Category Archives: National Rivers and Harbors Congress

The Atlantic Deeper Waterways Association and Congressman J. Hampton Moore

imageAt 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.

North Carolina congressman John Humphrey Small, ardent supporter of the ADWA.

North Carolina congressman John Humphrey Small, ardent supporter of the ADWA.

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 (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.

20130831-161627.jpg

In this first comprehensive study of the Florida section of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, I trace the roots of the waterway all the way back to the Founding Fathers, through the history of the Canal Era and its difficult path in Congress and in Florida’s young legislature as one of the early public-private partnerships, drawing upon early records and land deeds, and tracking the history of the men who made it a reality.