San Marco is located to the south of downtown and just across the river. The original development consisted of around 250 lots on 80 acres and was called South Jacksonville. It was kept separate from the city because the only transportation between the two communities was the ferry or railroad bridge that crossed the river. The area was originally the site of the brickyard for Gamble & Stockton. Then, in 1921, the St. Johns River Bridge (The Acosta) was opened which stimulated a new wave of growth in South Jacksonville. In 1925 Gamble & Stockton determined their property would be better suited as a residential development. They relocated their brickyard further south to make this happen.
In 1926 a commercial area was laid out at Atlantic Boulevard and San Marco Boulevards.. It was named “San Marco Square” after the famous St. Mark’s Square in Venice. In fact, the street names also inspired by St, Mark’s Square. South Jacksonville became part of Jacksonville by annexation in 1932.
There are only a few homes built in the Mediterranean Revival style that the street names imply. If fact, most are Tudor, Georgian, and Colonial Revival styles.
Like many of Jacksonville’s older neighborhoods that were developed as a direct result of the approximately 60-mile Jacksonville Streetcar network, San Marco is an extremely pedestrian friendly neighborhood. There are also approximately 13 parks scattered throughout.
The popular commercial district, San Marco Square, boasts a plethora or restaurants, art galleries, boutique shops, and the iconic San Marco Theater. The Theater was built in 1938 by Roy Benjamin (who also built the beautiful Florida Theater). Enjoy pizza, nachos, and a glass of beer or wine while you watch your movie.
Between 9am and noon on Saturday, September 12, 1925, down payments were made for all 250 platted homesites. Requests for reservations were said to be more than 3 times the lots available.
San Jose was the first suburb in Jacksonville designed with the automobile in mind.
In 1925, a charter was granted for San Jose Estates – a grand Spanish-style planned community 4.5 miles south of Jacksonville. The company planned a major community that would include two hotels, a golf and country club, a 100′ wide esplanade along the river, a yacht club, parks, schools, a retail center and hundreds of houses. The community’s theme would be “a bit of Old Spain in the new world.”
In 1926, the San Jose Hotel opened and was the center piece of the development. However, just two years later, the Florida land boom was over and the stock market crashed. Of the hundreds of homes that had been planned to be built, only 31 actually were. In addition to the 31 homes, San Jose Golf And Country Club (now San Jose Country Club) and the San Jose Estates Administration Office (now San Jose Episcopal and Day School) and four gate houses were also built.
The San Jose Hotel ended up failing financially and was closed then sold to the estate of Richard Bolles. After many uses over the decades, including a Military School and boy’s prep school, it became a coeducational school in 1971. In April 2018, Architectural Digest named the Bolles School the most beautiful private school in Florida and is now listed on the National Register Of Historic Places.
The Vanderbilt Hotel site was sold to Alfred I. duPont who built a 15,000 square foot, 25 room mansion and estate named Epping Forest Mansion and Estate. Today, the mansion is a riverfront yacht and country club.
Of further note, after World War II, the neighborhood was overcome by suburban sprawl. The original remnants of the Spanish Mediterranean-style project has been mixed in with modern development, home to many styles and price points that can suit many buyers’ needs.