FLAGLER COUNTY HISTORY
Flagler County, home of the Si Como No Inn, was named for Henry Flagler, one of the founders of Standard Oil along with John D. Rockefeller. His life had many ups and downs, however, his biggest contribution to the American way of life was the opening of Florida as the lasting tourist destination it is today.
In 1878, due to of the failing health of his wife, the Flagler Family visited Jacksonville for the winter. Flagler's wife, Mary, passed away in 1881, but the possibilities of Florida was not lost on Flagler through this tragedy. In 1883 Flagler remarried and once again visited Florida, this time his destination was St. Augustine. They loved the city, but found hotel accommodations and transportation system sorely lacking for his taste. That would soon change due to Flagler's love for Florida and his propensity for making money.
Flagler remained on the Board of Directors of Standard Oil, but decided to devote his time to Florida and the development of tourism. In 1885 he returned to St. Augustine and began construction on what was to become the 540 room Ponce de Leon Hotel. The need for reliable transportation prompted him to purchase the Jacksonville, St. Augustine & Halifax Railroad which would later become the Florida East Coast Railway.
The Ponce de Leon was very successful and prompted Flagler to expand his holdings by building a railroad bridge across the St. Johns River thereby giving him access to the southern half of the state. He then purchased the Ormond Hotel, situated just north of Daytona and built his private residence, Kirkside, in St. Augustine, thus becoming the original "snow bird" with homes in both New York and Florida.
His next venture was the building of the 1150 room Royal Poinciana Hotel at Lake Worth in Palm Beach and extended the railroad to West Palm Beach by 1894. This hotel was now the largest wooden structure in the world and would be renamed The Breakers in 1901. You would think this would be enough for any normal man, however, Henry Flagler was anything but normal.
In 1894 a severe freeze hit the area. This upset Flagler. He decided to move further south to a warmer climate. Sixty miles to the south was a small town known as Miami, an old Indian name. He now continued his railroad until it reached Biscayne Bay in 1895. He then dredged a canal, built streets, the first water and power systems and financed the first town newspaper known as the Metropolis. The city of Miami was incorporated in 1896 through the efforts of Henry Flagler.
In 1905 Flagler extended his railroad even further all of the way down to Key West. In 1912 the railroad to Key West was completed. It became Florida's most populated city and opened trade with Cuba and Latin America due to the deep water port. To this day Key West is a very popular tourist destination and home to sun lovers from all over the world.
Flagler's contribution to the opening of Florida as a tourist destination and home to many is immeasurable. He died in 1913 due to a fall and is buried in St. Augustine next to his wife and daughter. Flagler's foresight is still felt and will continue to please countless residents and travelers for many more generations to come.