The Florida land boom of the 1920s was Florida's first real estate bubble, which burst in 1925. The land boom left behind entire new cities, such as Coral Gables, Hialeah, Miami Springs, Opa-locka, Miami Shores, and Hollywood. It also left behind the remains of failed development projects such as Aladdin City in south Miami-Dade County, Fulford-by-the-Sea in what is now North Miami Beach, Miami's Isola di Lolando in north Biscayne Bay, Boca Raton, as it had originally been planned, and Palm Beach Ocean just north of Palm Beach. The land boom shaped Florida's future for decades and created entire new cities out of the Everglades land that remain today. The story includes many parallels to the real estate boom of the 2000s, including the forces of outside speculators, easy credit access for buyers, and rapidly appreciating property values.
In the background were the well-publicized extensions of the Florida East Coast Railway, first to West Palm Beach (1894), then Miami (1896), and finally Key West, 1912. The Everglades were being drained, creating new dry land. Finally, World War I cut off the rich from their seasons on the French Riviera, so a part of the U.S. with a Mediterranean climate had a lot of possibilities.
The economic prosperity of the 1920s set the conditions for a real estate bubble in Florida. Miami had an image as a tropical paradise and outside investors across the United States began taking an interest in Miami real estate. Due in part to the publicity talents of audacious developers such as Carl G. Fisher of Miami Beach, famous for purchasing a huge lighted billboard in New York's Times Square proclaiming "It's June In Miami", property prices rose rapidly on speculation and a land and development boom ensued. Brokers and dealers speculated wildly in all classes of commodities as well, ordering supplies vastly in excess of what was actually needed and even sending shipments to only a general destination, with the end result being that railroad freight cars became stranded in the state, choking the movement of rail traffic.
By January 1925, investors were beginning to read negative press about Florida investments. Forbes magazine warned that Florida land prices were based solely upon the expectation of finding a customer, not upon any reality of land value. The IRS began to scrutinize the Florida real estate boom as a giant sham operation. Speculators intent on flipping properties at huge profits began to have a difficult time finding new buyers. To make matters worse, in October 1925, the "Big Three" railroad companies operating in Florida—the Seaboard Air Line Railway, the Florida East Coast Railway, and the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad—called an embargo due to the rail traffic gridlock of building materials, permitting only foodstuffs, fuel, perishables, and essential commodities to enter or move within the state.
Then, on January 10, 1926, the Prinz Valdemar, a 241-foot, steel-hulled schooner, sank in the mouth of the turning basin of Miami harbor and blocked access to the harbor. It had been on its way to becoming a floating hotel. Because the railroads were still embargoing non-essential shipments, it now became completely impossible to bring building supplies into the Miami area, and the city's image as a tropical paradise began to crumble. In his book Miami Millions, Kenneth Ballinger wrote that the Prinz Valdemar capsize incident saved a lot of people a lot of money by revealing cracks in the Miami façade. "In the enforced lull which accompanied the efforts to unstopper the Miami Harbor," he wrote, "many a shipper in the North and many a builder in the South got a better grasp of what was actually taking place here." New buyers failed to arrive, and the property price escalation that fueled the land boom stopped. The days of Miami properties being bought and sold at auction as many as ten times in one day were over.
Although the railroads lifted the embargo in May 1926, the boom nevertheless fizzled out. Disaster then followed in the shape of the September 1926 Miami Hurricane, which drove many developers into bankruptcy. The 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane and the Wall Street Crash of 1929 continued the catastrophic downward economic trend, and the Florida land boom was officially over as the Great Depression began. The depression and the devastating arrival of the Mediterranean fruit fly a year later destroyed both the tourist and citrus industries upon which Florida depended. In a few years, an idyllic tropical paradise had been transformed into a bleak humid remote area with few economic prospects. Florida's economy would not recover until World War II.
The event served as the backdrop for the 2014 video game A Golden Wake.
The Marx Brothers film "The Cocoanuts" is set in the Winter of 1926 in a hotel in the midst of the land boom coming to an end.
