Tag Archives: Florida East Coast Canal

The Giant Orange of Melbourne, Florida

This is sometimes referred to as the Giant Orange of Melbourne, Florida. Erected in 1967 from concrete and steel, the Orange is fifteen feet in diameter.  Not to burst too many bubbles but there are several such Giant Oranges throughout Florida. For several years, the Eau Gallie Chamber of Commerce operated it as a orange juice stand.

Giant Orange of Melbourne, Fla. (1967)

Giant Orange of Melbourne, Fla. (1967)

The Rotary Club of Melbourne, Fla.,erected the stand in honor of the Disabled American Veterans. Melbourne is the second largest city in Brevard County and is part of or tributary to the St. Johns River system. Readers will recall the public hearings in 1922 called by the Corps of Engineers that initially selected the St. John’s River system over the old privately owned Florida East Coast Canal for conversion into the Intracoastal Waterway. While the Corps of Engineers initially selected the naturally deeper St. Johns River, the appointment of Col. Gilbert Youngberg as the new Florida chief of the Corps of Engineers in 1922 along with the leadership of Daytona developer and publisher Charles Burgman of the Association of the Florida East Coast Chambers of Commerce persuaded the Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers to change its recommendation to the Florida East Coast Canal for conversion into the Intracoastal Waterway.florida tourism

Boarding up Celery at Sanford, Florida, on the St. Johns River

It seems that celery has always been the staple crop of Sanford, Florida. One of my African-American friends, W. George Allen, just retired from the practice of law at 70 years old, a veteran of the civil rights movement.  George grew up in Sanford. As a child, George picked celery every day during the dark days of segregation.  One day in the courthouse in Fort Lauderdale George showed me the palms of his hands. Long, thin lines scarred his palms from pulling celery stalks out of the ground during childhood.  He left Sanford, graduated from Howard University, and was the first Black to graduate from the University of Florida Law School.

Located strategically on Lake Monroe, near Orlando, on the southern stretch of the St. Johns River, at the turn of the 19th century steamboat traffic between Sanford and Jacksonville had always been heavy and profitable.  However, in the early 1920s, a threat to Sanford’s agriculture and trade business appeared imminent. The threat was the privately owned Florida East Coast Canal, now a completed tollway between Jacksonville, Fla., and Miami.

The Corps of Engineers could not make up its mind. Should it recommend to Congress the taking over of the old Florida East Coast Canal?    Or recommend a change in course and the larger and deeper St. Johns River south, near Titusville, thence a short connecting Canal to the southern part of the old East Coast Canal?  If the Army recommended the old East Coast Canal, it would spell the death knell for Sanford and Central Florida. If the Corps decided upon the St. Johns River route, Daytona Beach and its thriving tourist business would be cut out of the picture. The Corps held four hearings in 1922 throughout the east coast to decide the question.

North Carolina congressman John Humphrey Small (Rep.) Intracoastal Booster

North Carolina congressman John Humphrey Small, Intracoastal booster

North Carolina congressman John Humphrey Small, Intracoastal booster

Within two weeks of Philadelphia congressman Joseph Hampton Moore (Rep.) filing a bill in March 1907 authorizing the Army Corps of Engineers to survey a route for an Intracoastal waterway from Maine south to Beaufort, N.C., North Carolina congressman John Humphrey Small (Dem.) filed a similar bill authorizing a survey from Beaufort, N.C., to Key West, Fla.

Consistent with Congress’s early historical view of the Constitution as a limiting document, constraining the powers of Congress to surveys only for internal improvements within the States, it would take two more decades for Congress to acquire the privately owned canals along the Atlantic coast, including the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, the Chesapeake and Albemarle Canal, and the Florida East Coast Canal, as well as the Cape Cod Canal to the north of Norfolk, Va. In the case Florida, Florida was the only state required to purchase its own canal (the old Florida East Coast Canal) and turn it over to the federal government, free and clear, for future improvements, along with all necessary right-of-way and maintenance spoil areas for deposit of future dredged material from the conversion of the old Florida East Coast Canal tollway into the toll-free Intracoastal Waterway.

