If You Build It…

Introductory Note:

The following is the second in a three-part series of blogs exploring the State Archives’ recent accession of records concerning the Cross Florida Barge Canal and its eventual conversion into the Cross Florida Greenway. Here’s the first post from last week.

Engineers and government officials have been hatching plans to dig a canal connecting the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean since the 16th century. The United States government initiated construction on this ambitious project in the 1930s, but it was halted several times over the next three decades before it was shut down entirely in 1971. The land appropriated for the canal was later converted into the Cross Florida Greenway, a series of recreational trails extending from the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Johns River.

The State Archives’ recent accession of records on this topic consists of 167 boxes of material, including administrative files, reports, legal records, land records, Canal Lands Advisory Council records and Cross Florida Greenway records. These documents join five existing series of Cross Florida Barge Canal records accessioned in the 1990s and early 2000s. Taken together, these collections illustrate the creation, progression, decline and eventual transformation of the Cross Florida Barge Canal project into the Cross Florida Greenway.

 

“If You Build It…”

In our last post, we explored records documenting how local, state, and federal agencies interacted with the public to obtain the land for building the Cross Florida Barge Canal. As this process was unfolding, government officials, engineers, and contractors were studying how to plan, build, and market the massive waterway. The following groups of records illustrate how these professionals addressed the challenges involved in such a complex project. All records are open for research.

 

Record Group 560: Canal Authority of the State of Florida
Series 1727: Cross Florida Barge Canal Administrative Files

This series contains records from the Canal Authority of the State of Florida primarily documenting the history of the Cross Florida Barge Canal from its beginning to the decision to halt its construction.  Included are court cases, newspaper clippings, minutes, correspondence, audits, administrative files, biographies of board members, and United States Army Corps of Engineer materials.

Of particular interest are the newspaper clipping files which cover three decades.  Initially the newspaper clippings support the building of the canal, but as environmental concerns developed in Florida, the clippings increasingly reflect the opposition that many Floridians felt toward the negative impact the canal would cause to the environment.  After the canal project was halted, public concern shifted toward converting the former canal right-of-way into a greenways and trails system, and restoring parts of the Ocklawaha River back to its original natural condition.

Learn more about this record series by viewing its catalog record.

Holiday Inn sign welcoming the Cross Florida Barge Canal - Inglis (1967).

Holiday Inn sign welcoming the Cross Florida Barge Canal – Inglis (1967).

 

Record Group 560: Canal Authority of the State of Florida
Series 2689: Cross Florida Barge Canal Central Program Administrative Files

Seven main administrative subseries exist within this series: meeting files, correspondence, financial records, administrative ledgers, contract files, subject files, and history files.

The meeting files include agendas, minutes and meeting specific supporting documents.

The correspondence subseries details general activities, events and issues handled throughout the project.

The financial records consist of audits, financial statements, accounting books, and other supporting documents. The frequency of audits shows the hands-on management style of the State of Florida in terms of making sure all Cross Florida Barge Canal financial undertakings were justified and accounted for. As a result, the audits act as a well-organized year-in-review summary of the financial activities of the Ship Canal Authority and the Canal Navigation District when available.

The administrative ledgers subseries include data on Canal Authority and Canal Navigation District operations as well as canal specific data logs on Buckman Lock, St. Johns Lock and Rodman Dam.

The contract files provides information on public and private sector involvement with Cross Florida Barge Canal planning and construction beyond the Corps of Engineers, Canal Authority and Canal Navigation District specific undertakings.

The subject files speak to the many issues and challenges of an endeavor as far-reaching as the Cross Florida Barge Canal. Of particular interest are the files on the deauthorization of the project.

The history files are comprised mainly of newspaper and magazine clippings. These files give a good overview of the media and citizen perception of the project from creation and construction to deauthorization.

Learn more about this record series by viewing its catalog record.

Florida Secretary of State Tom Adams and Board of Conservation Director Randolph Hodges study a map of the proposed Cross Florida Barge Canal (1961).

