It began with an errant cinder from a shanty’s cookstove at lunch hour. The spark ignited piles of moss that were drying at a mattress factory to the west of town, at Davis and Beaver Streets. The fire erupted with a torrent of flames that quickly spread from block to block. By the time the fire was brought under control at 8:30 pm, it had destroyed nearly everything in a 2-mile swath across the city.
The Great Fire was the most destructive event in Jacksonville’s history, wiping out 2,368 buildings while leaving nearly 10,000 people homeless and destroying the majority of Downtown Jacksonville. It was the largest metropolitan fire to have occurred in the South, before or since. This momentous event triggered an unprecedented rebuilding effort that laid the foundation for modern Jacksonville.
“Undoubtedly there were lives lost at the foot of Market Street,” concurred Arthur Cummer of the Cummer Lumber Company. He was one of the true heroes of the Market Street Horror. He was leaving a nearby wharf in his yacht, The Edith, after having gone to the Gardner Building to save some valuable papers and books belonging to the lumber company:
As soon as this work had been completed and aboard The Edith, we learned that a number of the militia were at the foot of Market Street and needed assistance. Hurrying there, these members of the Jacksonville Light Infantry, a number of women, and the ammunition of the militia were all removed to the Clyde Line wharves at Hogan Street. We rescued a second load of people from the rear of Tysen’s Wharf, and there also were some women in this lot. After they were landed, a third trip was made, and more were rescued.
Florida Times-Union & Citizen, May 5, 1901, Page 1.