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The East Coast of Florida

Florida: Empire of the Sun


The long, double coast line is an outstanding feature of the East Coast of Florida, a series of lovely islands and palm-fringed peninsulas forming a protective barrier for its great salt-water lagoons Matanzas River, Halifax River, Indian River and Lake Worth. Connected by canals, these comprise what is known as the Florida Inland Waterway, favorite yachting route in Southern waters, where more than five thousand fine boats cruise annually. The United States has recently appropriated more than four million dollars to maintain a depth of eight feet at low water along this popular watercourse.

The resorts of the East Coast are of infinite variety, but are particularly notable for the hard white sand beaches and splendid rolling surf of the ocean and the sheltered salt rivers for fishing and boating along the Inland Waterway. All of this delightful coastal playground lies far south of the southernmost part of California, so that it must be compared as to tropical foliage with Egypt, India and Mexico. In climate, however, it is unique because of the tempering influence of the trade winds. The Gulf Stream and the intricate maze of waters threading the coast also prevent extremes of temperature and give the East Coast a climate remarkable the year round for its equability and refreshing mildness.

When Florida first became established as a resort state in the early eighties, Jacksonville was the Mecca of tourists. Luxurious steamers ran up the St. Johns River as far as Sanford, stopping at many little resorts among the orange groves, from one of which, Picolata, a stage coach ran to St. Augustine, still buried in the obscurity of its dim past. Many famous visitors made the trip to Florida, including Presidents Grant and Cleveland, whose retinue of news correspondents wrote rapturously of the climate, and photographed the tropical river scenes for publication in Northern magazines.

To this Southern frontier came Henry M. Flagler, a millionaire, who had pioneered with Standard Oil and whose appreciation of beauty was as keen as his financial judgment. Jacksonville charmed him and he thought of building a hotel there, but as several large, fine hostelries already served this cosmopolitan little resort, he finally decided to build in St. Augustine. After draining an old marsh in the small village, he erected the beautiful Ponce de Leon Hotel, still one of the most magnificent buildings in Florida.

Flagler showed himself a man of imagination by preserving in his buildings an architectural blending of the atmosphere of ancient Spain with the glamour of the New World. Continuing his railroad building program, he pushed southward to Palatka, then across to Daytona, next to Palm Beach, and finally to Miami; the world deeming him mad. The traveling public, however, followed him as if he were a Pied Piper. By the time Flagler, an old man, reached Key West with his overseas railroad, public criticism had turned to praise and he lived to enjoy the satisfaction of a tremendous dream achieved.

Fernandina–Yachtsmen coming down the Inland Waterway through Cumberland Sound enter the Amelia River and pass Fernandina, located on the most magnificent natural harbor of the East Coast. During the war of 1812, it was the habitat of filibusters, pirates and slave traders, against whom the Spanish fort on the north end of Amelia Island was powerless.

Fort Clinch, a great fortress, built before the War Between the States, stands on the site of an old Spanish fort and Fernandina, a quaint old town on the west side of the island, is now the center of a thriving oyster industry. Fleets of picturesque fishing boats also bring in great quantities of large, delicious deep-sea shrimp. A chain of beautiful sea islands, where once were Spanish missions, then English forts, and later great cotton plantations, stretches along the coast southward to the mouth of the St. Johns River, where the little fishing village of Mayport is located. A monument to Jean Ribaut, in memory of the French settlement in this vicinity, stands just outside of the town.

Fort George Island, across the river from Mayport, is a favorite resort of yachtsmen and deep within its wooded wilderness may be found the interesting oyster shell ruins of an old plantation, now owned by the Fort George Club. A beautiful scenic golf course on the island is the property of the Ribaut Club, seasonal home of millionaire sportsmen.

Jacksonville–Twenty miles up the St. Johns River, Jacksonville's impressive industrial waterfront overlooks the broad expanse of its deep-water harbor. From a mere trading post in 182.o, Jacksonville has grown to be the largest city in the state, with industrial advantages which by no means hamper its appeal to tourists. It has been called the Gateway City of Florida because of its position at the focal point of transportation routes entering Florida by land, sea and air.

