Museum to celebrate centennial of FEC extension to Key West

By Bob Jensen….
Jan. 22, 2012 will mark the 100th anniversary of the completion of the construction of the Florida East Coast (FEC) Railway extension from Homestead/Detroit (now Florida City) to Key West.

On that day Henry Flagler, the 82-year-old owner of the FEC Railway, stepped off his private railroad car onto land at Key West. An engineering feat of mind-boggling complexity, the FEC extension was thought by some to be the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

It is estimated that Henry Flagler spent $20 million of his own money constructing the extension from Homestead to Key West from 1906 until 1912. ($22 million in 1912 dollars is about $22.7 BILLION in today’s dollars.)

It was the prospect of garnering freight for his FEC Railway from the construction of the Panama Canal and from increased trade with Cuba that propelled Flagler forward with his dream which he may have had as early as 1895.

A man well known in Homestead history, William J. Krome at age 32 stepped in and finished the construction of the extension when project engineer Joseph C. Meredith died in 1909. Krome had earlier done the survey that led to the path taken by the extension. After the construction was completed he purchased land near Homestead and became a world renowned tropical fruit agriculturalist.

The anniversary is being celebrated up and down the FEC line from Palm Beach-Lake Worth to Key West through 2012. The Florida Pioneer Museum has small collections of FEC memorabilia ranging from actual track, spikes and tools from the extension to FEC dining car dishes and utensils. Also 25 photos taken from postcards heralding construction of the extension are available for viewing.

The museum has an extensive collection of postcards for exhibit dating from this period — both of Homestead and of Detroit/Florida City. Books and DVDs are available for purchase.

The museum is open free of charge on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons from 1 to 5 p.m. with volunteer docents on hand to assist with the story. The museum is located at 826 N. Krome Ave. in Florida City across from the Capri Restaurant and adjacent to the Florida City Campground.

For more information call 305-246-9531.

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