January 13, 2014

What was Flagler's Folly?

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In extending his F.E.C. Railway down to Key West, Henry Flagler was convinced that that port would become a major focus of transoceanic commerce to be opened up by the forthcoming Panama Canal which was, in fact, completed in 1914. Key West did not, however, attract the trade which Flagler had anticipated, and his enormously expensive "overseas" railroad thereto was never a financial success. Running from 1912 until 1935, it was also ill fated due to an engineering weakness which rendered the railway vulnerable to the devastating hurricane of 1935. Largely to please the aging Flagler by completing the project ahead of schedule, the highly regarded engineering firm in charge of the monumental task of construction decided to build the railroad's roadbed on natural and man-made sand dunes, instead of pilings. Although lasting 23 years, the sand roadbed was finally washed away by the pounding surf generated by the fury of the Labor Day Hurricane (September 2nd, 1935).

Answer: The extension of the Florida East Coast Railway from Miami to Key West.

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January 06, 2014

How did Carl Fisher greatly facilitate Miami's accessibility by automobile in the 1910s?

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Carl Fisher's close association with automobiles and their use as an increasingly popular means of transportation goes back to his invention of the "Presto Lite,” the first practical headlight for cars. So successful was this night vision enhancement that these lights came to be installed in almost every American car. Ever the promoter, even before he came to Miami in 1912, Fisher expounded on the possibilities of a continuous interstate highway extending from San Francisco to New York. Able to get most of the automakers of the time to contribute toward such a project, Fisher succeeded in raising 10 million dollars, and what became known as the Lincoln Highway completed by 1915.

Once established in Miami, Fisher began to conceive of a similar project running from North to South, with Miami as its southern terminus. And so, Dixie Highway was born. It eventually covered some 4,000 miles from Sault Saint Marie (located in northern Michigan near the Canadian border) through Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and into Florida. In October 1915, a procession of automobiles known as the Dixie Highway Pathfinders, inaugurated the interstate for which they were named, by arriving in Miami, crossing under the specially raised Buena Vista Arch near NE 40th Street and 2nd Avenue.

Answer: He was the driving force in the creation of Dixie Highway.

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December 30, 2013

Why did beachcombing in what is now the Miami coastline prove rewarding in the 1800s?

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For ships in the days of sail, the Gulf Stream, which flows past the Florida east coast, offered the advantage of speeding one's passage. Dangers attended that route, however, for occupying the coastal shelf from Palm Beach County southward to Key West and the Tortugas are a series of coral reefs with which wooden ships could and often did collide and founder. It was from the potential bounty of such maritime misfortunes that wrecking arose as an important industry along the southeastern Florida coast. Those, so professionally inclined, would sail out to a wreck and salvage as much of the cargo and, indeed, of the ship itself, as was possible, realizing a percentage of the value thereof, as their reward. But many items from such distressed ships simply washed up on shore, providing pioneer beachcombers, isolated at the end of a long peninsula from the outside world, with a wide variety of useful items. Certainly, there are many instances of timbers from wrecked ships or from their cargos finding their way into local construction projects.

Answer: Valuable cargo could be found.

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December 23, 2013

For what purpose was the structure overlooking Biscayne Bay, known as Fort Brickell, established?

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Known variously as "that unnecessary war" or "that splendid little war,” hostilities between the United States and Spain erupted between April and August of 1898. Many eastern seaboard cities feared they would soon be subjected to bombardment by a Spanish fleet. Miami was no exception. Actually, the last thing the decidedly weak Spanish fleet would want was to find itself in the harbor of a major American city, not that Miami, as yet, qualified as such[o1] . Nevertheless, there was much apprehension and, to allay these concerns, "Fort Brickell,” a small, two gun fortification, was constructed, overlooking Biscayne Bay, to defend the community. It never saw action. 

Answer: To forestall a Spanish attack during the Spanish-American War


 [o1]The Miamians in their panic also forgot that Biscayne Bay was too shallow for any war ship to enter. Government Cut and a deep water channel were still six years into the future.

 

Just another side comment that requires no text changes.

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December 16, 2013

Who first brought electricity to Miami?

