Category Archives: Com. Avylen Harcourt Brook

Drawbridge in Miami (Fla.) Damages Megayacht in the Intracoastal

A double-bascule drawbridge closed down on a mega-yacht cruising down the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, causing extensive damage to the flybridge.

Slated for the Miami Boat Show, the vessel sustained so much damage it is unlikely the yacht will appear for the show, which annually draws thousands to the international event.

Commodore Avylen Harcourt Brook (1866-1946)

Commodore Avylen Harcourt Brook


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.

FIND 1928

The first Board of Commissioners of the Florida Inland Navigation District (1928). Courtesy, FIND.

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.

Commodore Brook rescues President-elect Warren G. Harding on New River Sound

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Short-statured Commodore Avylen Harcourt Brook ‘rescues’ President-elect Warren G. Harding aboard Brook’s 22-foot sloop “Klyo” after Harding’s houseboat cruising south on the New River Sound (now part of the Intracoastal Waterway) hits a snag “orchestrated” by Brook, the city’s unpaid public relations director, in 1921. Harding (white pants, waving his hat) annually took Florida cruises aboard houseboats furnished by politicians and friends. (Courtesy, Ft. Lauderdale Historical Society).

Whenever he was able, Harding played golf at the nine-hole Lauderdale golf links, a portion of today’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International  Airport, which during World War II was Naval Air Station – Ft. Lauderdale.  The Station trained hundreds of pilots, bombers, and navigators, including the future U.S. President, George Herbert Walker Bush.