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Florida is the number one tourist destination in the United States and one of the most populated states. It has not always been this way. By 1900, Florida was a small rural state ranked 33rd in population and not highly developed. By the year 2000, Florida had grown to become the fourth largest state in the country. This huge increase in population, driven by tourism and land booms, has put tremendous strain on the development of Florida’s railroads, road systems and utilities. The state government has continually been involved in the development of Florida throughout the years.
In the exhibit case are some interesting items related to Florida’s transportation and development of railroads. There is a menu that Governor Millard Caldwell used when riding on the famous Silver Meteor train that ran between New York and Miami. On this 1945 breakfast menu, “Combination #1”, costing $1.15 offered the following items: fruit, fish, scrambled eggs, a choice of sausage, ham or corned beef hash, pancakes, omelet and a muffin. Also in the case is a large crude wooden sign labeled “Alligator Theatre and Exhibits.” It was an advertising sign for “Alligator Town, USA,” a roadside attraction in Lake City. Founded by legendary herpetologist, E. Ross Allen, it opened in 1981, a month after Ross Allen died.
Florida has had many roadside attractions; one of the oldest is Marineland in St. Augustine which opened in 1938. In this room there is also a photograph of Walt Disney visiting his relatives in Paisley, Florida before he started buying land in nearby Orlando for his theme park, Disneyworld. Before you leave, be sure to see the colorful five minute video on the history of development and tourism in Florida.
To your left as you enter the room, a part of the wall protrudes slightly. This is one of the four original 1845 chimneys that are adjacent to the upstairs Rotunda. In 1902, Architect Frank Milburn had these four chimneys filled with cement and used them as supports for the large exterior dome he added to the building.