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.
By November 1912, according to the terms and conditions of the Settlement Agreement made in 1906, the last of twelve deeds had been delivered by the State of Florida Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund (the State Cabinet) to the Florida canal company conveying in the aggregate more than one million acres of prime east coast land for dredging 268 miles of Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville to Miami.
Under the 1906 agreement, state legislators had given the canal company more time to finish the waterway and more state land if the canal company dredged an additional 30 miles north of St. Augustine to Jacksonville. In 1914, many stretches of the waterway had not been completed to state specifications. The state had required a canal five feet deep and fifty feet wide. In many cases, embankments as in this photograph slid back into the water, requiring remedial work.
At the same time, shippers, business and trade associations complained that the State should not have given the last of the twelve deeds for work that had not been completed or completed incorrectly. The photograph plainly shows a deficiency of retaining walls or their equivalent to keep dredged material from sliding back into the canal by 1914. Unfortunately, the State’s original specifications called for “maintenance” of completed work to be paid for out of toll money collected but little else in specifying precisely how the waterways were to be maintained.
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.
Sketch of survey of Lake Boca Raton, Boca Raton, Florida, made by Arthur Wrotnowski, Civil Engineer, for a Report on the Florida East Coast Canal (Intracoastal Waterway) from Jacksonville to Miami, Florida in 1889 by Elmer Corthell of Chicago, Illinois. The report was undertaken to encourage New England investors like Bradley and Albert P. Sawyer of Newburyport, Mass. To invest in the waterway’s dredging. Courtesy, Hay Library, Brown University, Providence, R.I.</
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.
The Canadians are coming! The Canadians are coming! In the late 1880s, four Canadians, including Sir Sandford Fleming’s son, Sandford H. Fleming, traveled to the State of Florida to enter into a subcontract with the Florida canal company to perform a portion of the work in the Matanzas-Halifax River Cut joining St. Augustine and today’s Ormond Beach, just above Daytona Beach.
Sir Sandford Fleming had won world-wide acclaim as chief engineer of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the designer of Canada’s first adhesive postage stamp, and the inventor of the 24 time zones around the world known as Universal Time, making it easier for railways to create timetables for arrivals and destinations around the world.
The particulars of the early Florida work performed by the junior Fleming are to date unknown. We do know that after a time the Canadian group failed to complete the work, owing a substantial sum in damages to the Florida canal company. The Canadians wouldn’t be in a position to repay the debt until almost thirty years had passed.
Meanwhile, several officials of the Florida canal company and a Newburyport, Mass. banker, Albert P. Sawyer, formed the Boston and Florida Atlantic Coast Land Company to buy 100,000 acres of the Florida canal company’s state land grant at a dollar an acre for $100,000. Sawyer also created three land trusts to buy more canal company land, restoring the canal venture’s coffers to further dredging work down the Florida peninsula into the Indian River. Soon Sir Sandford Fleming became the largest stockholder in the Boston & Florida land company after company officials made the stock exchangeable in land owned by the company.