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Jacksonville & Nantes : A Short Story
The official relationship between Nantes and Jacksonville began with the twinning of the Chambers of Commerce at a ceremony in Nantes in June 1980.
Jacksonville Sister Cities Association (JSCA) |

Unofficially, personal contacts began in 1977 as a result of the Marquis de Goulaine’s interest in his ancestor Rene Laudonniere, founder of Fort Caroline. He visited Jacksonville and the Fort and saw many similarities between the two cities. During the visit, U.S. Representative Charles E. Bennett met with the Marquis and proved to be an imperative force in the development of official relations between the two cities. His extensive knowledge of the French historical ties to Jacksonville proved to be very impressive and correspondence was initiated to explore the development of an official relationship. Nantes and Jacksonville were formally twinned during a ceremony at the Mayor’s office on August 3, 1984. Mayor Jake Godbold and Nantes Vice Mayor Charles Gautier signed the Joint Resolution at the ceremony.


Due to a last minute legislative issue, Gautier had to stand in for Mayor Chaunty. Arrangements for the twinning ceremony and visit were made by the Mayor’s office, Alliance Francaise, Chamber of Commerce and the Sister Cities Association. From May 8-10, 1985, a Jacksonville delegation of 16 representing Sister Cities and the Alliance Francaise visited Nantes to complete the official twinning. The hospitality extended by Mayor Michel Chauty and Deputy Mayor Charles Gautier and their staffs was overwhelming. There were lavish receptions and dinners, beautiful luncheons at the Chamber of Commerce and City Hall and tours of the city and the Loire Valley. From May 1-4, 1986, Nantes’ First Deputy Mayor Loic Le Masne and his wife led a delegation of nine elected officials to Jacksonville. In celebration of French Heritage week, JSCA sponsored a ceremony at Ft. Caroline National Memorial on May 2nd, of which the delegation was in attendance.

Other notable highlights include: the Honorable Elizabeth Hubert, M.D., a Nantes councilwoman and RPR Deputy for Loire-Atlantique, visited Jacksonville in 1988 as part of one-month U.S. tour sponsored by the State Department’s International Visitor program and toured the Mayo Clinic, UNF and met with local businesses; Mayor and Mrs. Chauty made their first visit to Jacksonville in 1988 where Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Hazouri hosted a lunch for them at the River Club and attended the Women’s Tennis Association Championship at Amelia Island; Jacksonville hosted a booth at the Nantes International Trade Fair in 1989 to promote travel to Northeast Florida; Nantes Chef Michel Dupas, who learned his skills at the Chambre de Metiers Loire-Atlantique, came to Jacksonville in 1989 to prepare his own French cuisine at the Wine Cellar; three Nantes schools sent delegations to Jacksonville in 1990; the Nantes Committee hosted 13 business delegates during Sister Cities week in 1993 and twelve students and one professor from the Ecole Central de Nantes and Pierre Marchi, Deputy Mayor of Nantes, also made a visit to Jacksonville; a Jacksonville delegation visited Nantes in 1994 to investigate the possibility of future art exchanges with various art museums in Nantes, the women’s French National Rhythmic Gymnastics Team came to Jacksonville in 1994 to prepare for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games; twenty-six students and educators from the Ecole de la Joneliere in Nantes spent ten days in Jacksonville with students at John E. Ford Elementary School in 1995 and the French group toured JaxPort, St. Augustine, Ft. Caroline, City Hall and Cape Kennedy; also in 1995 three fifth-grade students of John E. Ford Elementary School went to Nantes for educational tours; a Sister City/ Duval County School System delegation went to Nantes in 1996 to present a proposal for an annual educator exchange and the first group of educators arrived in 1997 to spend a week studying a variety of curricula and schools in Jacksonville; sixteen residents of Jacksonville visited Nantes in 1998 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Ordre des Chesvaliers Bretvin that with Jacksonville’s historic connections to Nantes made it the only Bretvin chapter in North America and in 1999, the 42 members of the Bretvin chapter arrived in Jacksonville for a two-week visit; Jacksonville’s Douglas Anderson Jazz Band went to Nantes in 2000 to perform in the city’s music festival, Le Rendezvous de l’Erdre; also in 2000 Robert XI, the Marquis de Goulaine – a direct descendant of Rene de Goulaine de Laudonnaire, was in Jacksonville for the 50th Anniversary of Fort Caroline as a national park; Jacksonville was awarded the Innovation Arts & Culture award in 2001 for the Nantes Jazz project.

Though the relationship was made formal at this time, a student exchange program between Jacksonville University and the Ecole Superieure de Commerce in Nantes has been effect for many years. There have been a variety of cultural interchanges between Jacksonville and Nantes over the years including official mayor’s delegation visits, student exchanges (from young to college and graduate school levels), homestay visits from adults and students, art recitals and expositions. Numerous student exchanges have taken place between Jacksonville and Nantes, with current emphasis being given to developing an exchange program for elementary students from John E. Ford Elementary School, which houses the foreign language magnet program in Jacksonville. There is an on-going exchange program between Bolles and Episcopal High School and St. Stanislas since the late 1980s. Dancers from Nantes have performed at the World of Nations celebration in Jacksonville. Since 1993, the entire Jacksonville Sister Cities Association has helped celebrate Bastille Day on July 14 with an evening of fun, frivolity and fund-raising at local restaurants. 

The Sister Cities Nantes committee works to facilitate these interchanges and other projects that support our connection to Nantes culturally and officially with the many relationships made over the years. Many projects that will continue to be focused on in the future include: Nantes Art Exhibition at Pedestrian Gallery, ongoing teacher exchange, support of a joint technology and communication project with UNF and Nantes; video conferencing with a school in Nantes, chef exchange dinners, support of the veterinary exchange with Scott Mill Animal Hospital and the ongoing collaboration with Bretvins and Alliance Francais.

© Jacksonville Sister Cities Association  
60th twinning anniversary 

© Jacksonville Sister Cities Association

© Jacksonville Sister Cities Association
60th twinning anniversary
© Jacksonville Sister Cities Association

© Jacksonville Sister Cities Association
Jazz festival in Nantes
© Jacksonville Sister Cities Association
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