Florida: Clay County

Clay County, west of St. Johns County across the St. Johns River, is one of 18 Clay counties and one of the 15 named for Henry Clay (1777-1852), U.S. senator from Kentucky.

Within easy commuting distance of Jacksonville, Clay County has grown from a population of 32,059 in 1970 to 190,895 in 2010.

Much of the western part of the county is in Camp Blanding (1939), the primary military reservation and training base for the Florida National Guard.

It opened in 1940.

The county seat of Clay County is the city of Green Cove Springs (pop. 6,908), named for a bend in the St. Johns River where the trees are perpetually green.

The spring

In the late 1800s, before the railroads starting carrying tourists to South Florida, Green Cove Springs had more than a dozen hotels near the spring, known then as “The Original Fountain of Youth.”

The old Clay County Courthouse was built in 1889 and used as a courthouse until 1977.

On the National Register of Historic Places

The Clay Theatre in Green Cove Springs opened in 1919 as the Palace Opera House. It closed in 2014.

Green Cove Springs was the birthplace of Charles E. Merrill (1885-1956), co-founder of Merrill Lynch and Company.

Now part of Bank of America

The town of Penney Farms (pop. 749) was founded in 1926 by businessman J.C. Penney as an experimental farming village. The site is now the Penney Retirement Community.

An interdenominational Christian community

NEXT: BRADFORD COUNTY

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