Wednesday, July 22, 2009

FLORIDA KEYS OVERSEAS HERITAGE TRAIL



As you are heading south of Marathon, near MM48, you can exit to Pigeon Key, a tiny island that once served as a construction camp for the Flagler railroad workers, to be taken to the museum or enjoy a self guided walking tour of the grounds which include historical buildings and educational facilities.

Throughout Florida we have seen the Greenways and Trails maintained by the Dept. of Environmental Protection's Office of Greenways and Trails. In the Keys there will be a 106 mile scenic corridor extending from Key Largo to Key West - linking 32 islands. What I found interesting is that the central component of the Heritage Trail is the Old Keys Bridges. I have studied and read about the Gilded Age where Henry Flagler envisioned a railroad that would promote a cultural and economic connection with Cuba, the Panama Canal and South America. The project to Key West, begun in 1904, was finally completed in 1912 and heralded to be the "Eighth Wonder of the World". Today all 23 of the remaining Flagler Railroad Bridges are on the National Register of Historic Places. During this time, Florida laws allowed railroad builders to claim land for every mile of track they built. Henry Flagler built so many miles of roadroad, he ended up with 2 million acres of land.

There are so many stories, books and details written about Henry Flagler's life experiences. It has been said Henry Flagler first built Standard Oil and then built the State of Florida. An interesting side trip would be to go to the Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine, FL., built in 1890, as a memorial to his daughter who died after complications from childbirth. Henry Flagler, his first wife, Mary Harkness, and his daughter are buried in a burial chamber to the side as you enter the beautiful church. If you have ever seen the old Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College), the church is on the street in back of the old Hotel.
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