How Flagler shaped Miami


When it comes to the history of Miami, there are few names that loom larger than Henry Flagler. Born in Hopewell, New York in 1830, Flagler was a titan of industry who left an indelible mark on the city and the entire state of Florida.

Early Life and Business Ventures

Flagler began his career as a grain merchant, but he quickly expanded his business interests to include salt mining, fishing, and finally, the oil industry. He was one of the co-founders of Standard Oil, which would go on to become one of the largest and most powerful companies in the world.

The Development of Florida’s East Coast

In the late 1800s, Flagler turned his attention to Florida, which he saw as a land of untapped potential. He started by investing in railroads, building the Florida East Coast Railway, which connected Jacksonville to Miami.

Building of the Over-Sea Railroad

But Flagler didn’t stop there. He also embarked on the ambitious project of building the Over-Sea Railroad, which connected the Florida mainland to Key West. The project was fraught with difficulties, including extreme weather conditions and the destruction wrought by the 1906 hurricane, but Flagler persevered, and the railroad was completed in 1912.

Flagler’s Contributions to Miami

Thanks to Flagler’s vision and determination, Miami was transformed from a sleepy little town into a thriving metropolis. He built hotels and resorts, including the famous Royal Palm Hotel, which was the first luxury hotel in Miami. He also built the Biltmore Hotel, which remains an iconic landmark to this day.

The Royal Palm Hotel

The Royal Palm Hotel was a true masterpiece of architecture and engineering. It boasted 450 rooms, a swimming pool, a casino, and a golf course. It quickly became a favorite destination for wealthy tourists, who flocked to Miami to enjoy its warm weather and beautiful beaches.

The Biltmore Hotel

The Biltmore Hotel was even more impressive. Built in the 1920s, it was designed to resemble a Spanish castle, with a towering bell tower, beautiful gardens, and a massive swimming pool. It was a favorite haunt of celebrities and socialites, including Al Capone and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

Flagler’s Impact on Modern Miami

Today, Miami is one of the most vibrant and diverse cities in the world, and Flagler’s legacy is still very much in evidence. His vision and determination helped to shape the city into what it is today, and his contributions to the tourism industry have made Miami a top destination for travelers from all over the world.

The Legacy Lives On

Although Flagler passed away in 1913, his impact on Miami and Florida is still felt to this day. His name is memorialized in many ways, including the Flagler Memorial Bridge, which spans the Intracoastal Waterway, and the Henry Flagler Street, which runs through downtown Miami.


Henry Flagler was a true visionary, whose contributions to Miami and Florida cannot be overstated. His determination and foresight helped to turn Miami into the world-class city that it is today, and his legacy continues to inspire new generations of entrepreneurs and innovators. We can only imagine what he would think of the Miami of today, but one thing is certain: he would be proud of what he accomplished, and of the enduring impact that he has had on the city and the entire state.

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