A Paradise for Winter Automobile Tours – in 1912

The following excerpt is from an article written by Harry L. Brow, editor of the St. Augustine Evening Record, for the January 1912 issue of the American Automobile Association’s American Motorist magazine:

Florida does not intend to allow southern Europe to have a monopoly of the winter automobiling. Heretofore it has been quite the thing to tour southern France and Italy along the Mediterranean, but America has a Riviera all its own on the east coast of Florida — in fact, the entire State is rapidly becoming a paradise for the Northern and Western automobile tourists.

During the past twelve months marvelous progress has been made in road building in almost all parts of Florida; especially is this true along the famous East Coast. It will be a matter of a very short time until the John Anderson highway will be completed from Jacksonville to Miami. At the present time there are but a few missing links and these are being rapidly constructed. Duval county is putting down a brick highway from Jacksonville to the St. Johns county line, and of the distance of twenty-one miles, twelve are now hard-surfaced with shell and vitrified brick, while the remaining portion has been made passable for the season’s traffic by a liberal application of pine-straw.

Commencing at the St. Johns county line the auto tourist will encounter shell ruts, thirty inches wide. These ruts form the trackage for the county’s automobile truck, which is eventually to continue the work of surfacing until the John Anderson highway in St. Johns county presents a smooth surface sixteen feet wide. However, the shell ruts afford splendid going, and where it has not been possible to complete, pine-straw and sawdust have been used. Pine-straw is a new road surfacing material to many visitors, but there are hundreds of miles of this road in Florida that afford delightful and pleasant automobiling.

From the St. Johns-Duval boundary it is seventeen miles into St. Augustine. Thanks to the energy of the St. Johns County Automobile Association, aided by the active participations of the board of county commissioners, the good roads enthusiasm is felt in every part of St. Johns county. Pleasant driveways are now being built westward to the county line along the beautiful St. Johns river, and shell roads lead from St. Augustine to Palatka by way of Elkton and Hastings, the latter two towns being the center of the great Irish potation industry of the State. The John Anderson highway leading south from St. Augustine to the Volusia county line, a distance of forty miles, is being surfaced with pine-straw. At the present time the highway skirts the Knox and Beede orange and grape fruit grove just below Bulow and after crossing the Florida East Coast the canal winds along the east bank of the Halifax river on into Hotel Ormond. There are several ways of reaching Daytona from Ormond, the most popular being the world-renowned Ormond-Daytona beach, which, of course, can only be used when the tide is low. Shell roads lead southward on either bank of the Halifax.

Rural gas station

American gas station near Jacksonville. Photo courtesy of the Florida Photographic Collection

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