Tamiami Trail Blazers Holding Sign


Many Floridians used to view the Everglades as a wasteland. Under the first administration of Governor William D. Bloxham (governor, 1881–85 and 1897–1901), the state sold 4 million acres (1.6 million hectares) of Everglades land to Pennsylvania real estate developer Hamilton Disston for $1 million, initiating a decades-long drainage effort that resulted in the development and urbanization of south Florida. More than half of the Everglades had been drained by 1950. Barron Gift Collier, Florida’s largest landowner, played an important role in the drainage program through his development projects in southwest Florida. To encourage investors and settlers, Collier promoted the building of roads and other methods of transportation to and through the Everglades. His support was crucial to the building of the Tamiami Trail, a 30-foot (9.1-meter) high earthen structure that bisected the Everglades and altered its natural flow. The trail, which was completed in 1928, was designed to connect Miami and the east coast with Fort Myers and the west coast. In 1923, the Trail Blazers were the first to drive across the unfinished Tamiami as a way to promote the trail. The group included one commissary truck, seven Model T Fords, and a new Elcar, but only the seven Fords made it. The Ford Model T Coupe in this Burgert Brothers photograph, in which Russell Kay and Frank Whitman made the trip, was owned by Florida Grower magazine.

Last updated: October 22, 2014