In the Southbank of downtown Jacksonville, you’ll find the Treaty Oak, a giant Southern live oak tree. The Treaty Oak has served as a historical landmark for 250 years and is located in the Jessie Ball DuPont Park.
Measuring over 25 feet in circumference, 70 feet in height, and a crown that spreds over 145 feet, the tree shades an area of about 190 feet in diameter. In 1986, JEA began germinating seedlings from the Treaty Oak’s acrons and planting the saplings throughout the city to ensure the legacy of the Jacksonville landmark. Cables were installed to support the limbs of the tree as well as a lighting protection system in 1995. The largest renovation to date was in 2006 when the Jessie Ball DuPont Fund awarded $150,000 to the city to cover repairs to the park and maintain the health of the Treaty Oak, which is estimated to live another 400 years.
The Treaty Oak is believed to be the location where peace treaties were signed between apposing colonies. In actuality, the Treaty Oak was given its name by Florida Times-Union journalist Pat Moran who attempted to rescue the giant tree from destruction by creating a fictional story about the tree’s history.
Even though it’s not the site of peace treaty signings, the Treaty Oak still has a colorful history. The land surrounding the tree was once the location of the Dixieland Amusement Park, a theme park and ostrich farm which opened in 1907 on 30 acres of riverfront property.
Dixieland was branded as “The Coney Island of the South” and featured attractions like a 160-foot roller coaster, ostrich races, vaudeville acts, comedy shows, and other entertainment. Babe Ruth once played baseball at Dixieland and John Philips Sousa gave a concert. Dixieland served as the backdrop for many silent movies. And at the time, the Treaty Oak was decorated with hundreds of electric lights.
Dixieland was renamed Florida Alligator Farm after acquiring a collection of alligators and closed around the time of World War I. The collection of alligators was sold to what is now known as the St. Augustine Alligator Farm.
In 1930, developers began eyeing the property that was once Dixieland where the Treaty Oak stood. Moran approached the Jacksonville Garden Club and together they created a fictional story about American Indians signing a treaty with white settlers beneath the tree. The land was ultimately purchased by the Alfred I. DuPont Testamentary Trust at the request of Jessie Ball DuPont, a Garden Club member. In 1964, the land was donated to the City of Jacksonville under the stipulation that it be used for a public park for the benefit and enjoyment of the general public.
Additional property was acquired for the park and was named in honor of Jessie Ball DuPont, who was philanthropist and part-time Jacksonville resident, following her death in 1970.
Today the park contains informational plaques and numerous benches for patrons to enjoy the park. The Treaty Oak also serves as a popular backdrop for local photographers and a wedding venue for couples looking to marry.