National Geographic : 1896 Jun
ACROSS THE GULF BY RAIL TO KEY WEST which must find a daily market, is limited to the local demand. With rapid transportation the Florida keys would supply the country with fresh vegetables all winter. Key West is destined to become the Newport of the South. Not since the exceptional year 1886 has the temperature risen above 920 F. or fallen below 440; in fact, the mean annual maxi mum of the last nine years has been only 90.40, while the mean annual minimum has been 50.50. In 1891 the minimum was 530, in 1892 530, and in 1893 520. Soft breezes from the ocean blow continuously over the island. The sun shines for 365 days in the year and is never obscured for more than a few hours at a time, except occasionally in the months of September and October, when a West India cyclone is passing up the gulf. There are no malaria-breeding pools or streams, and sooner or later the thousands of tourists who are restlessly seeking a milder and more equable winter climate than the mainland affords will find in Key West their ideal health resort. The products of the West Indies and Caribbean sea will be ferried across from Cuba in five hours and taken by the railroad for distribution to all parts of the United States. Capital seek ing investment will reap no handsomer return than from a dry dock at Key West, into which would come for repairs the trad ing-vessels of the gulf which now have to go hundreds of miles out of their way to Newport News, and with the completion of the Nicaragua canal Key West would be a port of call for sup plies and repairs for no small part of the shipping of the world. A railroad to Key West will assuredly be built. While the fact that it has no exact counterpart among the great achieve ments of modern engineering may make it, like all other great enterprises, a subject for a time of incredulity and distrust, it presents, as has been shown, no difficulties that are insurmount able. It is, however, a magnificent enterprise and one the exe cution of which will call for the exercise of qualities of the very highest order. Who will be its Cyrus W. Field? The hopes of the people of Key West are centered in Henry M. Flagler, whose financial genius and public spirit have opened up to the tourist and health-seeker 300 miles of the beautiful east coast of the state. The building of a railroad to Key West would be a fitting consummation of Mr. Flagler's remarkable career, and his name would be handed down to posterity linked to one of the grandest achievements of modern times.