The St. Johns River, which extends southward from Jacksonville for two hundred miles through a chain of lakes, offers infinite possibilities for fishing, boating and water sports the year round. Five golf courses, one of them municipally owned, seventy city parks, a zoo and a well-equipped municipal airport are features of interest to the visitor.

Just eighteen miles away, are the wide white stretches of Jacksonville Beach and Atlantic Beach, where surf bathing and midway amusements attract throngs of visitors. A picturesque golf course and clubhouse has been built south of Jacksonville Beach on the Atlantic Coastal Highway. The many fine hotels in town and at the beaches are fortunate in having available year-round vegetable crops and a plentiful supply of fresh-water and saltwater fish from this vicinity. The tourist may feast on pompano, shrimp, oysters, little-neck clams, stone crabs, shad and many other delicacies, with the appetizing knowledge that they are fresh from their native habitat.

Many yachtsmen refuel and provision their boats here and continue to St. Augustine by the Inland Waterway, which is now being deepened and widened by government dredges. The motor tourist on his way southward proceeds either along the Atlantic Coastal Highway from Jacksonville Beach to St. Augustine, a beautiful drive beside the ocean, or takes the inland route over the Old Spanish Trail.

South Jacksonville, just across the great million-dollar bridge on the south shore of the St. Johns River, has an airport almost in the heart of the business section, and several beautiful residential suburbs. The alligator and ostrich farm, said to be the largest in the world, attracts many tourists each year. San Jose, farther south on the highway to St. Augustine, is the site of the Florida Military Academy and the San Jose Country Club.

St. Augustine–As the oldest city in America, preserving its ancient charm even in its modern sections, St. Augustine is worthy of more than casual interest. Founded by Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565, the little Spanish village struggled for years against unfriendly Indians, and fought off the attacks of freebooters of all nations. Sir Francis Drake burned the town in 1586 and Captain Davis again destroyed it in 1665. The great stone fort, the most interesting and impressive relic of European occupation in North America, was begun in 1638 as a protection against the growing menace of English settlers at Charleston. It was finally completed after one hundred and eighteen years, interrupted periodically by strife and hardship.

Though the town was burned many times thereafter, the fort sheltered its inhabitants against all attacks. Governor Moore of South Carolina, in 1701, and Governor Oglethorpe of Georgia, in 1740, were both forced to withdraw after leading great expeditions up to its frowning walls. St. Augustine received a great influx of Tory refugees during the American Revolution, but after the war, when Florida again became Spanish, it was deserted by nearly all the English residents, leaving only the Spanish garrison, a handful of Spanish villagers and a large colony of Minorcan farmers from New Smyrna, Florida.

Under American ownership, St. Augustine became an important military post during the Seminole Wars and the War Between the States, but declined afterwards until Flagler opened the East Coast with his railroad an- made it a leading winter resort. The principal points of interest are Fort Marion, formerly called Fort San Marco, the old city gates, St. Francis Barracks, the Military Cemetery, the historic Spanish Cathedral and the old house next to the fine library of the St. Augustine Historical Society. The Ponce de Leon Hotel is a model of Spanish Renaissance art, inside and out, and the Flagler Memorial Church is of outstanding architectural beauty.

Many other fine hotels, the golf club, sea wall and especially the beautiful drives on Anastasia Island, where Joseph Hergesheimer has a winter home, are noteworthy. The alligator farm, lighthouse and old coquina rock quarries are interesting sights to see. Farther along the Coastal Highway, just before crossing Matanzas Inlet, the old Spanish fort, Matanzas, may be seen on the right, preserved by the United States as a historic landmark. Matanzas means "place of blood," in memory of Ribaut's four hundred shipwrecked men who were massacred by Menendez at the mouth of the inlet in 1565.

Flagler Beach–Farther south, Flagler Beach faces directly on the ocean, with boating and fishing on the Inland Waterway nearby.

Ormond Beach–Facing both on the ocean and the beautiful Halifax River, with its tropical banks where magnificent roads run through dense hammocks (Indian word for good land) and out to the wide hard beach, Ormond Beach is known for its motoring and bathing. It was named for James Ormond, who came from the Bahamas in 1816 to settle here.