Aladdin City is an unincorporated community in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States. It is located about 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Miami within the unincorporated community of Redland. It is notable as the site of a planned community—similar to Opa-locka, Coral Gables, and Miami Springs, Florida—whose development was snuffed out by the abrupt end of the Florida land boom of the 1920s.Alderman House
The Alderman House (also known as the Royal Palm Antiques) is a historic house located at 2572 East First Street in Fort Myers, Florida. It is locally significant as an excellent example of the Mediterranean Revival style architecture in Fort Myers during the Florida Land Boom of the 1920s.Boca Raton Resort
The Boca Raton Resort & Club, which opened February 6, 1926 as the Cloister Inn, is a large resort and membership-based club located in Boca Raton, Florida. Originally designed by California-born architect, Addison Mizner, it was intended to have been the second of two hotels, with the other an oceanfront hotel. However, the Ritz-Carlton Investment Corporation became involved in the project, and wanted the oceanfront hotel redesigned, so construction began on the then-smaller 100 room inn on the west side of Lake Boca Raton. Throughout the Florida land boom of the 1920s, Mizner visioned and began to plan Boca Raton as a major resort destination. To that extent a golf course and residential community, the Ritz-Carlton Park, was planned west of the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. Today this is the site of Sugar Sand Park and Boca Del Mar. Nevertheless, the resort didn't gain a full-service country club until the acquisition of the Boca Country Club, seven miles northwest of the main hotel, immediately outside of the city limits.
Currently, the club is operated as part of Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts by the Hilton Hotels Corporation, and owned by an affiliate of the Blackstone Group. Before the Spring of 2009, LXR Luxury Resorts operated the resort.Carl G. Fisher
Carl Graham Fisher (January 12, 1874 – July 15, 1939) was an American entrepreneur. Despite severe astigmatism, he became actively involved in auto racing. He was a seemingly tireless pioneer and promoter of the automotive industry and highway construction, and of real estate development in Florida. He is widely regarded as a promotional genius.Despite family financial strains and a disability, in the late 19th century he became a bicycle enthusiast and opened a modest bicycle shop with a brother. He became involved in bicycle racing, as well as many activities related to the emerging American auto industry. In 1904, Carl Fisher and his friend James A. Allison bought an interest in the U.S. patent to manufacture acetylene headlights, a precursor to electric models which became common about ten years later. Soon Fisher's firm supplied nearly every headlamp used on automobiles in the United States as manufacturing plants were built all over the country to supply the demand. The headlight patent made him rich as an automotive parts supplier when he and Allison sold their company, Prest-O-Lite, to Union Carbide in 1913 for $9 million (equivalent of approximately $230 million in 2018).Fisher operated in Indianapolis what is believed to be the first automobile dealership in the United States, and also worked at developing an automobile racetrack locally. After being injured in stunts himself, and following a safety debacle at the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway, of which he was a principal, he helped develop paved racetracks and public roadways. Improvements he implemented at the speedway led to its nickname, "The Brickyard."
In 1912, Fisher conceived and helped develop the Lincoln Highway, the first road for the automobile across the entire United States of America. A convoy trip a few years later by the U.S. Army along Fisher's Lincoln Highway was a major influence upon then Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower years later in championing the Interstate Highway System during his presidency in the 1950s.
Carl Fisher followed the east-west Lincoln Highway in 1914 with the conception of the north-south Dixie Highway, which led from Michigan to Miami. Under his leadership, the initial portion was completed within a single year, and he led an automobile caravan to Florida from Indiana.
At the south end of the Dixie Highway in Miami, Florida, Fisher, with the assistance of his partners John Graham McKay and Thomas Walkling, became involved in the successful real estate development of the new resort city of Miami Beach, built on a largely unpopulated barrier island and reached by the new Collins Bridge across Biscayne Bay directly at the terminus of the Dixie Highway. Fisher was one of the best known and active promoters of the Florida land boom of the 1920s. By 1926, he was worth an estimated $100 million, and redirected his promotional efforts when the Florida real estate market bubble burst after 1925. His final major project, cut short by the Great Depression, was a "Miami Beach of the north" at Montauk, located at the eastern tip of Long Island, New York.