A continuous Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from Trenton, N. J. to Miami, Fla., would not be fully completed by the Army Corps of Engineers until 1935, with the exception of a few incomplete miles in New Jersey.

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

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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.

Turnstyle Bridge across the Intracoastal Waterway at Fort Lauderdale

Turnstyle Bridge across the Intracoastal Waterway

At Fort Lauderdale, the first bridge to the beachside was a short wooden bridge across what then known as the private Florida East Coast Canal ca. 1910. Located on the north side of the land was a small wooden house occupied by the bridge-tender and his family. Upon the approach of a small boat or light draft barge, the tender would exit his house and turn the bridge ninety degrees with a long pole inserted like a ‘key’ in the middle of the bridge roadway.

Some years after 1929, the Army Corps of Engineers widened the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW)  to at least 125 feet, removing the turnstyle bridge, the spit of land in the middle of the Waterway and the fixed bridge west of it. My best guess of the date the photo was taken is in the 1930s.

In the mid-1950s, a double-bascule bridge replaced the fixed bridge, the small island, and the old turnstyle bridge, connecting the mainland to the beaches. It was dedicated in memory of Dwight Laing Rogers, Sr., M.C., who died unexpectedly in 1954. As a Florida state representative, Rogers authored the homestead exemption saving many residences of the head of a household from seizure and sale for non-payment of property taxes during the Depression. Courtesy, Bridge-tender’s daughter, Jeri Burrie Howard.

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1927 Florida Inland Navigation District Commissioners Negotiating the Purchase of the Waterway

Assembled here with a few exceptions are the eleven commissioners of FIND appointed by Florida Governor David Sholtz to purchase the old Florida East Coast Canal (“the Canal”) from Harry Kelsey (1st row, 2nd from the right) for turnover to the Federal Government for enlargement and perpetual maintenance as the Intracoastal Waterway.

Erstwhile New Jersey restauranteur, Kelsey sold all of holdings to begin developing more than 100,000 acres of Palm Beach County beginning in 1919. When Kelsey bought the Waterway in 1925, Kelsey intended to use the Waterway to transport building materials to his various developments including Kelsey City, employing John Nolen and the Olmstead Brothers to plan the City. Today, Kelsey City is known as Lake Park, Fla. Kelsey paid $550,000, almost all of it in the form of installment notes. Kelsey defaulted except for the down payment.

Others depicted in the photograph are newspaper publishers, real estate developers, and yacht club commodores as commissioners. Commodore Brook of Ft. Lauderdale is the short-statured, stout fellow with the bushy handle-bar mustache in the back row, third from the right. The chairman, Charles F. Burgman (front row, fourth from the right), Daytona publisher and developer, won his post by the ‘flip of a coin’. Courtesy, FIND.

1892 color map of the lands of the Florida canal and Boston & Florida land companies

1892 color map of the lands of the Florida canal and Boston & Florida land companies

This rare map was found in the Trent University archives, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. It shows the state lands reserved for granting to the Florida canal company in yellow and the lands of its affiliated land company, the Boston & Florida Atlantic Coast Land Company, in blue.  Each square block represents a “section” or one square mile of land. The larger squares represent townships, comprised of 36 sections or 36 square miles.

Several of the investors in the canal company organized the Boston & Florida land company to buy 100,000 acres of the Florida canal company at a dollar an acre. Sir Sandford Fleming, chief engineer of the Canadian Pacific Railway soon became the land company’s largest stockholder. The participation of Canadian investors in Florida as early as 1892 has been a little known fact in Florida history. This map was so large that Trent University could not scan it as one continuous document. Hence, it had to be broken up and scanned in three separate sections. Is there enough interest in seeing the middle and southern east coast of Florida ca. 1892? Courtesy, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.