Once called “a tropical paradise” by author Harriett Beecher Stowe, the quaint area of Mandarin is marked by its history, ancient oak trees draped with Spanish moss, beautiful parks, marinas and more water views than any other area in Jacksonville. In the 1800s, Mandarin was a small farming village that shipped oranges, grapefruit, lemons and other fruits and vegetables to Jacksonville and points north on the steamships that traveled the St. Johns River. In 1864, the Union steamship, the Maple Leaf, hit a Confederate mine and sank just off Mandarin Point.
While Mandarin now is just a small section of the City of Jacksonville, its natural beauty, parks and historic buildings draw visitors from around the world. Just a short drive south of Jacksonville’s city center, the community is bordered by Beauclerc to the north, Julington Creek to the south and St. John’s River to the west.
Stowe, although best known for her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin about the cruelty of slavery, also wrote about Florida .
She had promised her Boston publisher another novel, but was so taken with northeast Florida that she produced instead a series of sketches of the land and the people which she submitted in 1872 under the title Palmetto Leaves. Her second book did not outsell her first novel, but did have the effect of drawing rich and fashionable tourists to visit her.
In Palmetto Leaves Stowe describes life in Florida in the latter half of the 19th century; "a tumble-down, wild, panicky kind of life—this general happy-go-luckiness which Florida inculcates." Her idyllic sketches of picnicking, sailing, and river touring expeditions and simple stories of events and people in this tropical "winter summer" land became the first unsolicited promotional writing to interest northern tourists in Florida.
A small chapel is dedicated to Harriet Beecher Stowe in Mandarin.
In 1990, with the rapid growth of Mandarin, a new public high school was opened in the area. Several prominent citizens in Jacksonville urged that the new school be named Harriet Beecher Stowe High School, but the proposal did not receive widespread acceptance, and instead the school was simply named, Mandarin High School.