Miami real estate news and information

Henry Flagler: The Father of Miami

Henry Morrison Flagler wore many hats – railroad developer, real estate mogul and a partner of John D. Rockefeller in Standard Oil. Flagler founded Palm Beach and what became known as the Florida East Coast Railway. Born in 1830, he received an 8th grade education and began working in hos cousin’ store at age 14. He was promoted through the ranks and eventually left to form his own business, the Flagler and York Salt Company- a salt mining business – which collapsed and left Flagler in debt. He entered into the grain business and became acquainted with John Rockefeller. After several years, the two became partners in the Standard Oil Company.

In 1876, Henry Flagler and Mary (his first wife) traveled to Jacksonvile, where Mary died of illness two years later. Flagler remarried Alice and they went to St. Augustine, where he found the transportation system and hotel facilities to be sub-par. He offered to buy Villa Zorayda, for his honeymoon, from builder Franklin W. Smith, who denied the purchase. With this, Flagler began construction of the Ponce de Leon Hotel and purchased what would become the Florida East Coast Railway. The Flagler Hotel opened on January 10, 1888. Today, it is part of Flagler College.

His real estate ventures did not stop there, purchasing the Hotel Ormond (near Daytona), he built a private residence in St. Augustine (Kirkside) and the Royal Poinciana Hotel in Palm Beach. The Royal Poinciana was at time the largest wooden structure in the world. In  1896, Henry Flagler built the Palm Beach Inn in Palm Beach, renamed the Breakers Hotel Complex in 1901.

Flagler also extended the railroad to Palm Beach and he eventually founded Palm Beach and West Palm Beach by 1894 and by 1896, after pairing up with Julia Tuttle, the Florida East Coast Railway reached as far as Biscayne Bay. In 1912, the Florida Overseas Railway was completed, expanding to Key West.

 Henry Flagler built streets, instituted the first water and power systems, dredged a channel and financed The Metropolis, the city’s first newspaper. The City was incorporated in 1896. Citizens wanted the city to be named “Flagler” in honor of Henry Flagler but he declined and instead persuaded the people to name it “Mayaimi,” and old Indian Name. He opened the Royal Palm Hotel in Miami and became known as the Father of Miami.

In 1913, Henry Flagler fell down a flight of stairs and never recovered from his injuries. On May 20, at 83 years old, Henry Flagler passed away, leaving behind three children and a fabulous legacy.Miami’s main east-west street is named Flagler Street in his honor.

To receive my blog posts directly to your inbox, click here to subscribe.