The morning of April 25, 1928, with flags a’ flying, the first automobile in the Tamiami Trail motorcade carrying Florida Governor John W. Martin and Barron G. Collier started over the “magnificent ribbon of pavement” in Tampa, opening the 273-mile Tamiami Trail to “a perpetual great stream of traffic.”
Celebrations began in Tampa the day before and continued in every flag and bunting-draped town in the seven counties the Tamiami Trail traverses en route to Miami. The caravan headed for Sarasota, where busses carrying the renowned 26-member Czecho-Slovakian National Band, on tour in the U.S., were ready to roll.
In Fort Myers, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford joined the motorcade and proceeded to Naples the morning of April 26th, picking up a bus carrying Naples Mayor Edward J. Keefe, former Naples Mayor E.G. and Mrs. Wilkinson, Councilmen J.C. McDonnell, Ike Tuttle, and Council President Ed Crayton and his wife, and Mr. Lon Weeks before continuing on to Everglades.
At Everglades, the Tamiami Trail opening dedication also marked the First Annual Collier County Fair and Tamiami Exposition.
Tamiami Trail Dedication Motorcade, 1928
The County Fair featured a replica of Collier County’s display of locally grown produce and Seminole handicrafts at the 1924 New York City World’s Fair, and also showcased a Transportation Building housing South Florida automobile dealers’ 1928 models.
A crew of only 15 men began construction of the Trail in Collier County in 1923, progressing at a rate of only four-tenths miles per month. The hardest rock to break through was the Everglades portion of the road. If laid end to end, the sticks of dynamite used would stretch from Jacksonville to San Francisco, a distance of almost 2,500 miles. By January 1927 the crew numbered 310.
For the vital role they played in the construction of the Tamiami Trail through Collier County, the Seminole Indians were offered a spot in the heart of town, where they built Seminole City, a series of thatched roof structures showcasing their culture.
After the parade and a pioneer barbeque hosted by Barron G. Collier, a ribbon cutting ceremony invited motorists to cross the Everglades and head to Miami.
Entrance to Collier County Fair & Tamiami Exposition, Everglades, April 26, 1928
As the motorcade entered Coral Gables, it was showered with roses and confetti dropped from an airplane which followed the automobiles discharging 25 fireworks. An aerial marriage ceremony was performed by Rev. F.E. Frost, Jr. of Miami between Miss Louise Schley of Lakeland and Frank Hefling, a stunt flyer from Tampa, symbolizing the union of the east and west coasts of Florida.
At Bayfront Park, the motorcade’s final destination, the public was addressed by Mayor of Miami, E.G. Sewell, Florida Governor John W. Martin, Fons A. Hathaway, Chairman of the Florida State Road Department; Barron G. Collier; D.B. McKay, Mayor of Tampa; Captain James F. Jaudon of Miami, originator of the idea to build a highway linking both coasts of Florida; and the Chairmen of the County Boards of Dade, Hugh Peters; Collier, F.L. Holmes; Lee, John E. Morris; and Monroe, J. Otto Kirschheimer.
The Transportation Exposition, 1928
When asked what real benefit will result from the opening of this much talked of highway Barron Collier replied “It seems that of paramount importance is the rendering accessible of a vast area of two million acres, the fertility of which is surpassed by none in the world,” adding that the gold Spain’s conquistadores sought was not a precious metal. Rather, it was Florida’s “glistening golden harvests” awaiting cultivation.
“Through the opening of the Tamiami Trail, the health and marvelous wealth of the Everglades are assured for the benefit of mankind. That, it seems to me,” Collier said, “is the real value of this Trail. This will prove, in my opinion, one of Florida’s greatest assets. And its value to us local people is beyond reckoning.”
On Sunday, May 25, 1958 The New York Times featured an article titled “A Highway Built by Heroes,” opening with “The highway which experts said it was impossible to build is thirty years old this year.” The following month, the Historical Association of Southern Florida hosted a re-dedication ceremony at Miami and a motorcade traveled to Tampa, erecting three historical markers along the way.
This 95th anniversary year we celebrate our heroes and the highway they built … the Tamiami Trail.
Tamiami Trail Dedication and Barbeque, Everglades, April 26, 1928