A mission town of the early Timuquan Indians called Pueblo de Atimucus, was located on the banks of the Tomoko River near Ormond Beach. Long a fashionable resort, it is also the winter home of John D. Rockefeller, and shares its popularity with Daytona Beach and Jacksonville Beach as a favorite summer resort of the neighboring Southern states.

Daytona Beach–In early American days a great sugar plantation mill was built in the ruins of a Spanish mission, which was destroyed during the Seminole War in 1835, and in 1870 Mathias Day of Ohio settled on the site of the now prosperous city of Daytona Beach. The famous ocean beach here is noted throughout the world for its auto speedway and water sports. Many beautiful ocean front homes add to the wealth and stability of the city. Thousands of Northern visitors spend the winter here.

New Smyrna–This is the site of one of the largest early Franciscan missions, whose crumbling arches still stand in the woods nearby. During the English occupation of Florida, Dr. Andrew Turnbull, a Scotchman, brought fifteen hundred Mediterranean farmers to this section and named the town of New Smyrna in honor of his Greek wife's birthplace, Smyrna, Asia Minor. Quarrels with the British authorities during the American Revolution ruined the colony and the settlers later moved to St. Augustine.

In this thickly-wooded section is a game preserve, which provides an abundance of game for the season. On the beach is Turtle Mound, an interesting example of the great burial mounds of the early Indians.

Indian River–From New Smyrna inlet to Jupiter, a distance of one hundred and sixty-five -miles, extends the famous Indian River section, noted for its orange groves, its beautiful semi-tropical foliage and the abundance of fish and game. This unforgettable country offers every variety of river and ocean view, with bathing and boating always available. From Merritt's Island, largest of the shore-guarding keys, projects the famous Cape Canaveral, (meaning reedy point), where Ribaut's French fleet was wrecked in 1565.

Nearby, one of the great treasure fleets also went aground with a vast store of gold and jewels from South America, and a royal expedition under Admiral de Villafane was sent from Spain to salvage it. English freebooters fought with him for the spoils, the Indians carried off a portion and much of the treasure is believed to be still hidden along this beautiful shore.

Titusville–This is a delightful little Indian River town, with comfortable accommodations, a pleasant headquarters for side trips through the surrounding countryside.

Cocoa and Rockledge–The twin cities, Cocoa and Rockledge, offer unusual views from high rock ledges and from the splendid winding shore drives. The tourist is often invited by signs to stop and drink the fresh chilled juice from the famous Indian River oranges. With bathing and motoring on a twelve-mile-long beach and golf and fishing nearby, many travelers find this an ideal vacation spot. Canaveral Harbor is also the site of a large fish and shrimp industry.

Eua Gallie–Located on the west bank of the Indian River, where the Banana River rounds the point of Merritt's Island, is Eau Gallie. The fisherman finds an infinite variety of sport awaiting him in the four nearby rivers, the ocean and Lake Washington. Two fine golf courses, ocean bathing two miles from town, as well as hunting and camping facilities, are to be found here.

Melbourne–The Indian River narrows to two miles at the mouth of Crane Creek, near Melbourne. Boating and fishing attract many tourists each year.

There are two golf courses here, while a bridge across the Indian River provides access to Indialantic Beach and another eighteen-hole course. Melbourne, called the "Midway City," has many beautiful homes amid orange groves and palms.

Vero Beach–A fine beach and splendid casino is located at Vero Beach. Two golf courses, tennis courts and other amusements are to be found here. Pineapples and bananas grow luxuriantly in this section. Vero Beach is a modern city, with adequate facilities for guests.

Fort Pierce–A great causeway across the Indian River from the sea leads to Fort Pierce. Fishing is permitted on the causeway bridge and the jetties. The tourist may enjoy hunting, bathing, boating and two golf courses. A Seminole War fort, where portions of the "dead line" fence, beyond which the Indians might not pass, still remains in this vicinity. In the park is mounted an ancient cannon, believed to be a relic of one of Ribaut's ships, as well as a great anchor from a ship of the Spanish Treasure Fleet.

