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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. It is the county seat of Clay CountyGR6.

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.


First inhabited over 7,000 years ago by natives drawn by the warm mineral spring. 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, a Great Freeze destroyed the areas citus 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.

During World War II, Green Cove Spring again saw growth when the US Navy opened the Benjamin Lee Auxiliary Air Field. After the war, the Navy constructed 13 piers along the St. Johns River to house a "Mothball Fleet" of some 600 vessels. In 1960, the Navy decommisoned the base and relocated the vessels. In 1984, the city annexed the former base into the city to utilize it for further growth and development as the Clay County Port and Reynolds Industrial Park.

Green Cove Springs is the birthplace of Charles E. Merrill (1885-1956), one of the founders of Merrill, Lynch & Company. The town's spring is described by his son James Merrill in the poem "Two From Florida," published in The Inner Room (1988).

Green Cove Springs is also the birthplace of Augusta Savage née Augusta Christine Fells (February 29, 1892 - March 26, 1962) Savage was an African American sculptor associated with the Harlem Renaissance.

And......as the City of Green Cove Springs as stated...........

Widely credited with discovering Florida, Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon was a man obsessed with youth and the desire to prolong his earthly existence. That passion for immortality is what led him to Florida and what fueled his search for what natives claimed were “crystal waters flowing from living springs…in which he who bathed would be instantly endowed with eternal youth and great beauty.”

Convinced by their marvelous tales of this “Fountain of Youth,” de Leon sailed from island to island, place to place, bathing in every stream or lake that he encountered. On Easter morning, 1513, de Leon and his companions landed near the site of St. Augustine. But instead of forging inland, the explorer followed the coastline south, only to return to Puerto Rico some years later without his treasures, or the immortality he sought. (Above passages by Michael Soloway, “Green Cove Springs: A Fountain of Discovery”, FMEA, Relay Magazine, July 2001). 

Had Ponce de Leon traveled inward and westward across the St. Johns River, he very likely would have discovered the land that would later be known as Green Cove Springs and the place of his dreams. 

The rich history of Green Cove Springs is tied to the natural springs and the St. Johns River. Prior to the 1930s, the spring property was owned by J.C. Penney, who turned the property over to the City because of employment problems relating to the spring. Prior to that, however the area was first settled in the mid-1800s and was called White Sulfur Springs. After that and around 1850, Green Cove became a prime tourist attraction, famous for the warm, therapeutic springs. The sulfur springs, or the “boil” as it was called brought wealthy visitors down the St. Johns River by steamboat to vacation at the grand hotels like the Clarendon and Qui-Si-Sana. Visitors of the period included Henry Flagler and his new bride, the Astors and Vanderbilts. The visitors drank from the spring believing in its medicinal values. It is said one local physician prescribed the spring water for various chronic ailments of the liver and kidneys. There are those today that still have confidence in the therapeutic value of the springs and can be seen daily drawing water from the spring for consumption.

The spring is one of approximately a dozen sulfur water springs in Florida and is still popular today as a tourist site and a public swimming facility. The water boils up from a large fissure, some twenty feet below the surface at the rate of approximately 3,000 gallons per minute. The water is crystal clear and when the sun strikes the water at midday, the sun projects prismatic hues. The 78-degree spring feeds the municipal pool and then flows down Spring Run into the St. Johns River. The spring and pool are both located in beautiful Spring Park, one of the prettiest parks in Northeast Florida. Entering the pool is an invigorating experience and most refreshing since there are no chemicals used in the pool.

During the 1850s the City’s population was approximately 1,500 and they lived a quiet, casual life in a beautiful setting. There was one bank, one saloon, four hotels, two dairies, seven stores, one shoe shop, two sawmills, a Masonic Lodge, two laundries, one railroad, one ice company, one undertaker, one brick yard, seven churches, two newspapers, one barber shop, one rice and feed mill, four trains daily, two drug stores, one bicycle shop, a telephone system, one livery stable, one cigar factory, one jewelry store, one graded school system, a street railway, three meat markets, two steamers a day, two lines of steamers, two blacksmith and wheelwright shops, two artesian wells which supplied the town with pure water, and one white sulphur spring that furnished free water to everyone (Source: Randolf McCredie, North Florida Living, September 1984). 

Although steamboats no longer bring tourists on a regularly scheduled basis, cruise ships and paddleboats carrying dinner passengers still stop to anchor at the City pier and then take a walking tour to the historic downtown district, which includes historic homes and a very unique restored theater. 

The City has grown slowly but steadily since 1900 and is now approximately 5,700. It is located in Clay County, one of the fastest growing counties in Florida. It is proud of its quaint, small town character that lends to a perfect place to raise families. The City provides three beautiful parks for visitors and has ball fields and tennis courts for everyone’s use (see Parks). The schools in Clay County are ranked among the best, with families moving to Clay County in mass because of the quality of life that is offered here. 

The local economy is tied to nearby military facilities, service industries, shopping centers, retirement homes, as well as farming and mining. The area offers great opportunities for economic development as evidenced by the industrial areas located both north and south of Green Cove Springs. One of the industrial parks is the former Navy base, which housed the famous “mothball” fleet following World War II. The City is also the County seat which brings in many employees to the City each day. The Clay County School District as well as Clay County government contribute greatly to the community. 

Visitors are encouraged to travel to Green Cove Springs and drive around to see the old homes and churches along the river and throughout the area. Also visit the “Old Courthouse” built in 1875 and now a historical site that is part of the “Historical Triangle” that includes the courthouse, old jail, and the Clay County Historical Society Museum. There are many historical sites to see in Green Cove, including the oldest Woman’s Club (Village Improvement Association) in Florida. A list of the sites and information about each site is on this web site for your reading pleasure and information. 

Green Cove Springs has had many changes but it still remains a beautiful, unique town with homecoming parades, Christmas parades and annual community gatherings in the beautiful parks. A visit here will surely be enchanting as Green Cove Springs has a special charm about it that draws visitors and reminds them to slow down and take life a little easier.
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