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.
In 1888, Florida canal company general manager George F. Miles engaged acclaimed Chicago waterway and railway engineer Elmer Corthell to survey the soil, rock, sand, and other material the Company dredges would likely encounter in completing the waterway and to estimate the cost of completion.
In turn, Corthell employed a former Army engineer, Artur [sic] Wrotnowski, to perform the actual on-the-ground measurements between bodies of water, their depths, and distances, with calculations of how much material the Florida canal company would have to move to comply with state requirements. Corthell reviewed Wrotnowski’s survey in detail and reported to the directors of the Florida canal company the amount of material to be moved and the cost to complete the waterway.
Corthell also considered mounting marine vessels on railway cars to transit difficult-to-dredge dry land between waterways but rejected the railway alternative as too expensive to maintain. In conclusion, Corthell endorsed the project on a ‘pay as you go’ basis, starting with minimum depths now, using the waterway to generate revenue to dredge a deeper and wider waterway later. Withal, Corthell thought the Florida East Coast economy robust, more than enough to justify his estimated cost to complete of a little over $1 million in 1889 ($26 million in historic standard-of-living dollars today, 2014). Courtesy, Brown University, Hay Library, Providence, Rhode Island.
The listing of tolls to travel along what would become the Intracoastal Waterway between several points along the privately owned Florida East Coast Canal in 1911. During its long history, the “Swan” would carry freight and passengers, and often, passengers and their automobiles. Freight included large cargoes of citrus fruit and pineapples in the late 1890’s. A toll charge of $1 equalled one day’s wages for the average laborer at that time. Courtesy, Rollins College, Winter Park, Fla.
In 1892, to raise additional cash to finance canal dredging, Bradley enlisted the assistance of Albert P. Sawyer, a wealthy Newburyport, Mass. investor to organize a new company to raise $100,000. Sawyer selected the State of Maine as the venue for the new enterprise because Sawyer believed that Maine assessed the least amount of incorporation taxes. The purchase of one share of preferred stock would entitle the investor to cumulative dividends with preference over common stock. In other words, the preferred shareholder would be entitled to dividends and the liquidation of stock before the payment of dividends on common stock and the liquidation of common stock. Within a few years, Sir Sandford Fleming, formerly chief engineer of the Canadian Pacific Railway, would become one of the largest investors in the new land company. Courtesy, Collection of the author.