Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Orange Grove Coming to Mandarin; after All, Oranges Are How Neighborhood Got Its Name

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Orange Grove Coming to Mandarin; after All, Oranges Are How Neighborhood Got Its Name

Article excerpt

Byline: DAN SCANLAN

Nineteenth-century settler Calvin Read decided to call Jacksonville's southernmost community "Mandarin" because that kind of citrus fruit was cultivated there, and the name became official in 1830.

While an 1835 freeze and subsequent infestation of the orange coccus bug three years later took its toll on the citrus groves, retired U.S. Army Major William Webb started one when he moved into his home along what is now Mandarin Road after the Civil War. Years later, he would write that "thousands of boxes of oranges, vegetables and strawberries are shipped every season to Northern cities" from his commercial wharf.

A few citrus trees still dot Read's restored homesite on Brady Road, and one grows tall next to Webb's old farm house. But that will change from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, July 23, when the Mandarin Museum and Historical Society invites the community's residents to see the return of an orange grove at what is now the Walter Jones Historical Park at 11964 Mandarin Road.

Mandarin Museum and Historical Society president Beth Meyer said the first demonstration grove of about a dozen trees will be planted on land off County Dock Road during the event.

"It is part of the educational story for the park," Meyer said. "It was essential that we bring the orange trees back to Mandarin as part of the educational tours and part of the story and history. Where did Mandarin get its name from? We are always asked that question by the kids, and we will give them the example."

Rep. Dick Kravitz, R-Jacksonville, who as a city councilman sought the park purchase, also will attend the event. He said it was always his and others' hope that an orange grove would be planted there to remind modern residents of what Mandarin used to be.

"Kids in Northeast Florida probably think the orange groves are in South Florida, and we had them here," Kravitz said. "We thought it would be a great educational experience to let kids come out and plant and harvest oranges on a property where they were historically. …

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