Mr. Flagler’s St. Augustine

Just found this on Amazon and couldn’t resist. Mr. Flagler continues to influence and inspire this city in many ways.

Arguably no man did more to make over a city—or a state—than Henry Morrison Flagler. Almost single-handedly, he transformed the east coast of Florida from a remote frontier into the winter playground of America’s elite.

Mr. Flagler’s St. Augustine tells the story of how one of the wealthiest men in America spared no expense in transforming the country’s “Oldest City” into the “Newport of the South.” He built railroads into remote areas where men feared to tread and erected palatial hotels on swampland. He funded hospitals and churches and improved streets and parks. The rich and famous flocked to his invented paradise.

KirksidePostcard
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Kirkside

Kirkside was Henry Flagler’s home in St. Augustine. Located on a five acre parcel of Valencia Street just west of Memorial Presbyterian Church, it was completed in 1893 to replace the Flagler suite at the Ponce de Leon Hotel as the family’s winter residence.

Kirkside 1902

Photo Courtesy St. Augustine: Views of the Old Florida City in Photo-Gravure, 1902

The house was demolished in the 1950s and the property sub-divided. All that remains are the Corinthian columns which were used to construct the Kirkside Apartments on Riberia Street.

Kirkside Postcard

Postcard courtesy Jacksonville Public Library

Arresting Flagler

The current protests against capitalists by the Occupy movement isn’t a new phenomena. At the end of the 19th century, the progressives initiated a number of reforms to curtail the abuses of big business and the “robber barons”. One of those reforms was the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890. Although the act’s purpose was to curtail monopolies and cartels which stifled competition, it was a new kind of trust agreement that was being used as cover to those practices which gave the act its name. That trust agreement was first devised by an attorney for the Standard Oil Company of Ohio.

Over in Texas, James S. Hogg, the state’s populist governor who had earlier made a name for himself as Attorney General by taking on – and beating – the out-of-state railroad companies operating in Texas, found that Standard Oil had some conflicting interests in the state. Using the anti-trust laws, he ordered the arrest of every Standard Oil Company officer he could get his hands on. In 1894, he ordered the arrest of Florida’s Henry Flagler and sent extradition papers to Florida’s governor for action.

Henry M. FlaglerHenry Flagler, who with John D. Rockefeller built the Standard Oil Company, had left the day-to-day operation of the company in 1885 to move to Florida and build a luxury hotel in St. Augustine. That project led to the development of the Florida East Coast Railway which not only brought patrons to his new hotel, but over the years opened up the entire east coast of Florida to tourism and development. He did, however, remain on the board of Standard Oil. Being both a Standard Oil official and a railroad man made Flagler a prime target for Governor Hogg.

Florida’s Governor Mitchell routinely signed the extradition papers which then set off a storm that would make a hurricane pale in comparison. Flagler’s many friends immediately called on Governor Mitchell to reconsider. His office was flooded with letters and telegrams from Floridians who benefited from Flagler’s presence in the state. The pressure was intense and it wasn’t long before the governor rescinded the order. It was too late to save his political career.

The kicker in this story is that Henry Flagler had never been to Texas which meant he could not be the fugitive from justice that Texas’ governor made him out to be.

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A Terracotta Tower

The steeple tower at Grace Methodist Church.

The steeple tower at Grace Methodist Church.

Henry Flagler needed the land occupied by the Olivet Church to complete construction of his grand hotel complex. He offered land at the corner of Cordova and Carrera Streets and the construction of both a new church and parsonage if the congregation was willing. They were. The new church was designed by Flagler’s architects, Carrere and Hastings, who continued the design elements found in the hotels just down the street. The workmanship displayed in the terracota steeple is a beautiful example of the glory days of the Flagler era.