San Marco Square is the heart of the area, and features one of Florida’s oldest live theaters, a popular movie theater which dates back to the 1930s, churches, and a bevy of restaurants, from pizza places to fine dining. The bustling square during the day serves shoppers and those enjoying the fresh air, and in the evening becomes a point of rendevous for those seeing and seeking to be seen through a combination of nighttime dining, energetic bars, and coffee bars.
When Jacksonville’s first bridge spanning the St. Johns River was built and opened in the 1920s, allowing Jacksonville’s blossoming population of automobiles the cross the river without having the wait for a ferry, the City of South Jacksonville was merged into Jacksonville.
San Jose has a lasting legacy of the Florida Boom of the 1920s. When built in the Roaring Twenties, San Jose was accessed just three ways: by river steamer going upstream from downtown Jacksonville (The St. Johns River flows north, so traveling south means going upstream.) or downstream from Palatka, by the brick-laid St. Augustine Road, which was part of the original King’s Road built by the British during colonial times, or down a dirt road which soon became San Jose Boulevard.
The neighborhood centered around the Florida Hotel – today’s prestigious The Bolles School main campus – built as a getaway for the rich and famous seeking Northeast Florida’s agreeable year-around climate. The riverfront hotel (the original building is still in use as dorm rooms for The Bolles School) was built in the typical Spanish-influence of the day, with highly detailed ornamentation. Next to the school was the newly laid out neighborhood of San Jose, where 30+ large Spanish-style homes were built. Today, the neighborhood remains as a testament to the vision of the those in the Florida Boom – even after the boom went bust. San Jose, which to its north has Epping Forest Yacht Club as a boundary, remains one of Jacksonville’s most interesting, comfortable, and upscale areas. Twenty-nine of the original homes have been preserved and upgraded, and are some of Jacksonville’s greatest architectural home gems.
Part of the original campus of the Florida Hotel is today’s San Jose Country Club and golf course, one of Florida’s most prestigious, historic golf and tennis clubs. The San Jose Episcopal Church and school are also historic buildings from the Florida Hotel, and sit across San Jose Boulevard from the original hotel property.