Florida Secretary of State Tom Adams and Board of Conservation Director Randolph Hodges study a map of the proposed Cross Florida Barge Canal (1961).

 

Record Group 500: Florida Department of Natural Resources
Series 1968: Cross Florida Barge Canal Field Survey Books

This series of Cross Florida Barge Canal field survey books reflect a variety of different survey methods including auger boring (AB), bench run (BR), core drilling (CD), description (D), horizontal (H), point of curve (PC), point of tangency (PT), x-section (S), section profile (SP) and vertical (V). The land surveyed included areas of Citrus, Levy, Marion and Putnam Counties. Several of the field survey books are specifically titled Rodman Pool and Palatka. Most of the inside pages of the field books list the name of the project and location.

Learn more about this record series by viewing its catalog record.

Sample records from Series 1968, State Archives of Florida.

Sample records from Series 1968, State Archives of Florida.

 

Record Group 502: Department of Natural Resources, Division of Resource Management
Series 149: Cross Florida Barge Canal Records

This series contains the Cross Florida Barge Canal records from 1963-1981 maintained by the Division of Resource Management and its predecessor agencies, the Division of Interior Resources and the State Board of Conservation.  It documents the involvement of the Division and the Canal Authority of the State of Florida in the planning and construction phases of the Cross Florida Barge Canal. The types of records include general correspondence, reports, financial records, Cabinet items, leases, project maps, surveys, newspaper clippings, and minutes from the meetings of the Board of Directors of the Canal Authority of the State of Florida.

Learn more about this record series by viewing its catalog record.

Bird's eye view of construction on the Cross-Florida Barge Canal (circa 1960s).

Bird’s eye view of construction on the Cross-Florida Barge Canal (circa 1960s).

 

Record Group 550: Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Series 2685: Cross Florida Barge Canal Reports

The Reports series is comprised entirely of reports written in the course and aftermath of the Cross Florida Barge Canal project. The wide variety of topics covered by the series include: project oversight and responsibility; engineering manuals, challenges, inspections and cost estimates; site specific analyses, appraisals, updates and designs; and environmental rehabilitation, restoration and development.

Reports created by the Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, are the most prevalent. The United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior also feature prominently. Many state agencies completed studies on the canal project, especially the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.

Learn more about this record series by viewing its catalog record.

 

Cover of a report by the University of Florida’s Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, sponsored by the Army Corps of Engineers (Box 7, folder 24 of Series 2685, State Archives of Florida).

Cover of a report by the University of Florida’s Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, sponsored by the Army Corps of Engineers (Box 7, folder 24 of Series 2685, State Archives of Florida).

Interested in browsing the Cross Florida Barge Canal records in person? Stop by the State Archives of Florida Reference Room between 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Check out our website to plan your visit.

That’s it for this post, but come back for our final installment next week, when we’ll look at some of the newly available records documenting how state officials decided to dispose of the land for the canal project after it was halted.

Florida’s Own Prime Meridian

Every day, knowingly and more often unknowingly, we cross boundaries. We drive from one county into the next, we step across property lines, and we move in and out of the corporate limits of cities and towns. Visitors to Tallahassee’s recently renovated Cascades Park frequently cross a very important Florida boundary, now marked with an impressive new monument. It’s Florida’s own prime meridian, the initial point in the grid on which virtually all land surveying in the Sunshine State is based.

Brass plate marking the exact point at which Florida's prime meridian crosses its base line. All of the six-mile square townships comprising the state's land survey system are named in relation to this point. The point is located in Cascades Park, Tallahassee (photo 2014).

Brass plate marking the exact point at which Florida’s prime meridian crosses its base line. All of the six-mile square townships comprising the state’s land survey system are named in relation to this point. The point is located in Cascades Park, Tallahassee (photo 2014).

