Published: March 4th 2011March 4th 2011
My trip is almost over... I spent last night at Fort Clinch State Park in Fernandina Beach just north of Jacksonville. Even though the weather report said that it wasn’t going to rain it did, however, sleeping in the van is terrific – nothing gets wet and no soggy tent to put away! I can only stay here one night because they stage a reenactment at the fort on the first weekend of every month, and I just happened to hit it, but I had a great time yesterday afternoon enjoying the fort, beach, and super bike trails. From atop the fort, across the mouth of the channel, I could see the southern tip of Cumberland Island Georgia.
Before coming here I stayed 2 nights at Anastasia St Pk near St Augustine; and made sure my visit included a tour of the hotel Ponce de Leon, which is now Flagler College. It was one of many fine hotels that Henry Flagler built along his railroad as it progressed down the east coast of Florida in the late 1800s. While visiting his beautiful estate Whitehall (a gift to his 3rd wife) in Palm Beach I got hooked on his story. At
the gift shop I bought a book, Last Train to Paradise, which tells about his late-in-life vision of building train tracts all the way down to Key West, sometimes referred to as Flagler’s Folly.
On January 21, 1912, almost 7 years after work on the Key West Extension had begun, they drove the last spike into place. The project that barely survived 3 hurricanes was complete. A frail 82-year-old Flagler boarded his personal rail car #91 (very fancy inside!) and rode down to the celebration in Key West. Nothing could have stopped him, not after spending $12 million on a series of hotels, $18 million on his land-based railroad, and another $27 million on “the railroad across the sea,” which is what they called the Key West Extension. The 126 miles of track from Miami to Key West cost him more than half again as much as it cost him to build 350 miles of track between Jacksonville and Miami. Most of his money came from his founding-member stock in Standard Oil Co, he was J D Rockefeller’s partner.
There are more photos below