Tag Archives: florida history

Buy it Like a Real Man! Florida Real Estate That Is… SLR/IRL

Historic real estate advertisement, ca. 1919 Pinecrest, FL, Museum of the Glades, https://www.museumoftheglades.org

I have been looking though my collection of maps and other Florida things, and I came across this remarkable real estate ad by W. J. Willingham. I would think it is from the early part of the 1900s when Barron Collier and James Jaudon, “Father of the Tamiami Trail,”  were developing South Florida. Apparently, Jaudon sold the land that became Pinecrest to Willingham.

What is of most interest to me is the tone of the ad, and how different is it compared to how we sell real estate today.  For instance, the first section reads: “Hesitation:” On the plains of Hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions; some men are just plain quitters, but the most pitiable sight in the whole world of failures, is the man who will not start. Opportunity will knock at your door this week and give you a chance to start. You can deny yourself one or two simple luxuries, drop a useless habit or two, and the start is made. You can own a Pinecrest lot. You can be a true-born American and take a shot at it and if you lose, you can take your loss like a real man. On the other hand, if Pinecrest makes a wonderful town, you can enjoy the pleasures invariably comes when a man uses his head and wins. My friend, it is up to you. Will you hesitate? Or will you start?  W.J. WILLINGHAM

Holy cow. This must have been the way one sold land in the Everglades in the old days, before political correctness, equal rights, and other things. Interesting to ponder, don’t you think? Maybe that’s why they mowed everything down.

Looking at the rest, Mr Willingham’s rant continues:

Here’s another duzzie: “Nerve.” That word nerve spells success. I was looking through some of old papers the other day and I ran across and old advertisement I put in a Florida newspaper a few years ago. At the at time I tried my level best to persuade someone to buy a certain property for $11,000. No one seemed to have the nerve. Finally I persuaded my brother to go in with me and buy it. All that was required a small  cash payment and just a little nerve. Now to make a long story short, we recently sold a part of that property for $137,000 and we have some o the property left. In a few short years you will wonder why you did not accumulate just a little nerve when Pinecrest was just starting. Pincerest has a mighty bright future. I am going to give you an opportunity to pick up a few Pinecrest lots at auction. W.J. WILLINGHAM

This is a good one, today we would write “Do you know of anything that has destroyed America’s Everglades more than Tamiami Trail?

W.J. Willlingham’s final words are a harsh motivator as well: “J.J. Hill Said:” James J. Hill, one of the greatest builders this county has produced, designated thrift as the one qualification without which no man could succeed. He said: If you want to know whether you are destined to be a success or a failure in life, you can easily find out. The test is simple, and infallible. Are you able to save money? In not drop out. You will lose. You may think not. But you will lose as sure as you live. The seed of success not in you.” W.J. WILLINGHAM

The seed of success not in you? Hmmmm. I agree with being thrifty, but how the “seeds of success change.” To be successful, the new developers of South Florida will have to adapt to our new world of rising seas, stronger storms, climate change, and the subtleties of selling to modern society. This could be a challenge; we may have to get some advice from the gators who have around a long, long time.

Alligator, public photo.


Pinecrest went on to be a very successful community. I wonder what the ads in the future will look like as it goes underwater…

Pinecrest: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinecrest,_Florida

Pinecrest History: https://www.pinecrest-fl.gov/our-village/history

Pinecrest website: https://www.pinecrest-fl.gov/our-village

James Jaudon, Father of the Tamiami Trail: http://everglades.fiu.edu/reclaim/bios/jaudon.htm

Roads in the Everglades, Collier, Jaudon, Willlingham: https://books.google.com/books?id=oOvcDAAAQBAJ&pg=PA147&lpg=PA147&dq=wj+willingham+fl+pinecrest&source=bl&ots=TzcvzlZ04_&sig=1uugd2-UG8ag8B1QEy0IyD6oYzM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwitwbfgwIjeAhWqTd8KHXnuCVcQ6AEwA3oECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=wj%20willingham%20fl%20pinecrest&f=false

The Crashing Ocean, and the Unfazed House Upon the Rock, SLR/IRL

John Whitcar, of the famed local Whiticar Boat Works family,  has been a longtime family friend, and I have featured his incredible photography before. Today’s shared photos were taken on March 5th.

