Arrival of the Railroads
In the late 19th century, Henry Plant opened the Tampa Bay Hotel in Tampa and Henry Flagler opened the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine, becoming the first businessmen to market Florida as a tourist destination. Plant’s operations in and around Tampa created a population and economic boom there, luring a greater number of people to move south (though Key West, in the Florida Keys, was the state’s largest city by the mid-19th century). With their hotels these two pioneers brought the first dramatic change to transportation in Florida since the arrival of the Europeans nearly four centuries earlier: the railroad. Between them, Plant and Flagler would eventually own more than 4,000 miles of railroad in the Southeastern United States--connecting Florida to the rest of the country, providing greater access further south into what is now Miami (and, eventually, Key West), and giving rise to rapid development in the state.