Green Cove Springs, Florida

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Green Cove Springs is a city in Clay County, Florida, United States. The population was 5,378 at the 2000 census. As of 2004, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau is 5,990 [1]. It is the county seat of Clay County[3].

The city is named after the portion of the St. Johns River upon which the city is built. The river bends here, and the area is sheltered by trees that are perennially green.

Contents

History

First inhabited over 7,000 years ago by natives drawn by the warm mineral spring. The spring attracted tourists in the 19th Century and there were hotels near the spring; today the sulphur-scented spring water feeds an adjacent public swimming pool before flowing the short distance to the St. Johns River. The Green Cove Springs area was first developed by George E. Clarke in 1816 when he was provided land, under a Spanish land grant to build a sawmill. Green Cove Springs was established in 1854 as White Sulfur Springs. Renamed in 1866, it became the county seat in 1871.

Tourism was the primary economic base until the end of the century, when Henry Flagler's railroad began taking tourist further south into Florida. In 1895, the Great Freeze destroyed the areas citrus crops, and tourism all but ended. The 1920s saw renewed development with automobile traffic bringing in tourists again. The Great Depression of the 1930s saw the end of growth again for the city.

The period immediately before and during World War II again brought new growth to Green Cove Spring. In September 1940, the U.S. Navy opened Naval Air Station Lee Field in honor of Ensign Bejamin Lee who had lost his life in a crash at Killinghome, England during World War I. In August 1943, the facility was renamed Naval Air Station Green Cove Springs (Lee Field) and consisted of four 5000 ft asphalt runways.[4][5] After the war, NAS Green Cove Springs was downgraded in status to a Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) as part of the greater NAS Jacksonville complex. A total of 13 piers were also constructed along the west bank of the St. Johns River adjacent to NAAS Green Cove Springs (Lee Field) to house a U.S. Navy "Mothball Fleet" of some 600 vessels, primarily destroyers, destroyer escorts and fleet auxiliaries. In 1960, the Navy decommissioned NAAS Green Cove Springs and the pier facility. Some of the mothballed vessels were transferred to foreign navies while others were relocated to other Reserve Fleet locations.

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