located in a handsome grove of live oaks draped with Spanish moss, in the midst of wide magnolia forests. The grounds are attractively laid out in romantic walks and parks. The bathing pools are extensive, and the baths are commended not only to invalids but to all who enjoy a good plunge. Open-air bathing in December is a common everyday enjoyment.
The romantic St. David's walk extends northward along the shore two miles through the forest to Magnolia and its fine hotel. Excursions may be made by boat from here to Palatka.
Principal hotels. Clarendon Hotel. Oakland Hotel. St. Clair Hotel. Morganza Hotel. Riverside House. Hotel St. Elmo.
A Guide to Florida (1912) Green Cove Springs (30 m. from Jacksonville) the next landing has a sulphur and chalybeate spring of surpassing beauty. The waters bubble or rather rush up from a depth of forty feet discharging thousands of gallons daily. temp. 78 degrees. It has been famous as a curative Spa since the time Florida was ceded to the United States by the Spaniards. Bath houses and hotels have existed here continously, and it has recorded as its guests people of distinction from every part of the world. The springs of Florida, while of the same general character, are distinct in kind. Each one has some peculiar charm of its own. A monograph should be written on them, setting out the water's properties, and those greatest of all features should be emphasized, their peculiarly appropriate locations and the fostering climatic conditions that are so helpful in promoting the invalid's recovery. There has always been a swimming pool here, and the taking of the waters has been supplemented by the taking to them. There are fine roads in the nieghborhood for motoring, driving and riding, the last, a favorite pastime in the long stretches of beautiful pine woods. Shooting and good fresh water fishing are in easy reach. Tennis courts, and croquet grounds are provided and the new golf links is easy of access and very satisfactory. The Quisisana Casino is a very attractive building, of an architecture eminently suited to the climate, a modified Moorish or Moro-Spanish type. It is fitted with every modern improvement and the swimming baths and pool is most attractive. The A. C. L. R. R. has a station here.
Places to Stay in Green Cove Springs 1912
Hotel Quisisisana; capacity, 200; rates - per day, $4.00 up, per week, special.
Tyler House, Mrs. J. W. Lucas; capacity, 30 rates - per day, $2.00, per week $10.00
Mohawk, Mrs. C. W. Tyler; capacity, 30; rates - per day, $2.00, per week, special.
Riverside Hotel, Mrs. M. Hancock; rates per day, $2.00, per week, special.
Florida (WPA, 1939) Green Cove Springs (28 alt., 1719 pop.), seat of Clay County, is a small resort centered around a spring that flows 3,000 gallons a minute, impounded to form a large swimming pool. Residents obtain fresh water from the spring every day, believing it loses its medicinal qualities and strength.
Green Cove Springs was a fashionable spa in the late 1870's and 80's. Steamers from Charleston and Savannah came up the St. Johns River and landed passengers at the resort piers. Band concerts were held daily during winter months. President Grover Cleveland (1885-89) and well-to-do northerners came annually. Gail Borden, condensed milk manufacturer, and J. C. Penney, chain-store magnate, bought property here and took an active part in the development of the town. Penny also established a farm colony 6 miles to the west.
With the coming of railroads and the development of resorts farther south, the village lost most of its out-of-state patronage, but continues to attract visitors from various parts of Florida. Fishermen find black bass plentiful in the brackish waters of the St. Johns.
Augusta Savage, distinguished Negro sculptress, lived here in her childhood When she was five years old, her father, a Methodist minister, chastised her for 'making graven images.' Now a resident of New York City, she has gained international recognition for her figures of whites and Negroes.
Naval Air Station Green Cove Springs (Lee Field) In 1940 the U. S. Navy opened Naval Air Station Lee Field in honor of Ensign Benjamin Lee who died in an air crash in World War I. In August 1943 it was renamed Naval Air Station Green Cove Springs (Lee Field) where four runways were maintained. After the World War II it was home to a Mothball Fleet of 600 vessels. In 1960 the base was decommissioned.