He describes today’s photos below:

House of Refuge Huge Waves
Monday, March 5, 2018 / Stuart Florida, USA
11 ft. waves coming in from North Easter off of New England.
Very little wind / High Tide / ~11:00 am

The story of the House of Refuge is an amazing one, being the last of its kind, Old-Florida pine construction, having endured multiple hurricanes and other forces of time and nature, and still standing since 1876.

“US government houses of refuge were constructed to assist shipwreck survivors and were unique to the east coast of Florida. Ten were constructed between 1876 and 1886, but only but Martin County’s Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge survives.” ~Historian Sandra Thurlow

The moral of the story?

Build your house upon a rock. ~Including the Anastasia Formation, preferably.


Thank you John for sharing your wonderful photos of Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge including its mascots the Blue Angels of Nature, our brown pelicans!

*House of Refuge web site: (http://houseofrefugefl.org/house-of-refuge-museum-at-gilberts-bar/)

How Times Change, The 1850’s Swampland Act, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

1907 map in A.B. Clark’s “Drain the Everglades.”

In my readings, I come across quite a few interesting old maps.

The one above, is most unusual because it is labeled “Jensen” rather than “Stuart” as to where the canal draining Lake Okeechobee was to go in the early 1900s.

I found the map from a write-up that is part of the “Digital History Project.” This piece was originally published by A. B Clark in 1907. Here is the link for the full write-up in case you are interested: (http://www.digitalhistoryproject.com/2011/08/draining-florida-everglades-lake.html)

When reading such work form the late 1800s and early 1900s, it mind-boggling to think of how our perceptions have changed and how we as a society are constantly dealing with the decisions of our ancestors, who helped get us here, albeit today, possibly considered “politically incorrect.”

Take for instance the Swamp Land Act of 1885.

Let’s read about its encyclopedic history:

“The Swamp Land Act of 1850 was US federal law and essentially provided a mechanism for transferring title to federally owned swampland to private parties agreeing to drain the land and turn it to productive, presumably agricultural, use. This gave broke states like Florida an opportunity to make money and for people to buy very cheap land and make it “productive…”

This law was primarily aimed at the development of Florida’s Everglades, and transferring some 20 million acres (31,000 sq mi) of land in the Everglades to the State of Florida for this purpose.

The law also had application outside Florida, and spurred drainage and development in many areas of the United States, including areas around Indiana’s Kankakee River, Michigan’s Lake St. Clair’s shores, and elsewhere, and encouraged settlement by immigrants arriving in the United States.

Much later the law was considered to have been ecologically problematic.  Many of its provisions were in time reversed by the wetland protection acts in 1972 and later legislation, but its historical effects on U.S. development and settlement patterns remain.”

I was born in 1964, so wet land protection is ingrained in me. Nonetheless my great grandparents were taught to think of wetlands or swamps as useless….

When reading through the piece by A.B Clark, he lists the counties as Lee, Desoto, Dade and St Lucie as the primary ones to be drained. One must note of course that the county lines were different then. For instance my parents live in Indialucie in Sewall’s Point and my mother created a sign and nailed it to a cabbage palm. The sign reads: “Brevard-Dade”
“St. Lucie-Palm Beach.” The sign represents the county line between the counties. St. Lucie was created in 1905 and Palm Beach in 1909.

We have gotten quite a kick out showing guests this sign over the years!

Old stuff is cool.

Here are some old public Florida county line maps. They are fascinating to look at too. The lines have gone back and forth and changed over the years.

Wonder what they will read in the future with rising seas, higher populations, and wetlands now known for their importance to water supply and water quality?

Florida 1850
Florida marked as 1883
Florida 1850
Florida marked as 1850

They say “the only constant is change.” How true this is….


Swampland Act, Wikipedia: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swamp_Land_Act_of_1850) 

UF IFAS Florida’s wetland protection history: (http://soils.ifas.ufl.edu/wetlandextension/protect/legislation.htm)