Saturday, March 13, 2010

Key West and Flagler's Folly

I'm reading Last Train to Paradise by Les Standiford at the moment - the story of Henry Flagler - the man that gave birth to modern Miami - and his money that made the 'railroad that crossed an ocean' possible.

It's a brilliant book - I picked it up when I was visiting the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach last year ( the wonderful guide said it was the best book ever written on the subject.

A reminder of the facts:

1892 Flagler visited the seaside hamlet of Palm Beach: 'I have found a veritable paradise'

1894 one of worst freezes in Florida history (2010?). St.A frozen. He gets sent an orange blossom (=not frozen) from Miami (Fort Dallas as it was then known). He's sold; 3 days later Flagler's in Miami for the first time.

1898 'I would have been a rich man if it hadn't been for Florida.'

1899 Flagler 69. Proposed to 3rd wife (Mary Lily). Moves legal residence from NY to Florida (good move).

1905 The Keys, according to write of the day 'worthless, chaotic fragments of coral reef, limestone and mangrove swamps... and have been aptly called the sweepings and debris which the Creator hurled out to sea after he had finished shaping Florida.' Flagler visits Key West and tells everyone that he intends to bring the railroad to them. How? 'It's perfectly simple. All you have to do is to build one concrete arch, and then another, and pretty soon you'll find yourself in Key West.'

1908 Ever the marketer, Flagler demands a picture, from out at sea, of his new Long Key Viaduct; his signature and favourite bridge.

October 17 1906, October 11 1908, October 17 1910 Despite hurricanes on all these three dates, lives are lost but hard work goes on.

1912 Flagler arrives in Key West, to a reception of 10,000 people, on his own iron. 'We have been trying to anchor Key West to the mainland...and anchor it we have done.'

1935..... next post.