The Abroad Freeway: The US’ ‘floating’ highway

Versie Dortch

The Abroad Highway essentially started off as the Around-Sea Railroad, and it was the brainchild of visionary developer Henry Morrison Flagler (acknowledged as “The Father of Modern Florida”). In 1870, Flagler co-established the Standard Oil Corporation along with enterprise magnate John D Rockefeller, and it grew to become one particular of the world’s biggest and most strong firms at the starting of the 20th Century. Just after going to Florida and recognising “The Sunshine State’s” tourism possible, Flagler poured a great deal of his prosperity into the location, creating luxury resorts that reworked a person of the US’ poorest states into a winter season paradise for Gilded-Age travellers from the Northeast US. Nevertheless, there was no way for attendees to get to Flagler’s opulent-but-distant resorts.

So in 1885, Flagler connected a collection of disjointed railroads along Florida’s Atlantic Coast from Jacksonville, at Florida’s northern conclude, to Miami, around the state’s southern idea. Miami ought to have been the stop of the line, but when the US started design on the Panama Canal in 1904, Flagler noticed large opportunity for Critical West – the US’ closest piece of land to the Canal and the deepest port in the Southeast US. The bustling hub was presently flourishing thanks to the cigar, sponging and fishing industries (Important West was Florida’s major city until 1900), but the island’s distant site designed it difficult and high-priced to move merchandise north.

Thus, Flagler determined to lengthen his observe 156 miles south to Key West, mainly above open up sea. This so-referred to as Crucial West Extension was thought of not possible by quite a few of his contemporaries, and his vision was labelled “Flagler’s Folly” by his critics. Involving 1905 and 1912, a few hurricanes battered the building web page, killing a lot more than 100 personnel. Undeterred, Flagler pushed ahead. It took seven a long time $50m ($1.56bn right now) and 4,000 African American, Bahamian and European immigrants to make the railroad – all of whom had to contend with alligators, scorpions and snakes as they toiled in harsh circumstances.

When the railroad was ultimately concluded in 1912, it was called “the eighth surprise of the earth“. On the train’s inaugural operate, a wooden-burning locomotive arrived at Critical West from Miami carrying the then-82-yr-aged Flagler, who stepped out of his personal luxury carriage motor vehicle (which is on see at the Flagler Museum in Palm Seashore) and allegedly whispered to a close friend, “Now I can die pleased. My dream is fulfilled.”

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