Florida Time: Here are Florida's top 25 stories of all time
Readers: Today marks the first official segment of Florida Time, the new column about Florida history. We'll get to some specific topics starting in the next few weeks. We’ll go from “macro” to “micro.” But as with any work, Florida Time will start with a table of contents.
In 1999, as a millennium drew to a close — calendar geeks: I know it officially ended Dec. 31, 2000 — The Palm Beach Post assembled a list of the most important events in Florida's history, then asked a distinguished panel of state history scholars to rate them. Even with the passage of two decades, the list still seems pretty solid. It is, of course, open to reflection and debate. Which is one of the reasons we are doing Florida Time!
- Florida ends three centuries of Spanish rule, joins United States, 1821.
- Juan Ponce de León encounters Florida, beginning three centuries of Spanish rule; 1513.
- Henry Flagler's railroad opens up South Florida, 1890s.
- World War II, 1940-45: U-boat wars, bases spring up, growth spurt.
- Seminole Wars (1818, 1835-42, 1853-58) force Seminoles into interior, open Florida to settlement.
- Secession and Civil War, 1861-65; Florida economically devastated.
- Walt Disney World changes Florida, 1971 to present.
- Indigenous natives wiped out by European conquest and disease, 1500s-1700s.
- Real-estate boom, early 1920s.
- Space program/man leaves Florida to land on moon, 1960s.
- Citrus industry develops in late 1800s.
- Hernando deSoto explores the interior of Florida and North America, 1539-43.
- Everglades drainage and development; sugar industry develops; early 1900s-1928.
- 1960s begins growth explosion.
- Cuban revolution, refugee influx, 1959-70s.
- Boom collapses, hastened when 1926 hurricane destroys Miami.
- Movements to shift from unbridled growth toward management and environmentalism.
- Florida's route to civil rights less painful than other Southern states, 1950s-1970s.
- 1928 hurricane kills up to 3,000 near Lake Okeechobee.
- Hurricane Andrew devastates South Florida, 1992.
- Florida shifts from a Dixiecrat state to a Republican stronghold.
- Mariel boatlift, 1980; South Florida becomes magnet for refugees.
- Massacre at Matanzas Inlet, 1565, destroys French colony; ends French designs on Florida.
- Establishment of Everglades National Park, 1947.
- Spain trades Florida to British, 1763-83; it stays loyal in American Revolution.
Others receiving votes:
- 1935 Labor Day hurricane; strongest ever to hit North America.
- “Graying" of Florida
- Proliferation of air conditioning makes Florida more bearable, helps increase population influx.
- Pensacola founded 1559; later abandoned for 139 years.
The judges (and their titles in 1999): Mike Denham, history professor, Florida Southern College. Rodney Dillon, historian. Paul George, history professor, Miami-Dade College. Bill McGoun, historian and retired Palm Beach Post columnist. Gary Mormino, history professor, University of South Florida. Jerrell Shofner, retired history professor, University of Central Florida. Irv Solomon, Fort Myers; history professor, Florida Gulf Coast University. Robert Taylor, history professor, Florida Tech University. Nick Wynne, Cocoa; executive director, Florida Historical Society.
Next week: Florida’s history through its voices
Last week: The more you know, the more it feels like home.
“I am fascinated with Florida history. I'd like to see a feature on how our 67 counties got their names. For instance, I'm from Manatee County but what's a Sarasota?” --Tom, Volusia County
“Before you appeared on the scene, I spent many a year reading religiously, your father Howard's columns in the erstwhile Miami Daily News and later, the Miami Herald. When you age, everything in the past seems to have had more meaning, and journalism is certainly one area that, in this day of social media, is often counted out as a way of informing us of our history and daily goings on. I welcome the Florida Time into my life.” --Janice, Flagler County
Eliot Kleinberg is a staff writer for the past three decades at The Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach, and the author of 10 books about Florida (www.ekfla.com). Submit your questions, comments or memories to email@example.com. Include your full name and hometown. Sorry; no personal replies.