Friday, June 01, 2007

How Flagler & Plant Changed the Face of Florida

It wouldn’t have been too surprising if Miami had been renamed “Flagler” at the incorporation meeting back in 1896, since it was in that year that the Florida East Coast Railway, owned by Henry Morrison Flagler, reached Miami.
Before that time, most of the people in the area were homesteaders and the only “towns” were Coconut Grove and Lemon City. Persuaded by land offers from Julia Tuttle and William and Mary Brickell, which were accompanied by fresh orange blossoms to prove that Miami was frost-free, Flagler agreed to extend his railroad south from West Palm Beach, lay out the city of Miami and built a luxurious hotel which the guest register read like a "who's who" of early twentieth century America -Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Astors, Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan vacationed alongside United States presidents and European nobility.
John Sewell, who would later serve as Mayor of Miami, observed, “The Florida East Coast Railroad reached here the latter part of April, 1896, and the passenger trains were soon put on. Then it seemed that the flood gates were opened and people came from everywhere.” Flagler kept his promise by also building the Royal Palm Hotel, constructing houses for workers, dredging a ship channel, and donating land for schools, churches and public buildings. When 368 voters incorporated the city on July 28, 1892, however, the name remained Miami.
Henry Plant’s rails pushed south from Jacksonville along the St. Johns River to Sanford then southwest through Orlando to Tampa. The University of Tampa now occupies Plant’s hotel at the end of the line. Henry Sanford’s lines penetrated the interior of the state.
Henry Flagler acquired the Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Halifax River Railway, and advanced construction south along the east coast arriving in the settlement of Miami in 1896.
Henry Plant, developing the midlands and west coast regions of Florida, wired Flagler, "Friend Flagler, where is this place called Miami?" Flagler wires back, "Friend Plant, just follow the crowd!"

Historical Museum of Southern Florida
Henry Morrison Flagler Biography
Flagler Museum Palm Beach Florida
Archaeologists hurry to excavate remains of Henry Flagler hotel in Miami

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