Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tycoon Helped Bring Luxury to Town

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tycoon Helped Bring Luxury to Town

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Jo McTammany, Times-Union staff

Condensed milk magnate John A. Borden was a real friend to the people of Green Cove Springs and Clay County. And it's been said that they "done him wrong."

In the early 1880s, the son and heir of the inventor of condensed milk was among the first of the northern moneyed titans to invest in Clay County's newly incorporated county seat and build a many-storied mansion for family winter visits. Chicago meat mogul W.M. Hoyt and mineral water tycoon and fertilizer wizard Carl Schultz rubbed elbows with Borden in powerful boardrooms in New York and on the streets of Green Cove Springs.

Young Borden was always in pursuit of the deal and absolutely rolling in profits accumulated by the family's Eagle Brand Consolidated Milk Factory in Brewster, Mass., from supplying Union troops during the Civil War. He accumulated acres of land in Green Cove Springs and nearby areas, including 12,000 acres south of town, which he christened the Wallkill tract, named for the vast Borden estate on the shores of the Hudson River.

In 1885, Borden purchased three riverfront acres on St. Johns Avenue in the heart of town and commenced development of a public park honoring his 2-year-old daughter, Gail. The project took three years to complete and included landscaped paths under massive old-growth, moss-draped, live oaks, magnolias and pines.

Sprinkled along the way were hand-hewn rocking chairs, cypress sofas still upholstered in their own bark and charming stools all fashioned from limbs and stumps.

These quaint vignettes were charming to look at but known to occasionally rip an unsuspecting maiden's bustle to shreds.

A broad boulevard stretched from the street to the river for a breathtaking view. A rustic carved 7-foot-tall urn overflowing with flowering jasmine greeted strollers at the entrance and another larger and even more ornate natural container captivated visitors midway to the shore. …

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