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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean » User review

The story of a remarkable man and his very remarkable achievement

  • Jan 26, 2009
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Henry Flagler was a rich man when he more or less discovered Florida in 1877. Born in 1830, Flagler was one of the three founders of Standard Oil. He was lured to Jacksonville, Florida in hopes it might help his wife to recover her health. In 1883, Flagler became interested in Florida hotels - and a second career was launched by this immensely rich 53 year old man.

Les Standiford tells this tale well. Flagler, always a man solely focused on business, built hotels to lure the nation's rich. To connect them, he started by buying local railroads and consolidating them into the Florida East Coast Railway Company. Flagler kept pushing further south into Florida and literally founded Palm Beach and West Palm Beach and put Miami on the map.

The largest city in Florida at the time, surprising to the modern reader, was Key West. A great future was envisioned for Key West as a port, benefitting from the cargoes passing through the soon to be built Panama Canal and increased trade with Cuba, barely a hundred miles away.

Flagler, at an age when most men were happy to merely be alive and retired, embarked on the great project of building a nearly 150 mile railroad through largely uninhabited land from Miami to Key West.

The territory it passed through was primarily ocean and the low-lying keys. Failure was forecast for the project.

Through seven years of construction and five hurricanes, Flagler's crews kept pushing ahead, solving engineering problems as they arose, including the construcion of a seven mile long bridge.

This is true adventure and Standiford is an extraordinary storyteller. Well worth reading. It will fill in your knowledge of Florida, a wilderness barely a century ago and the remarkable man who said "I used to be a rich man until I discovered Florida".

Jerry

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More Last Train to Paradise: Henry ... reviews
review by . December 03, 2008
History of the railroad to Key West. The idea and execution was wrapped up in the extraordinary life of Henry Flagler, who helped Rockefeller create Standard Oil, then developed an abiding love and obligation to Florida. He built a railroad and a string of resorts that turned the mosquito-ridden swamps of Florida's east coast into valuable real estate and the nation's Southern escape. The effort cost him a big chunk of his fortune, but created a state.
review by . May 07, 2009
As a South Floridian, perhaps I am predisposed to be interested in this book. However, I think any lover of history and literature will find this an entertaining read. At times it reads more like novel than a historical account.      Les Standiford tells the fascinating story about Henry Flagler's impropable dream to build a railroad over the ocean. Deemed "one of the most difficult works of railroad construction ever attempted" by Scientific America, Flagler, with his signature …
review by . January 16, 2009
Most American children grow up hearing stories about the great engineering projects such as the Hoover dam, the Panama Canal, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the transcontinental railroad. Unfortunately, until I read this book, I had never heard the full story of the construction of the Key West Railroad. In many ways, it is one of the most challenging engineering projects ever done.    It is difficult for the modern reader to understand how little was known about swampy south Florida at the …
review by . March 13, 2009
As a South Floridian, perhaps I am predisposed to be interested in this book. However, I think any lover of history and literature will find this an entertaining read. At times it reads more like novel than a historical account.    Les Standiford tells the fascinating story about Henry Flagler's impropable dream to build a railroad over the ocean. Deemed "one of the most difficult works of railroad construction ever attempted" by Scientific America, Flagler, with his signature …
review by . February 01, 2009
Having an interest in Florida history, I saw this book at the library and had to pick it up... Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean by Les Standiford. The Key West railroad was a fascinating concept to begin with... building a railroad line from Miami to Key West, spanning miles of ocean in the process. Set the whole project at the turn of the century, and it becomes even more incredible. And to watch it all get destroyed by …
review by . January 21, 2009
7 mile train
Les Standiford is the author of several critically acclaimed novels as well as several works of non-fiction.   A few years back I had the distinct pleasure of reading one of those non-fiction titles. " Meet You in Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and the Bitter Partnership That Transformed America" was one of the best books I read back in 2005.   And so when I happened upon a copy of  "Last Train To Paradise:  Henry Flagler and the Spectacular …
review by . October 03, 2003
Ten years ago, when I visited Palm Beach, Florida, I noticed a lot of places named after someone called Flagler. At the time I had no idea who this person was, or why everything in the area seemed focused upon him, but after reading this book, I understand. It's pretty clear that, without Henry Flagler's vision, and money, Florida today might be an entirely different place. This man, almost singlehandedly, changed Florida from a hot, sleepy area into a mecca for tourists. His building of luxury …
About the reviewer
Jerry Saperstein ()
Ranked #197
I am an e-discovery strategist, computer forensics specialist and testifying expert witness - and an avid reader.      Aside from technology books, I love thrillers, suspense, mystery, … more
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In Last Train to Paradise, novelist Les Standiford has written a lively, felicitous account of the building of the Florida East Coast Railway, which, for a little over two decades, connected mainland Florida with Key West. Henry Morrison Flagler, John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil partner and, in many eyes, the true genius behind that company, embarked on the project in 1905 when he was 74 years old. The railroad, which crossed more than 150 miles of open sea, was an engineering feat nearly equal in scale and difficulty to the digging of the Panama Canal. Standiford's narrative skillfully blends tales of construction perils (not the least of which were escadrilles of mosquitoes) with brief, illuminating travelogues and natural histories, pocket descriptions of life in early 20th-century Florida, and a truly gripping description of an epic standoff between Mother Nature, in the form of a monstrous hurricane, and a stalled, 160-ton steam locomotive. With nary a single missed note, this fascinating tale is popular history at its best.--H. O'Billovich
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Tags

Books, Nonfiction, Railroads, Business History, Key West, Henry Flagler, Florida History

Details

ISBN-10: 1400049474
ISBN-13: 978-1400049479
Author: Les Standiford
Genre: History
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Date Published: August 5, 2003
First to Review
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