His fortune was lost in the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression in the United States which followed shortly thereafter. He found himself living in a small cottage in Miami Beach, doing minor work for old friends. Nevertheless, years after his fortune had been lost, at the end of his career, he took on one more project, albeit more modest than many of his past ventures, and built the famous Caribbean Club on Key Largo, intended as a "poor man's retreat."
Although he had lost his fortune and late in life considered himself a failure, Fisher is widely regarded as a decidedly successful man in the long view of his life. He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1971. In a 1998 study judged by a panel of 56 historians, writers, and others, Carl G. Fisher was named one of the Fifty Most Influential People in the history of the State of Florida by The Ledger newspaper. PBS labeled him "Mr. Miami Beach." Just south of Miami Beach, Fisher Island (which he once owned, and is named for him), became one of the wealthiest and most exclusive residential areas in the United States.Di Lido Island
Di Lido Island is a neighborhood of South Beach in the city of Miami Beach on a man-made island in Biscayne Bay, Florida, United States. It is the third island from the east of the Venetian Islands, a chain of artificial islands in Biscayne Bay in the cities of Miami and Miami Beach. It is between San Marino Island and Rivo Alto Island. It is home to residential neighborhoods and a portion of the Venetian Causeway. The unfinished artificial island Isola di Lolando from the Florida land boom of the 1920s is located near the north tip of Di Lido Island.Downtown Miami Historic District
The Downtown Miami Historic District is a U.S. historic district (designated as such on December 6, 2005) located in the CBD of Downtown Miami, Florida. The district is bounded by Miami Court, North Third Street, West Third Avenue, and South Second Street. It contains 60 historic buildings. A large portion the buildings in the historic district were built during the Florida land boom of the 1920s, when Miami experienced rapid population growth. Many of the older structures from before the 1920s, were smaller scale buildings and homes from the Miami pioneer era of the mid and late-19th century. Palm Cottage, built in 1897 is a home from the pioneer era that is still standing, however, few of these original homes remain.Fred A. Henderich
Fred A Henderich (1879 – 1941) was a leading architect of the Florida land boom of the 1920s. He was a native of New York and graduated from Columbia University. Henderich came to Saint Augustine in 1905 to work for Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Hotel Company and lived and worked in the city for over twenty years.Glenn Simmons
Glen J. Simmons (January 14, 1916 – July 21, 2009) was an outdoorsman and guide who became notable as a master builder of skiffs, the "vessels used to navigate the Everglades," The skill made him a "Florida Local Legacy" and the winner of the Florida Folk Heritage Award in 1995.Simmons was born January 14, 1916 in the Florida City, Florida area and raised in nearby Homestead, Simmons "spent much of his life in the glades, alone or with other gladesmen, hunting alligators, deer and turtles, as well as fishing"; his family, "like most poor farmers and settlers in the region, lived 'from hand to mouth' during the depression" that followed the Florida land boom of the 1920s.Starting at the age of 12, Simmons built pole-powered skiffs used to navigate the Florida Everglades prior to the advent of fanboats; originally made of cypress wood, the craft boats were used for hunting and navigation. Simmons earned a living by "hunting, fishing, banana farming, and guiding newcomers."An interest in writing about his experiences in the Everglades led him to approach Laura Ogden, a professor at Florida International University for help in writing a book: the collaboration led to the 1998 publication of Gladesmen: Gator Hunters, Moonshiners, and Skiffers (ISBN 9780813015736).Simmons' story was the inspiration for the name and the music of the Florida band Nate Augustus and the Gladezmen.Simmons died on July 21, 2009.Joe Tinker
Joseph Bert Tinker (July 27, 1880 – July 27, 1948) was an American professional baseball player and manager. He played from 1902 through 1916 for the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Chicago Whales of the Federal League.
Born in Muscotah, Kansas, Tinker began playing semi-professional baseball in Kansas in the late 19th century. He began his professional career in 1900 in minor league baseball and made his MLB debut with the Cubs in 1902. Tinker was a member of the Chicago Cubs dynasty that won four pennants and two World Series championships between 1906 and 1910. After playing one season with Cincinnati in 1913, he became one of the first stars to jump to the upstart Federal League in 1914. After leading the Whales to the pennant in 1915, he returned to the Cubs as their player-manager in 1916, his final season in MLB.
