The Tropical Twenties

The shady courtyards, tiled roofs, and white stucco walls of 1920s Palm Beach owed something to the style of the Spanish Renaissance and everything to the vision of Addison Mizner

As the evangelist of the Spanish Colonial Revival in southern Florida, Addison Mizner was an architect of fantasy as well as of houses. “I based my design largely on the old architecture of Spain—with important modifications to meet Florida conditions and modern ways of living,” he wrote. The mixture worked: by the mid-1920s Mizner had become America’s most prominent society architect, responsible for the transformation of Palm Beach from a collection of simple frame cottages into a fashionable tropical resort. Read more »

The Dawn Of Speed

The Florida Speed Carnivals at Daytona lasted less than a decade, but they saw American motoring grow from rich man’s sport to national obsession

It has been said that motor sport was the first organized activity in America that drew all social classes together. Certainly William K. Vanderbilt, Jr., and Barney Oldfield would have been unlikely to have exchanged pleasantries otherwise. Vanderbilt, elegant, impeccably groomed, was scion to one of the world’s great fortunes, whose childhood attack of the measles made the society pages, whose wedding occupied eight full news columns in New York papers.Read more »

A Confederate Odyssey

All this Florida boy wanted to do was rejoin his regiment. Instead they drafted him into the Confederate secret service.

A FTER HE WAS MUSTERED out of his beaten army in 1865, Charles Hemming went west to Texas and a highly successful career as a banker. But he never forgot the men he served with, and in 1898 he came home to raise a Confederate monument in Jacksonville. A few years later, still full of thoughts of the conflict in which he played so strenuous a role, he set down the long and fascinating account from which this article is drawn. This previously unpublished memoir was sent to us by Hemming’s granddaughter, Lucy W. Sturgis. Read more »

What Went Wrong With Disney’s Worlds Fair

With Epcot, Walt Disney turned his formidable skills to building a city where man and technology could live together in perfect harmony. The result is part prophecy, part world’s fair. Here, America’s leading authority on technological history examines this urban experiment in the light of past world’s fairs, and tells why it fails where they succeeded—and why that matters.

MOST OF THE world must know by now that Epcot is a place built in north-central Florida by the followers of Walt Disney to explain how science and technology fit into the human scheme of things. When the editors of AMERICAN HERITAGE invited me to take a look at it, I gratefully accepted for several reasons. Read more »

"The Woods Were Tossing With Jewels”

A Childhood in the Florida Wilderness

In 1899 when I was five years old and living in Palmetto, Florida, my father decided to take his family through the wilds of the Everglades and stake a claim on an offshore island. His purpose was to farm this island but behind this was his wish to give us a taste of the way he grew up. He had been a cowboy in the Myakka area when he was fifteen years old. These ranchlands overlapped the north end of the Everglades at a time when it was unexplored.Read more »

Incident In Miami

On a warm Florida evening in 1933 a madman with a pistol and a personality profile now all too familiar—“unskilled, unfriendly, unmoneyed, and unwell”—came within inches of altering the course of American history in one of its most critical moments

The sun had gone down on a warm Florida winter day (it was seven in the evening of February 15, 1933) when Vincent Astor’s Nourmahal tied up at a Miami dock after twelve days of cruising through the Bahamas.Read more »

Good Reading

The Plains Acrossi The Overland Emigrants and the Trans-Mississippi West, 1840-60

by John D. Unruh, Jr. University of Illinois Press Illustrations, tables, maps 565 pages, $20.00 Read more »

The Vice President Flees

Branded a traitor by the government he once served, John C. Breckinridge ran a perilous race for freedom rather than risk capture by the North

The weather in the Straits of Florida was turbulent in June of 1865. Throughout that spring the Caribbean boiled from one storm after another, but this latest one was particularly severe. Ocean-going steamers delayed their departures because of it, yet, in its very center, six desperate men bailed and prayed in a sailboat barely seventeen feet long.Read more »

The Carpenter-architects Of Key West

Key West, southernmost city in the mainland United States proper, was also in 1880 the largest and most prosperous city in Florida; by 1930, in dizzying contrast, it had become one of the most depressed areas in the United States. It has suffered not only from recurrent overexpectations—perhaps a national affliction—but from recurrent disasters, both human and natural. The wavy ups and downs of Key West’s spirits have left their traces on the sand and coral of the small island on which the city stands.Read more »

The Bitter Struggle For A National Park

"We have permanently safeguarded an irreplaceable primitive area," said President Truman as he dedicated Everglades National Park in 1947. Bit what is permanence, and what is "safeguarded"? Did he speak too soon?

Even before there was an Everglades National Park, there was Clewiston. It is said to be the sweetest little city in America, having been sweetened by the United States Sugar Corporation, which raises cane and beef cattle there on 100,000 acres of flat Florida muckland. U.S. Sugar also owns the Clewiston Inn. In the southern comfort of the lounge, one can sit and admire the cane growers’ tribute to the Everglades.Read more »