Where There’s a Will…

Introductory Note:

The following is the first 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.

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.

 

“Where There’s a Will…”

Before a government agency can begin work on a large construction project like the Cross Florida Barge Canal, it must obtain title to the necessary land. The following records in the State Archives’ recent accession on the canal project document how the State of Florida, the United States government, and a variety of other public and private actors interacted to facilitate this process. All records are open for research.

Record Group 500: Florida Department of Natural Resources
Series 1976: Cross Florida Barge Canal Land Acquisition Records

This series includes appraisal reports, parcel summary worksheets, photographs, maps, sketches, correspondence and other records relating to land acquisition for the Cross Florida Barge Canal project. The land acquired included parts of Citrus, Levy, Marion, and Putnam counties. Learn more about this record series by viewing its catalog record.

Map of the Cross Florida Barge Canal (1971).

Map of the Cross Florida Barge Canal (1971).

 

Record Group 550: Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Series 2686: Cross Florida Barge Canal Legal Records

This series is comprised of records reflecting the legal process of the Canal Authority of the State of Florida acquiring land for the Cross Florida Barge Canal project. Three main legal categories exist within this series: condemnation files, court case files, and leases and easement files.

Though early discussions on condemnation began in the 1930s, the bulk of activity occurred in the 1960s. The process of condemning and acquiring the land frequently culminated in Florida Supreme, District and Circuit Court cases. The defendants involved ranged from one private land owner to multiple owners that banded together, as well as Florida-based companies. The size of each case file reflects the scale of the trial and subsequent settlement. While many cases were short-lived, others were extensive, often producing multiple appeals. Canal Authority v. J. G. Perko and Canal Authority v. Harry M. Litzell, et al are examples of more voluminous cases. Document types within the condemnation and court case files include land appraisals, correspondence, and orders of taking, as well as depositions, transcripts of testimony, motions, answers, pleadings and final judgments.

The leases and easement files document the activities of those lands in condemnation under pre-existing leases and those that the Canal Authority chose to lease out after the failure of the canal endeavor. In 1993, after the passage of Florida House Bill 1751, control of all Canal Authority lands and easements were transferred to the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund. Many of the leases and easement files captured within this series reflect this administrative alteration and how it affected pre-existing lessees.

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

A deposition taken in the case of Canal Authority v Silver Springs, Inc. in 1969, one of many legal records available as part of Record Series 2686 at the State Archives of Florida.

A deposition taken in the case of Canal Authority v Silver Springs, Inc. in 1969, one of many legal records available as part of Record Series 2686 at the State Archives of Florida. Click the image to enlarge it.

 

Record Group 550: Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Series 2687: Cross Florida Barge Canal Land Records

This series includes records pertaining to the land involved in the course and aftermath of the Cross Florida Barge Canal project. Topics include: land requests; general land information by tract number; right-of-way, road, and railroad relocations; design computations for canal structures; photographs documenting the land in multiple stages of development; maps that show different parcels of land and the proposed canal route; and audio recordings of the canal’s dedication with President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.

The records document all portions of the canal, but some areas figure more prominently than others because of the amount of work that went into them and their controversial nature due to threats of environmental disturbances on wildlife disruption and declining water quality. Records within this series on the Rodman Reservoir, Ocklawaha River and Inglis Dam areas reflect their complex and contested histories. Of particular note are the maps that show the projected canal path through the Florida peninsula, because of their attention to detail in the route and lock locations as well as their unique design.

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

Leaflet on the Cross Florida Barge Canal (circa 1960s), in Box 5, folder 14 of Secretary of State Tom Adams' Subject Files (Series 501), State Archives of Florida.

Leaflet on the Cross Florida Barge Canal (circa 1960s), in Box 5, folder 14 of Secretary of State Tom Adams’ Subject Files (Series 501), 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 all for today, but look for our next post, which will take a look at some of the records involving the actual design and construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal.