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Green Cove Springs, Florida
City of Green Cove Springs
Images from top, left to right: Clay County Courthouse, the springs, Clay County Courthouse, St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Clay Theatre, Clay County Historical Museum
Images from top, left to right: Clay County Courthouse, the springs, Clay County Courthouse, St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Clay Theatre, Clay County Historical Museum
Location in Clay County and the state of Florida
Location in Clay County and the state of Florida
Coordinates: 29°59′34″N 81°41′2″W / 29.99278°N 81.68389°W / 29.99278; -81.68389Coordinates: 29°59′34″N 81°41′2″W / 29.99278°N 81.68389°W / 29.99278; -81.68389
Country  United States of America
State  Florida
County Clay
 • Type City Manager type government with 5 at-large city councilmen
 • Total 10.27 sq mi (26.59 km2)
 • Land 7.53 sq mi (19.50 km2)
 • Water 2.74 sq mi (7.09 km2)
16 ft (5 m)
 • Total 9,786
 • Density 1,299.43/sq mi (501.73/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 904
FIPS code 12-27400
GNIS feature ID 0283381

Green Cove Springs is a city in and the county seat of Clay County, Florida, United States. The population was 5,378 at the 2000 census. As of 2010, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau was 6,908.

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.


The area was first inhabited over 7,000 years ago by natives drawn by the warm mineral spring. The spring, locally known as the "Original Fountain of Youth", attracted guests in the 19th century; there were more than a dozen hotels near the spring. Today the sulfur-scented spring water feeds an adjacent public swimming pool before flowing the short distance to the St. Johns River. 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 Clay County seat in 1871.

The spring (1870s)

Agriculture and tourism were two of the primary economic ventures until the end of the century, when Henry Flagler's railroad began taking tourists further south into Florida. In 1895, the Great Freeze destroyed the area's citrus 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.

The period immediately before and during World War II again brought new growth to Green Cove Springs. On September 11, 1940, the U.S. Navy opened Naval Air Station Lee Field in honor of Ensign Bejamin Lee who had lost his life in a crash at Killinghome, England, during World War I. In August 1943, the facility was renamed Naval Air Station Green Cove Springs and consisted of four 5,000-foot (1,500 m) asphalt runways. After the war, NAS Green Cove Springs was downgraded in status to a Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) as part of the greater NAS Jacksonville complex. A total of 13 piers were constructed along the west bank of the St. Johns River adjacent to NAAS Green Cove Springs to house a U.S. Navy "Mothball Fleet" of some 500 vessels, primarily destroyers, destroyer escorts and fleet auxiliaries. In 1960, the Navy decommissioned NAAS Green Cove Springs and the pier facility. Some of the mothballed vessels were transferred to foreign navies, while others were relocated to other Reserve Fleet locations.

Cowboys with cattle in Green Cove Springs (1880s).

In 1984, the city annexed the former naval base into the city to utilize it for further growth and development as the Clay County Port and Reynolds Industrial Park. The air station is now a private airfield known as Reynolds Airpark (FAA airfield identifier FL60) with a single 5,000-foot (1,500 m) asphalt runway currently operational, although reportedly in poor condition. Although the original air traffic control tower is still standing, attached to one of the former Navy aircraft hangars, the airfield remains an uncontrolled facility.

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 (Augusta Christine Fells, February 29, 1892 - March 26, 1962). Savage was an African American sculptor associated with the Harlem Renaissance.

Locally, the community is known as the home of Gustafson's Farm, a brand name of milk and dairy products sold throughout Florida. The main Gustafson Dairy Farm is located in Green Cove Springs and is one of the largest privately owned dairy farms in the southeastern United States. Started in 1908, the main farm occupies nearly 10,000 acres (40 km2) adjacent to the city limits. Gustafson's has many bottling plants across the state, stretching from Tallahassee in the west to Tampa and Cocoa in the south. All Gustafson products have the picture of the husband-and-wife founders, Frank and Agnes Gustafson (also known as Mama and Papa Gus), who along with their first cow on their farm (named "Buttercup") are prominently featured on the packaging of the dairy's products.

