Henry Flagler: The Father of Trendy-Day Florida

Thought of the person who industrialized Florida, Henry Morrison Flagler is to the railroad trade as John D. Rockefeller is to the oil trade. Actually, the 2 have been as soon as in enterprise collectively, as Flagler and Rockefeller based Normal Oil in 1870. 

The Flaglers lived in New York, however Henry’s first spouse, Mary Harkness Flagler, was ailing; they visited St. Augustine in 1878 following their physician’s suggestion, hoping that the sunshine and sea air would assist her respiratory ailment. Though Mrs. Flagler grew quickly stronger, she died in 1881 after a return to New York.

Flagler later returned to St. Augustine in 1883 on a delayed honeymoon along with his new spouse, Ida Alice Shourds. He had been charmed by the town and its climate however pissed off by the shortage of transportation and motels. He envisioned Florida’s enchantment to out-of-state guests and determined to pour his oil fortune into its growth. 

Henry Morrison Flagler. Courtesy of Flagler Museum

And a compelling historical past at that. Flagler put St. Augustine on the map along with his 540-room Lodge Ponce de Leon (now Flagler School), an opulent Spanish Revival construction with signature home windows by Louis Consolation Tiffany that also shine brilliant in the present day. Then, Flagler set to work shopping for up current railroads to begin his railway system. Two years later, he constructed a railroad bridge throughout the St. Johns River and headed south. 

Subsequent up, West Palm Seaside, Flagler’s supposed finish to his railway system. Deep freezes in 1894 and 1895 prompted landowner Julia Tuttle, an advocate of Florida growth, to ship Flagler a twig of orange blossoms as proof that the extreme climate hadn’t reached southern Florida, an incentive to increase his railroad to Miami. She additionally supplied Flagler land for laying tracks.  

The Florida East Coast Railway pulled into Miami for the primary time on April 13, 1896. 

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Whitehall Lodge. Courtesy of Flagler Museum

Town of Miami was initially a small outpost named “Fort Dallas.” After Flagler’s and Tuttle’s hand within the railroad’s enlargement, the inhabitants grew quickly, from 260 in 1896 to greater than 1,600 in 1900. As well as, Floridians who had beforehand been minimize off from the remainder of the state have been now in a position to trip in southern Florida. 

In 1897, Flagler constructed the Royal Palm Lodge, overlooking Miami’s Biscayne Bay. 

It featured the town’s first electrical lights, elevators and swimming pool and was one of many first motels in Miami. Tuttle helped the resort safe an exemption to serve alcohol to its friends in the course of the three-month vacationer season, making it one of many metropolis’s hottest locations. 

Flagler additionally offered Miami’s preliminary infrastructure by having a channel dredged, streets constructed and funding Miami’s first newspaper and water and energy programs. He inspired fruit farmers and different settlers to arrange store alongside his railroad line, and helped finance church buildings, colleges and hospitals. 

Upon its incorporation, the residents wished to call the brand new metropolis “Flagler” in appreciation of his contributions to the town.  Nevertheless, Flagler urged that it’s known as “Miami” after the Native American identify for the river that ran by way of the town.  

“Henry M. Flagler first constructed Normal Oil after which constructed the state of Florida. He might have been America’s most modest industrial titan—and its most underappreciated,” enterprise and finance author John Steele Gordon advised Audacity Journal in 1996. “Henry Flagler not solely was current on the creation of the fashionable financial world however was one in every of its prime creators.”

In 1917, Florida honored Flagler by naming its 53rd county after him.

Being accustomed to the finer issues in life elevated Flagler’s design aesthetic.  He employed two younger architects, John Carrère and Thomas Hastings, from New York to design Lodge Ponce de Leon; its prominence put them within the highlight and allowed them to open their very own high-powered agency. Inside designer Louis Consolation Tiffany’s sweeping type showcased grand murals, mosaics, terra cotta reliefs, and, after all, stained glass home windows. 

“With him it’s by no means a case of ‘How a lot will it value?’ Nor of ‘Will it pay’ … Permanence appeals to him greater than to every other man I’ve ever met. He has usually advised me that he doesn’t want to carry on spending cash for upkeep of means, however to construct forever,” stated journalist Edwin Lefevre in Everyone’s Journal, February 1910. 

Lodge Ponce de Leon was St. Augustine’s first large-scale construction constructed completely with concrete, and immediately influenced southern Florida’s structure for a few years to come back. Though St. Augustine by no means caught on as a resort vacation spot within the early twentieth century, Lodge Ponce de Leon was one in every of solely three Flagler motels to outlive the Nice Melancholy. 

