The Overseas Freeway: The US’ ‘floating’ highway

The Overseas Highway in fact commenced as the More than-Sea Railroad, and it was the brainchild of visionary developer Henry Morrison Flagler (recognized as “The Father of Modern-day Florida”). In 1870, Flagler co-established the Normal Oil Business along with business enterprise magnate John D Rockefeller, and it turned one particular of the world’s greatest and most potent organizations at the beginning of the 20th Century. Following viewing Florida and recognising “The Sunshine State’s” tourism likely, Flagler poured significantly of his wealth into the region, setting up luxurious resorts that transformed one of the US’ poorest states into a winter season paradise for Gilded-Age travellers from the Northeast US. Still, there was no way for attendees to get to Flagler’s opulent-but-distant resorts.

So in 1885, Flagler related a collection of disjointed railroads alongside Florida’s Atlantic Coast from Jacksonville, at Florida’s northern end, to Miami, in the vicinity of the state’s southern idea. Miami should really have been the end of the line, but when the US commenced design on the Panama Canal in 1904, Flagler saw incredible 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 now flourishing many thanks to the cigar, sponging and fishing industries (Critical West was Florida’s major town till 1900), but the island’s distant site made it tricky and pricey to transfer goods north.

Hence, Flagler determined to prolong his observe 156 miles south to Vital West, typically in excess of open sea. This so-known as Essential West Extension was regarded as unattainable by lots of of his contemporaries, and his eyesight was labelled “Flagler’s Folly” by his critics. In between 1905 and 1912, 3 hurricanes battered the building site, killing much more than 100 staff. Undeterred, Flagler pushed in advance. It took 7 a long time $50m ($1.56bn right now) and 4,000 African American, Bahamian and European immigrants to establish the railroad – all of whom had to contend with alligators, scorpions and snakes as they toiled in harsh problems.

When the railroad was lastly concluded in 1912, it was called “the eighth speculate of the earth“. On the train’s inaugural operate, a wooden-burning locomotive arrived at Critical West from Miami carrying the then-82-calendar year-old Flagler, who stepped out of his personal luxurious carriage auto (which is on perspective at the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach front) and allegedly whispered to a buddy, “Now I can die happy. My aspiration is fulfilled.”