Scenes for the 1971 "B" monster movie Blood Waters of Dr. Z (or Zaat) were filmed here. The movie was satirized on the television program Mystery Science Theater 3000.

The Old Clay County Courthouse.

Historic places

The following sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places:

Post office

A U.S. post office was established at Hibernia on June 19, 1849, but its name was changed on October 17, 1853, to Magnolia Mills, and on July 30, 1866, it was changed to Green Cove Springs. The Hibernia post office was reestablished on February 16, 1855, and remained open until May 15, 1931, when it was closed and the area assigned to Green Cove Springs.


Green Cove Springs is located on the eastern border of Clay County at 29°59′34″N 81°41′2″W / 29.99278°N 81.68389°W / 29.99278; -81.68389 (29.992716, -81.683786), along the St. Johns River. U.S. Route 17 passes through the center of town as Orange Avenue and leads north 28 miles (45 km) to downtown Jacksonville and south 26 miles (42 km) to Palatka. State Road 16 departs west from the center of the city and leads 27 miles (43 km) to Starke. SR 16 leaves eastbound from US 17 south of the city center and crosses the St. Johns River by the Shands Bridge, leading to St. Augustine 25 miles (40 km) to the east.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.9 square miles (25.6 km2), of which 7.4 square miles (19.1 km2) is land and 2.5 square miles (6.5 km2), or 25.35%, is water.

Green Cove Springs is the Clay County seat. The Greater Green Cove Springs area consists of the unincorporated communities of Fleming Island, Black Creek, Pier Station and Lake Asbury.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 320
1890 1,106 245.6%
1900 929 −16.0%
1910 1,319 42.0%
1920 2,093 58.7%
1930 1,719 −17.9%
1940 1,752 1.9%
1950 3,291 87.8%
1960 4,233 28.6%
1970 3,857 −8.9%
1980 4,154 7.7%
1990 4,497 8.3%
2000 5,378 19.6%
2010 6,908 28.4%
2020 9,786 41.7%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2010, 6,908 people, 1,987 households, and 1,402 families were residing in the city. The population density was 789.0 people per square mile (304.5/km2). The 2,199 housing units averaged 322.6 per square mile (124.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 71.55% White, 24.40% African American], 0.41% Native American, 0.54% Asian 1.38% from other races, and 1.73% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 5.08% of the population.

Of the 1,987 households, 28.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.2% were married couples living together, 16.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.4% were not families. About 24.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.51, and the average family size was 2.96.

In the city, the population distribution was 23.7% under the age of 18, 8.1% from 18 to 24, 26.0% from 25 to 44, 25.0% from 45 to 64, and 17.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,487, and for a family was $40,443. Males had a median income of $28,097 versus $22,040 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,673. About 14.6% of families and 19.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.2% of those under age 18 and 13.7% of those age 65 or over.


  • Clay County Historical Society Museum
  • Military Museum of North Florida


Green Cove Springs is part of the Clay County School District. The city is home to Charles E. Bennett Elementary School, Green Cove Springs Jr. High School, and the Bannerman Learning Center. Clay High School lies just feet outside of the western city limits.

Notable people

  • Charles E. Merrill (1885-1956), American businessman and philanthropist.
  • Augusta Fells Savage (1892–1962), sculptor and art educator, leader during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.
  • Charles Thomas Butler (1906–1964), Major League Baseball pitcher.
  • Maxey Dell Moody Jr. (1913–1987), founder of MOBRO Marine, Inc.
  • Frank J. Canova Jr. (born 1956), electronics engineer, known for inventing the smartphone.
  • Cliff Avril (born 1986), player in the National Football League.
  • Will Holden (born 1993), player in the National Football League.
  • Caeleb Dressel (born 1996), swimmer and seven-time Olympic gold medalist.
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