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Electrical generation in the United States grew exponentially during the 1880s and 1890s. For purposes of illumination and supplying motive power, it was clearly the wave of the future. Not long after the arrival of Henry Flagler's first train to Miami in 1896, that community was officially incorporated as a "city.” But, of course, in actual size it was hardly what we would call a village. It had no electrical service. So, when Flagler opened his large grand hotel, the "Royal Palm,” in 1897, nothing would do but the local introduction of generators which would produce electricity for his 400 room hotel and, incidentally, for the growing town around it. Some years later, Carl Fisher extended electric service from Miami to Miami Beach, where it would help "illuminate" the aggressive development there undertaken by Collins and Fisher. A corporate name familiar to all South Floridians, Florida Power and Light, was born with the merger of Flagler and Fisher's two original companies on December 28th, 1925.

Answer: Henry Flagler

 

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December 09, 2013

Who was a landowner on Miami Beach in the 1880s and what did he do there?

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In the early 1880s, what we know as Miami Beach was simply a barrier island, featuring swarms of mosquitoes, acres of sand spurs and a shore dominated by thick mangrove growth.  Although the island had once hosted an Indian presence, it has been abandoned well before Henry Lum sailed up to Biscayne Bay from Key West during the winter of 1881-1882. Hailing from New Jersey, Lum bought a tract just north of Norris Cut and started raising coconuts. The enterprise caught the eye of his acquaintance Ezra Osborn, also of New Jersey, a well-known engineer of the time. Forming a company for the purpose of raising coconuts, the men proceeded to secure all the vacant beach lands from Cape Florida to Jupiter. Coconuts were imported from various Caribbean locales and gangs of men used to working on such coastal projects were brought in from New Jersey. The expenditure for this sizable operation was over $100,000.  But the project ultimately failed due to poor soil quality, occasional frosts, and the destruction of young plants by rats and rabbits. 

Answer: Henry Lum, who attempted to raise coconuts.

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October 07, 2013

What were the names of Carl Fisher’s elephants?

Rosie

In the 1920s Miami and Miami Beach experienced a land boom. During this time, developers had to come up with gimmicks to promote their developments. On Miami Beach, Carl Fisher came up with a rather ingenious plan involving two pachyderms. These young elephants helped propel Fisher to success.

Answer: Carl and Rosie

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October 01, 2013

What did the Seminoles call the buildings they lived in?

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In the early 1800s Creek Indians from Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina started to move into Florida. The Spanish called them Cimarrones, which means lost ones or runaways. This word eventually changed to Seminoles.

Answer: Chikees

 

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September 16, 2013

Who told the Miami Realty Board in 1920 that you can’t build a great community by merely attracting the wealthy?Known as the “Great Commoner,” this champion of the small farmer and the common man, was elected to Congress in 1890 and ran unsuccessful

Known as the “Great Commoner,” this champion of the small farmer and the common man, was elected to Congress in 1890 and ran unsuccessfully three times for president on the Democratic ticket. Famous for forceful and colorful oratory, he moved to Miami in 1916 and became a prominent booster of the city and its environs. Tourists as well as residents were attracted by the thousands to his Royal Palm Park Sunday School Class, and later he was hired by George Merrick to speak persuasively at the Venetian Pool in favor of settling in Coral Gables.  In addressing the Miami Realty Board in 1920, he declared that you can’t build a great community by merely attracting the wealthy and the sporting element, “We must make Miami attractive for the middle class, folks who are interested in virtue and the higher things of life.”

Answer: William Jennings Bryan

Who

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September 09, 2013

Who, having faced financial ruin after the 1926 economic bust in South Florida, left Miami, only to return in the mid-1930s, holding, thereafter, many prominent local governmental and civic offices?

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Since the death of his father in 1911, this prominent Miami area resident had run the family grapefruit-growing business. By 1921, he had acquired 3,000 acres of land and, influenced by the area's growing real estate boom, began removing grapefruit trees in favor of a large residential development. By 1926, the development has grown to 10,000 acres and included several notable landmarks. In keeping with the adage "the bigger they are the harder they fall," Ruined by the bust of 1926-27 he and his wife moved to the Keys and operated the Caribbee Fish Camp, until it was destroyed by the 1935 Hurricane. He later returned to Miami, becoming chairman of the Dade County Planning Board, chairman of the Zoning Commission, Miami postmaster, board director of Fairchild Tropical Gardens and, to cap it all off, the founding chairman of the board of the Historical Association of Southern Florida.

Answer: George Edgar Merrick

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