Stuart–Located opposite St. Lucie River inlet, Stuart has long been famous for delicious food, as well as fishing and yachting. President Cleveland came here for winter fishing. A golf course and good hotels enable the sportsman to enjoy a comfortable and interesting vacation. Tame pelicans, fed by the nearby fish houses, are a comical and unusual sight attracting the interest of tourists.

The Palm Beaches–Flagler built Whitehall, his own home, as well as a great resort hotel at Palm Beach and established this as one of the world's fashionable winter resorts. Many homes of the country's noted financial leaders are located here. Lake Worth, a lake twenty-five miles long and averaging a mile in width divides Palm Beach, an exclusive resort of never-ending social activities, from West Palm Beach, a city of charming homes with an extensive business district.

The outstanding annual events of interest to tourists here are the Seminole Sun Dance, the Yacht Club Regatta, the Mardi Gras and Flower Festival and the Palm Beach County Fair.

Lakeworth–The town of Lake Worth, almost adjoining West Palm Beach on the south, has a casino, alligator farm, golf course and good hotels. Many beautiful homes, among which the Spanish design predominates, enhance the residential section.

Boynton–Good fishing and surf bathing attract vacationists to Boynton.

Delray–This is the only mainland town of the East Coast located directly on the ocean. A mile of ocean front, dedicated as a public park, provides one of the safest bathing beaches on the coast. A golf course, fishing and tourist amusements add to this enterprising little resort's natural attractions.

Boca Raton–On the inlet at Boca Raton is the splendid resort and club colony known as a social rendezvous during the winter season. Deerfield and Pompano are farther south, attracting their favorite groups of tourists each year.

Fort Lauderdale–A stockade, where the coast guard station now stands, was named in 1837 for Lieutenant Lauderdale of Seminole War days. The little trading post grew up two miles inland and as late as 1895 had but one store and a population of twenty-five whites and a hundred Indians. Today, it is a charming resort city with good hotels, a fishing club, three golf courses and unequaled ocean bathing. Tarpon are caught within the city limits in New River, so called because an Indian legend says it appeared overnight. A new deep-water harbor, called Port Everglades, has just been completed here at a cost of six million dollars. A giant banyan tree is one of the sights near the city.

Hollywood–Twenty miles north of Miami, the comparatively new city of Hollywood has grown rapidly since 1925. Splendid surf bathing and luxurious hotel accommodations bring swarms of tourists here in winter time.

Miami&n dash;Approached by one of the most beautiful boulevards in the world, running four miles along the many-tinted bay, Miami, called the Magic City, has an unreal and magical appearance. Above the four parked driveways along the bay front, lined with Royal Palms and ornamental lights, rises the skyline of the business section, with the towering Dade County Court House shining silver-white in the background. In 1896, there were but two families in Miami; today, Miami is the second largest city in the state, playing the role of winter hostess to hundreds of thousands of seasonal visitors.

Miami offers a fitting climax to the tropical pageant of the East Coast. The metropolitan business district overlooks the causeways and palm-fringed islands of beautiful Biscayne Bay to Miami Beach, one of the great winter playgrounds of the nation. To the west lies Coral Gables, a city planned to perfection, while just north and west is Hialeah, a nationally known sporting center. Here is also located the greatest international airport in the United States. These cities, with exclusive Coconut Grove on the south, comprise what is known as the Greater Miami area.

Young as this beautiful metropolis of the tropics is, its historic site has been occupied for more than four hundred years. The great Indian town of Tegesta stood here when Menendez stopped in 1567 to leave twenty-four soldiers and two priests as a coast guard and mission station. The only name which then foretold Miami was the name of Mayami, meaning "vast", which was given to Lake Okeechobee by the earliest Indians. These Indians did not submit to Spanish control, but the Seminoles, who supplanted them, were so thoroughly converted by the mission priests of Our Lady of the Grotto, which stood at Coconut Grove, that they were known as Spanish Indians, many of whom went to Cuba when the United States acquired Florida in 1821. Fort Dallas, now preserved as a memorial on the Miami River, was built in 1837 on a great cotton plantation beside the bay and developed into a trading post for a remnant of the Indians after the Seminole Wars ended. But modern Miami began when Flagler, after the freeze of 1895, extended his East Coast railroad here and erected another of his great hotels.