Initiating a system for identifying and selling land was a high priority for Florida’s earliest leaders. Settlers would be unlikely to take a chance establishing themselves in the new territory if there wasn’t a way to ensure the security of their title to the land they purchased. By the time Florida became a U.S. territory, the federal government already had a go-to method for measuring out new land. Called the Public Land Survey System, it called for the new territory to be divided into six-mile squares called townships, which were each further divided into 36 smaller one-mile squares called sections. Land grants for businesses, homesteaders, or government entities could then be sold off by the section or parts thereof.

An early map of Township 1 North, Range 1 West, encompassing much of western Tallahassee. The map delineates the 36 one-mile square sections within the township, as well as numerous individual parcels of land that had already been purchased (1853).

An early map of Township 1 North, Range 1 West, encompassing much of western Tallahassee. The map delineates the 36 one-mile square sections within the township, as well as numerous individual parcels of land that had already been purchased (1853).

The first step in laying out a township grid was to select a spot for it to start. When the order came down in 1824 for the surveying process to begin in Florida, the Surveyor General appointed for the territory, Robert Butler, had not yet arrived. Furthermore, territorial governor William Pope Duval was away from Tallahassee in conference with local Native Americans. Territorial Secretary George Walton, then, had the honor of selecting the location. How he made his selection is not precisely known, although some interesting stories have emerged over time. Probably the most popular version holds that while transporting a stone monument to the designated site it fell off its wagon about 200 yards short of its destination. Because of its immense weight, the legend explains, the stone was too heavy to put back onto the wagon, and consequently it was left where it fell and that became the point of beginning for Florida’s township grid. The story has a nice ring to it, but evidence suggests that the point was originally marked with a wooden stake, not a stone.

 

Robert Butler, Florida's first Surveyor General. Butler had served as a military aide to General Andrew Jackson, and would establish one of the earliest plantations in the Tallahassee area on the southwest shore of Lake Jackson (photo circa 1860).

Robert Butler, Florida’s first Surveyor General. Butler had served as a military aide to General Andrew Jackson, and would establish one of the earliest plantations in the Tallahassee area on the southwest shore of Lake Jackson (photo circa 1860).

 

George Walton II, son of the George Walton who signed the Declaration of Independence and became Florida's first Territorial Secretary (circa 1821).

George Walton II, son of the George Walton who signed the Declaration of Independence. He served as Florida’s first Territorial Secretary (circa 1821).

After the original point was established, surveyors began the lengthy process of establishing a north-south meridian and an east-west base line, dividing the territory into quadrants. The southeast quadrant contains the vast majority of Florida’s territory, as it includes the entire peninsula. As more townships were surveyed out in relation to these lines, the General Land Office began granting land to homesteaders and other buyers. The original point of beginning for the grid remained fairly obscure for the rest of the nineteenth century. In 1891, the City Commission of Tallahassee passed a resolution asking the General Land Office to establish a more elaborate monument marking the spot. The GLO gave orders for such a monument to be installed, and a local surveyor named John Cook identified a point on which to set it. This monument, however, for some reason appears never to have been placed. The one that existed before the Cascades Park renovation was erected by the Florida Legislature in 1925.

Blueprints for new monument to mark the original point of beginning for Florida's township grid - the meeting place of the original prime meridian and base line (1925).

Blueprints for new monument to mark the original point of beginning for Florida’s township grid – the meeting place of the original prime meridian and base line (1925). Located in Box 1, folder 1 of Series 1152 (Subject Files of the Secretary of the Florida Senate), State Archives of Florida.

 

The 1925 prime meridian marker in Cascades Park (1955).

The 1925 prime meridian marker in Cascades Park (1955).

Today, Florida’s prime meridian is proudly displayed as a valuable historic site. Cascades Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, in part due to the presence of the prime meridian marker. When Cascades Park was renovated, the old 1925 concrete monument was removed and taken to the headquarters of the Florida Surveyors and Mappers Society in Tallahassee. The new monument, installed flush with the surrounding walking space, has been incorporated into an elaborate plaza that emphasizes the importance of the point for all of Florida.

The prime meridian plaza at Cascades Park in Tallahassee (2014).

The prime meridian plaza at Cascades Park in Tallahassee (2014).