Downtown Jacksonville to Doctors Lake - Overview
The western shoreline of the St. Johns River between Trout River and Doctor's Lake must have presented a pleasing prospect to British planters searching for plantation sites. Excellent hammock and marsh land is located along this thirty-mile stretch. Upriver from William Barker's 20,000 acres that later became downtown Jacksonville lay twenty miles of shoreline with expansive marshland and cypress swamps readily adaptable for rice cultivation and forestry. Several navigable streams intersected to facilitate transportation of naval stores, timber, and produce from tracts that were still pristine forests when the British controlled Florida. This section of the river is today the setting for the neighborhoods of Riverside, Avondale, Ortega, the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, and Orange Park.
Despite the obvious potential, much of this land remained idle until very late in the colony's existence. That so little land was cultivated during the years Great Britain controlled East Florida is an indictment of the land grant system the government created. Governors Grant and Tonyn complained that giving wealthy merchants and aristocrats title to 10,000 and 20,000 acre tracts of land along the prime waterways without requiring them to forfeit their deeds when development failed to occur severely limited efforts to establish a prosperous export economy.
East of the St. Johns, however, the land along the river attracted numerous settlements, some of which were initiated in the 1760s and cultivated throughout the British years. From today's Arlington neighborhood through San Marco, San Jose, Mandarin, and inlad on Julington Creek, farms and plantations abounded. This was probably the most intensively cultivated section of British East Florida.