William G. Crawford, Jr., author of the award-winning “Florida’s Big Dig,” is to be interviewed by Jason Dorman, a graduate of Flagler College, for C-SPAN 2 Book TV.
The interview is to air the month of May, with a special emphasis on a showing throughout the weekend of May 16 through May 17, 2015.
The story of the Florida link in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, “Florida’s Big Dig” won the Rembert Patrick Award in 2008 for the Best Scholarly Book on a Florida history topic given by the Florida Historical Society.
C-SPAN is in the midst of a campaign of focusing on the history of smaller cities and towns and their authors. This weekend C-SPAN has been taping in St. Augustine, Fla.
In November 1864 a number of Union Ironclads were to be found on the James River in Virginia, supporting Federal ground operations there.A large number of the men on board the vessels of the James River Flotilla were Irish; indeed they made up an estimated 20% of all Union sailors. How did they and their comrades celebrate Thanksgiving 150 years ago?
Officers on the deck of the U.S.S. Onondaga with their dogs. The identity of the Irish correspondent, ‘Garryowen’, has not been established (National Archives).
We are fortunate that one of them has left us an account. He was a sailor on the U.S.S. Onondaga, one of the Union monitors on the James. Corresponding under the pen-name ‘Garryowen’, he wrote frequently to the New York Irish-American newspaper, who regularly published his letters. His account tells how the ‘sturdy sons of Neptune’ began their day by dispatching some unfortunate…
At the turn of the last century (1895-1920s), something of a renaissance occurred in the political will of the Nation in the demand for inland waterway transportation. More than thirty citizens groups coalesced from all over the country to demand waterway construction to challenge not only the confiscatory tariffs charged by the railways but also to address the shortage of railway cars available to ship freight and carry passengers across the country. Among these citizen groups were the National Rivers and Harbors Congress (NRHC) and the Atlantic Deeper Waterways Association (the ADWA), both of which formed in the early 1900’s.
A first-term Republican congressman representing Philadelphia, Joseph Hampton Moore sought funds to deepen a portion of the Delaware River. His colleagues voted the bill down. So resolute was Moore in finding some way to acquire these funds that he spearheaded the organization of the ADWA in Philadelphia in 1907. Five hundred governors, congressman, other political leaders, as well as business leaders, and chamber of commerce representatives attended. Instead of each state along the Atlantic seaboard separately applying for scarce funds under the Rivers and Harbors Act, Moore advocated a ‘one for all, all for one’ lobbying approach. No longer would states be pitted against each other by governmental bureaucracies distributing funds for improvements. Within weeks, Moore introduced a bill in Congress to authorize the Corps of Engineers to survey a continuous inland waterway from Maine to Beaufort, N.C.
A few days later, North Carolina Democratic Congressman John Humphrey Small introduced a bill to authorize the extension of the survey southward from Beaumont, N.C. to Key West, Fla. It would take until 1935 for the federal government to acquire and enlarge the largely privately owned inland tollways into a continuous, federally controlled, toll-free Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from Miami, Fla., to Trenton, N. J., with the exception of a few miles.
The New Englanders and the bank administering Bradley’s estate finally saw a way out of the Florida waterway’s never-ending maintenance problems and the slow sale of Florida land. They could sell the Florida East Coast Canal en masse to the federal government. It was only a matter of time.
Commodore Avylen Harcourt Brook was born in Sheffield, England, in 1866 into a family of silver and bronze electroplaters. His early education was in England. Brook studied art under the famous English artist and critic John Ruskin. It was said that one of his ‘parlor tricks’ was to paint two paintings simultaneously, one with his right hand, the second with his left hand.
He migrated in his early teens to Brooklyn, New York, where he soon became president of the Thomas Cusack Outdoor Advertising Agency. There, Brook created the famous Maxwell House “Good ’til the last drop” neon sign and turned Broadway into the ‘Great White Way’, with advertising signs everywhere in neon lights. As president, Brook was earning $25,000 a year, a princely sum in those days.
In 1919, at the age of 53, Brook retired. He sailed his 22-foot sloop ‘Klyo’ down the Atlantic coast to Fort Lauderdale where he lived in a modest residence named ‘Brookside’ on the New River; his sloop ‘Klyo’ docked in the back on the River. Brook had acquired the title Commodore from his leadership of at least two yacht clubs on the Long Island Sound. Brook had been a member of various groups that promoted the construction of a continuous inland waterway inside the Atlantic coast. In Fort Lauderdale, Brook represented Broward County as a member of the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND), tasked with the duty of acquiring the old Florida East Coast Canal tollway and turning it over to the federal government for enlargement and perpetual maintenance. When Brook died, downtown retailers closed for half a day in respect for Brook’s contributions to the community.
Of all the coastal states contributing inland waterways that now make up the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, only the State of Florida was required to buy its waterway for turnover to the federal government free of charge. For example, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was not required to buy the privately owned Cape Cod Canal built by August Belmont for turnover to the federal government free of charge.
Congress appropriated the funds to buy the Massachusetts waterway. The Florida legislature created the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND) to float the bond issue at Florida taxpayer expense to buy the Florida East Coast Canal for turnover to the Corps of Engineers for enlargement and perpetual maintenance. FIND’s commissioners included yacht club commodores, newspaper publishers, and real estate developers. FIND issued a million dollars worth of bonds to buy the waterway for $725,000 and to acquire the right-of-way for the waterway’s enlargement. In the end, commissioners ‘burned’ the bonds not needed for the project, a result rarely seen in modern-day public works.
Owned by Commodore Avylen Harcourt Brook, the sloop Klyo “rescued” President-elect Warren G. Harding (in white pants, waving the hat) when the houseboat in which he had cruised hit a “snag” on the poorly maintained–and privately owned–Florida East Coast Canal (after 1929, the Intracoastal Waterway) at Fort Lauderdale in 1921. Born in Sheffield, England, in 1866, Brook retired at the age of 53 from a lucrative career in outdoor advertising to sleepy Fort Lauderdale in 1919. The short, stocky executive with a blonde ‘handlebar’ mustache acquired the title “commodore” from his association with several yacht clubs on Long Island Sound. An avid waterway enthusiast, Brook fought for a federal takeover of the Cape Cod Canal owned by August Belmont, who had constructed the waterway and charged tolls. In Florida, Brook would fight for a federal takeover of the Florida East Coast Canal and its conversion into the modern, toll-free Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville to Miami.