Category Archives: Florida history

Author to be interviewed by Book TV C-SPAN 2, Tuesday, April 21,2015

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.

William G. Crawford, jr, Esq., Florida attorney, historian, and author of "Florida 's Big Dig."

William G. Crawford, jr, Esq., Florida attorney, historian, and author of “Florida ‘s Big Dig.”

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.

Even Whiskers likes "Florida's Big Dig."

Even Whiskers likes “Florida’s Big Dig.”

Matanzas Inlet – South St Johns County

Matanzas Inlet -South St. Johns County

Matanzas Inlet -South St. Johns County

In 1881, the private St. Augustine-based Florida canal company agreed to dredge an inland waterway from Miami, Fla., to St. Augustine, Fla., and later to Jacksonville, Fla., a distance of approximately 400 miles. For every mile of waterway dredged, state legislators agreed to convey to the canal company 3,840 acres of state-owned land. Upon the delivery of the last (12th) deed to the canal company, the State had granted the canal Company a little over a million acres of public land.

Of the total length of the waterway, between 80% and 85% of the total was pre-existing waterway. Nonetheless, of that 80% to 85% of the waterway, much of it required the dredging of safe, uniform channels as we see them today in the Intracoastal Waterway.

Moreover, both artificial and natural inlets dot Florida’s east coast making difficult maintenance of the waterway at these points. Natural littoral drift along the entire Atlantic coast would routinely fill up these inlets and the Intracoastal Waterway. Some inlets like the Hillsboro Inlet have special navigation districts formed for the purpose of addressing littoral drift. In his report of 1889, Corthell opined that inlets would bring sea water into the inland waterway and naturally kill off fresh water plants such as the hyacinth that often clogged the waterways, representing navigational hazards.

Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse (built 1903)

<img class="size-full wp-image-2570" src="https://floridasbigdig.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/image6.jpg” alt=”Hillsboro Inlet and Lighthouse (1903), relatively current photograph.” width=”600″ height=”616″ /> Hillsboro Inlet and Lighthouse (1903), relatively current photograph.

This photo shows the lighthouse on the north side of the inlet, Intracoastal continues north between Town of Hillsboro Beach to the right and the City of Lighthouse Point to the left of the ICW.

St. Augustine’s anchoring and mooring pilot program tested | StAugustine.com

St. Augustine’s anchoring and mooring pilot program tested | StAugustine.com.

Under a state pilot program, St. Augustine enacted an ordinance requiring boats to moor at least fifty feet from the navigable channel of the Intracoastal Waterway. One man who has lived aboard his sailboat for eleven years filed suit challenging the law in federal court.

Under federal maritime law, the federal government has the right to establish mooring rights within the Intracoastal Waterway and its tributaries. The federal supremacy clause makes federal law the supreme law of the land.

Generally, regulation of the use of the Intracoastal Waterway depends upon whether or not the federal government has preempted state and local law by enacting federal law over various uses of the waterway. However, the State of Florida owns the bottom lands of the Waterway by right of sovereignty under federalism. Unless the federal government intervenes in various uses, local governments may set speed limits for marine vessels, for example, transiting the waterway.

Court watchers await the final decision of the United States Supreme Court if the matter reaches that level of judicial authority. The author of this blog believes the federal government will prevail. In the absence of a uniform federal law on mooring, the author envisions scores of municipalities each with a confusing mishmash of differing mooring laws along the waterway.

Watermelon Feast on East Coast Canal (Under Construction) at Boynton Beach, Fla. In 1914

image

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.  

Courtesy, Boynton Beach Historical Society/Janet DeVries.

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.