Lodge Alcazar was initially deliberate as Lodge Ponce de Leon’s leisure hall. Posh in and out, the Alcazar was identified for its amenities, which included Turkish and Russian steam baths, chilly plunge swimming pools and therapeutic massage rooms. The four-story complicated resulted in a grand on line casino that housed the world’s largest swimming pool (on the time), proper within the coronary heart of the on line casino. 

Alcazar additionally had an archery vary, bowling alley, tennis courts and a croquet garden. 

Flagler additionally bought and renovated two motels in St. Augustine, one in every of which nonetheless stands in the present day. He bought the Lodge Casa Monica from abolitionist Franklin W. Smith and renamed it Lodge Cordova. The resort not solely grew to become iconic for its Moorish structure however as a gathering place for the glitterati. It was restored to the Casa Monica after hotelier Richard Kessler bought it from the St. Johns County authorities in 1997.

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An aerial view of downtown West Palm Seaside. shutterstock.com/ Thomas Barrat

Palm Seaside would see an much more decadent tackle the vacation spot resort. Thought of a winter playground for America’s richest vacationers, friends of the Lodge Royal Poinciana (which opened in 1894) may take their very own personal railway vehicles on to the resort’s entrance. An orchestra performed day by day within the resort pavilion, and guides commonly took friends on fishing expeditions within the Atlantic Ocean. Pedi-cabs transported friends alongside the resort’s three miles of hallways. 

Then got here The Breakers, first referred to as the Palm Seaside Inn, in 1986. This straightforward, unpretentious resort that ignored the ocean caught fireplace throughout an enlargement challenge; when rebuilt as The Breakers, its register commonly featured names corresponding to Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts. 

Fireplace struck as soon as once more in 1925; the next rebuilding noticed The Breakers the world is aware of in the present day. Impressed by the Villa Medici in Rome, the property affords a non-public seaside, 4 oceanfront swimming pools, complimentary chauffeured Tesla home automobile service and plenty of different luxurious facilities.

Flagler additionally had his sights set on Key West. When the U.S. started constructing the Panama Canal in 1905, Flagler envisioned a significant commerce hub, and determined to increase his railroad to Key West. This required including 156 miles of observe, most of it over water. 

The challenge, referred to as “Flagler’s Folly” throughout building, wasn’t a straightforward one. Flagler’s crew battled tough climate from three main hurricanes, and in 1906 needed to halt building for a 12 months. 

The railroad was accomplished in 1912, shortly after Flagler’s 82nd birthday. It later can be referred to as “The Eighth Marvel of the World,” and was destroyed by a hurricane in 1935. 

Former U.S. Secretary of State Elihu Root described the challenge as “…second solely to the Panama Canal in its political and industrial significance to america.”

Flagler College

Flagler School. Picture credit score shutterstock.com/ Thuyvi Gates

Flagler died from accidents he sustained falling down a staircase at his property, Whitehall (now the Flagler Museum) in 1913. He was instrumental within the growth of Florida’s main industries, agriculture and tourism, and put Palm Seaside on the map as one of many world’s most coveted winter locations. The true attain of his affect is inestimable.

A Nationwide Historic Landmark, the Flagler Museum preserves Whitehall because it appeared throughout Flagler’s lifetime. In 1905, the New York Herald proclaimed that Whitehall “was extra fantastic than any palace in Europe, grander and extra magnificent than every other personal dwelling on the earth.”  Its 75 rooms embody 100,000 sq. ft and have been designed in historic types corresponding to Louis XIV, Louis XV, Louis XVI, Francis I and the Italian Renaissance, typical of Gilded Age mansions of the day. 

The museum’s pièce de résistance is Railcar No. 91, inbuilt 1886 for Flagler’s personal use. Each its inside and exterior have been restored to its 1912 look, when Flagler used it to experience his rails from St. Augustine to Key West. 

Flagler in Florida

Casa Monica Resort & Spa
(previously Lodge Cordova)

95 Cordova St., St. Augustine


Flagler School
(previously Lodge Ponce de Leon)

74 King St., St. Augustine


Lightner Museum
(previously Lodge Alcazar)

75 King St., St. Augustine


The Breakers

1 S. County Highway, Palm Seaside


Henry Morrison Flagler Museum

One Whitehall Approach, Palm Seaside


Royal Palm South Seaside Miami

1545 Collins Ave., Miami Seaside


“Flagler’s Folly” Pigeon Key Guests Middle 

2010 Abroad Freeway, Marathon