The most remarkable period of Miami's growth occurred after the World War, when it became the focal point of Florida real estate activities and for the two years of 1925 and 1926 strained every resource to house the overflowing throngs pouring in from the North. Following this period the continued occupation of the many splendid apartments and hotels proved that tourist travel was increasing steadily every year. Today, Miami's surplus of transient guest accommodations is fully utilized each season.

Each hour in the day at Miami may be filled with entertainment if the tourist desires. There are swimming pools, tennis courts, golf links, polo fields, horse races, bowling greens, boating with a speed motor or by sail, air trips from several aviation fields and incomparable drives past miles of palatial homes. Scores of Miami hotels have a reputation all over the world for their perfect appointments, and for the sea food and tropical fruits on their tables. From nearby comes the Florida lobster, a crayfish of more tender meat and more succulent flavor than ordinary lobster.

Redland District–Thirty miles south of Miami is Homestead, largest town in the agricultural area known as the Redland District. Tourists motoring south to Key West are astonished at the many groves of oranges, grapefruit, cumquats and limes. The avocado, or alligator pear, is a luscious product of this region as is the papaya, a table delicacy which is found especially appetizing by Northern tourists.

The overseas automobile highway leaves the mainland a short distance from the Redland District and follows the long line of connected keys which parallel the coast and then swing off in a wide crescent to the island city of Key West.

Royal Palm State Park–South of the Redland district of fruits and vegetables lies this unique land of the tropics, where rare birds, plants and trees are being preserved in what is planned as a national park of two million acres. A lodge provides accommodations for visitors and many famous naturalists come here to study the unusual wild life.

The Keys–The new Overseas Highway to Key West over the chain of coral islands stretching one hundred and twenty-five miles out into the ocean from the Florida peninsula is a journey unique for even the experienced world traveler. The last water gap of this scenic motor highway, thirty-six miles wide, is now spanned by ferry.

At Caesar's Creek stands the exclusive Cocolobo Cay Fishing Club and opposite it rises Black Caesar's Island, where a negro pirate of the eighteenth century was said to have made his headquarters. Between the keys and the mainland lies Florida Bay, the sheltered cruising ground of many beautiful yachts and smaller craft. Besides the rich colors of the transparent waters and their marvelous undersea growth, the foliage of the keys presents an unforgettable picture with its beautiful assortment of tropical flora, bearing such curious names as sapodilla, custard apple, mamey, papaya, and tamarind. Here, indeed, "the wind is in the palm trees," and the "flying fishes play."

Pirates Cove Fishing Camp is a new resort twenty miles north of Key West on the Overseas Highway. It is equipped with guest cabins, community dining room and all facilities for comfort. Among the game fish caught in the waters nearby are the lightning-like bonefish, sailfish, barracuda, kingfish, tarpon, bonito, and African pompano.

Key West–Southernmost city in the United States, Key West is located on the island of Cayo Huesco (Bone Island), so called from the piles of human bones found there. In the days of treasure fleets and freebooters, many a great ship ran afoul of the coral reefs when warning lights were hidden and wreckers lay in wait for the spoils that washed upon the shore. Later, however, this business of the piratical wreckers became an efficient salvage fleet, a boon instead of a terror to ships. The Cuban insurrection brought many refugees in 1868, resulting in the establishment of large cigar factories in this little island city.

Fishing, turtling and sponging fleets lend color to the busy docks. With its fine year-round climate and rare trees, plants and flowers, Key West has a charm for the tourist comparable to that of Hawaii, and in fact, lies almost in the same zone. Here is the only part of the United States from which the Southern Cross may be seen. The much-prized green turtle soup, all varieties of fish, crabs and lobsters delight the epicure, while many interesting varieties of preserved tropical fruits are also available. The government has an important naval and aviation station here, and the busy harbor is indeed a valuable asset to the nation.

Excerpt from "Florida: Empire of the Sun" Published by the Florida State Hotel Commission, Tallahassee, Florida. 1930.


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