February 10, 2011

Two Women on Water Skis Wearing Tutus and White Gloves

Dick and Julie Pope founded Cypress Gardens in 1936, one of the many roadside attractions that began to line the highways of Florida and other U.S. states in the 1920s. Located between Orlando and Tampa in Winter Haven, the lush botanical gardens attracted tourists driving south through central Florida on U.S. Highway 27, known as the Orange Blossom Trail. During the early 1940s, Pope hired women to walk around the park wearing antebellum-style dresses. He introduced water-skiing shows during World War II to entertain soldiers who visited the gardens. The displays at Cypress Gardens helped inspire greater regional and national interest in competitive skiing, and by the 1950s Cypress Gardens was known as the water-skiing capital of the world. It was also one of the most popular tourist attractions in Florida, and thereby paved the way for much larger theme parks, such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. In this image from the 1960s, female skiers perform a synchronized act combining ballet, the charm of the mythic Southern belle, and undisguised female physical allure—all behind a speeding boat while smiling for the camera. The photograph was produced for the Florida Department of Commerce, which used shots such as this one to promote tourism to the state.

Billboard for the Sale of Subdivision Real Estate Lots

The draining of swamp lands, continued penetration of rail lines, and expansion of highways all paved the way for the Great Florida Land Boom of the mid-1920s. This image, taken a few years before the speculative rush reached its peak, shows the promotion of Florida as both a paradise for residents and a cash engine for potential investors. Cities such as Miami and St. Petersburg grew tenfold in population in less than two decades as the amount of money being invested in home construction and hotel development began to soar into the tens of millions of dollars. In 1924, Florida amended its constitution to prohibit taxes on income and inheritance, thereby providing further incentives for wealthy investors and entrepreneurs to look toward the state. Inflated land values and rampant issuing of ill-advised loans led to a speculative bubble that burst in 1925. The collapse of the Florida Land Boom was one of a series of portentous events that heralded the onset of the Great Depression in 1929.

View of the Damage from the Hurricane of 1906

The sixth hurricane of 1906 was one of 11 hurricanes or tropical cyclones that Atlantic hurricane season. The storm made landfall on September 27, 1906, west of Biloxi, Mississippi, but wreaked its greatest damage from Mobile, Alabama to Pensacola, Florida. The Category 4 hurricane was the most destructive storm to strike the Pensacola area in 170 years. Winds in excess of 105 miles (170 kilometers) per hour stretched past the city and port of Pensacola, and Escambia Bay in the Gulf of Mexico saw a storm surge as high as 14 feet (4.3 meters). This photograph shows the damage wrought to Pensacola Harbor. Steam is still rising from the smokestack of a nearly sunken ship, and the harbor is crammed with tumbled and sagging boats and lined with collapsed warehouses and shattered docks. In the background, a wasted city of shaken buildings stretches to the horizon. The storm caused the deaths of 134 people and millions of dollars in damage in Alabama and Florida.

Waves Hit Navarre Pier Hard During Hurricane Ivan's Approach

Hurricane Ivan was the strongest hurricane of the 2004 Atlantic storm season. It made landfall on the U.S. mainland in Gulf Shores, Alabama, on September 16 as a Category 3 storm. The 2004 storm season was especially active, with six landfalls, including four in Florida alone. Ivan greatly affected the coastal cities and smaller communities of the Florida Panhandle, Alabama, and Mississippi. This dynamic image of Ivan’s landfall in Navarre Beach, Florida, illustrates the force of the tidal surge and winds that destroyed miles of roads and highways and hundreds of homes and businesses, some of which had survived for generations. A Category 5 hurricane at its peak in the Gulf of Mexico, Ivan had cloud bands the size of the state of Texas. It caused flooding throughout the eastern United States, as well as spawning more than 100 tornadoes. Ivan broke several hydrological records, being credited as having caused what might be the largest ocean wave ever recorded, a 91-foot (27-meter) wave, and the fastest seafloor current, at 2.25 meters per second (5 miles per hour).

Americana Hotel

Designed by Russian immigrant architect Morris Lapidus (1902–2001) and completed in 1956, the Americana Hotel is a dynamic example of the Miami Modern architecture style, or “MIMO,” which rose to prominence in southeast Florida in the 1950s and 1960s. Miami Modern was the local variant of the midcentury modernism, or the international style, which incorporated prefabricated materials, such as cast concrete, to produce explorative designs and project a strong sense of modern technology and innovation. Space-age forms incorporating such elements as parabolic curves were combined with the new possibilities of cast concrete exemplified by Frank Lloyd Wright’s works. Steel-reinforced concrete enabled architects to manipulate the shape of buildings in imaginative ways, in addition to facilitating the adornment of buildings with elaborate features, including undulating concrete walls and cantilevered roofs. MIMO’s reign in Florida came just as air conditioning was becoming more feasible for large commercial spaces. Nevertheless, many of the buildings were designed to capture the region’s sea breezes through concave exposures facing out to the sea and porous catwalks that adjoined rooms, allowing for greater air flow. This image showcases the modernist entrance of the Americana and its curvy flamboyance, with the repeated geometric pattern of the balconies exalting the aesthetic of mathematical precision and the large scale of the hotel.

Kazuo and Masuko Kamiya as Children

This photograph, taken about 1920, shows two young children of the Yamato Colony, a farming community in south Florida founded by Japanese immigrant Jo Sakai in 1905 with the encouragement of Florida authorities, who thought the Japanese would introduce innovative farming methods and new crops. Yamato was an ancient name for Japan. The community was located in what is now Boca Raton, and the farmers grew pineapples and later winter vegetables. Jo Sakai encouraged young men from his Japanese village, Miyazu, to settle at Yamato, a prospect that appealed to several hundred immigrants, as industrialization and shortages of land had made farming in Japan increasingly difficult. Many of the settlers did not stay for long; some went back to Japan and others moved elsewhere for greater opportunities, including to the west coast of the United States. Few of the Japanese settlers remained by World War II. In 1942, not long after the Pearl Harbor attack, when anti-Japanese sentiment was at a peak, the federal government confiscated land belonging to the settlers —more than 6,000 acres (2,428 hectares)—to create an Army Air Corp training base, ending the Yamato Colony. A former Yamato Colony settler, George Morikami, farmed in Delray Beach until the 1970s, when he donated his land to Palm Beach County to establish what became the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.