Edward N. Akin


"My domain begins at Jacksonville," Henry M. Flagler asserted in an invitation extended in February 1898 to President William McKinley to visit him on Florida’s east coast. Flagler’s statement contained a great measure of truth. During the 1880s, Flagler, a close friend and associate of John D. Rockefeller in their Standard Oil Company empire, began a second career in Florida. Flagler had spent some time in Jacksonville in 1878 with his first wife in a vain effort to regain her health. He was delighted with Florida, and he honeymooned with his second wife in St. Augustine during the winter of 1883-1884. After that Flagler wasted little time in seizing the business possibilities of Florida and of St. Augustine. In 1885 he began construction of the Ponce de Leon Hotel which would become the flagship of a chain of luxury hotels along the east coast of Florida. These were designed to attract a wealthy winter clientele from the North.