Tinker returned to minor league baseball as a part-owner and manager for the Columbus Senators before moving to Orlando, Florida, to manage the Orlando Tigers. While in Orlando, Tinker developed a real estate firm, which thrived during the Florida land boom of the 1920s. However, the 1926 Miami hurricane and Great Depression cost Tinker most of his fortune, and he returned to professional baseball in the late 1930s.
With the Cubs, Tinker was a part of a great double-play combination with teammates Johnny Evers and Frank Chance that was immortalized as "Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance" in the poem "Baseball's Sad Lexicon". However, Evers and Tinker feuded off the field. Tinker was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946, the same year as Evers and Chance. He has also been honored by the Florida State League and the city of Orlando.John A. Snively
John Andrew Snively (1889 - January 22, 1958) was a pioneering citrus grower in Florida and Georgia, USA. At his height, his companies were responsible for one-third of the Florida citrus crop.Snively was born in Schellsburg, Pennsylvania, the son of Frank B. Snively and Laura Irvin Snively. In 1910, at age 21, he moved to Winter Haven, Florida and began working as a fertilizer salesman. A few years later, just before the Florida land boom of the 1920s, Snively bought his first grove. It was a 10-acre site near Lake Eloise in Winter Haven. Through hard work and thrift, he managed to expand his grove operations. In 1934, he established the Polk Packing Company, which later became Snively Groves Inc. His company was the largest fruit packing and canning company in the United States in the 1930s, which employed over 1,500 people, and was the largest business in Winter Haven at the time.With the out break of World War II, the citrus industry boomed. The demand for canned and packaged citrus fruit from the United States and other Allied Nations greatly exceeded growers ability to supply the fruit. The Allies were willing to purchase all of the canned fruit that could be produced of any quality and at any price. Citrus prices skyrocketed, and Snively Groves Inc experienced massive growth.During the 1940s, Snively built Magnolia Mansion, a stately New Orleans style home on the shores of Lake Eloise, on Winter Haven's famous Chain of Lakes. Magnolia Mansion was purchased by Cypress Gardens theme park in the 1970s.
After World War II, with the wartime market gone, the citrus industry began to experience wild fluctuations in market prices. At times, the price of citrus fruit fell below the cost of production. Snively recognized that citrus growers had to organize to survive. Organization was needed to stabilize market prices and to create quality control standards. His leadership and organizational skills were instrumental in creating the Florida Citrus Mutual, the most influential citrus industry organization of its time. He later served as President of the Florida Citrus Exchange. He remained an active and influential figure in the citrus industry up until his death in 1958.Snively was also involved in other business activities. He served on the board of the Tavares & Gulf Railroad and the Winter Haven Exchange National Bank. Later in life, he built several housing sub-divisions on some of his grove land, including Inwood and Eloise Woods in Winter Haven. He was also elected to the political position of City Commissioner in Winter Haven for three years.Snively was known to be outspoken and gruff in his business dealings, but was also known as a humanitarian. He was actively involved in several charities benefiting youth welfare.Snively was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Winter Haven. He was married to Dorothy DeHaven Snively, and had a son and two daughters. He died of a heart attack at age 58.He was an original inductee into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame.John A. Snively Elementary School, on Snively Avenue, in Winter Haven, Florida is named after him. The school has approximately 500 students. He was also the maternal grandfather of musician Gram Parsons.Parkland Estates
Parkland Estates is a neighborhood within the city limits of Tampa, Florida. As of the 2000 census, the neighborhood had a population of 1,040. The ZIP Codes serving the neighborhood are 33609.Rosie the Elephant
Rosie, an Asian elephant, was an instrumental figure in the history of the U.S. city of Miami Beach, Florida. Her appearance in publicity photos helped to contribute to the area's early reputation for being a place that a visitor had to see to believe.During the Florida land boom of the 1920s, pioneering developer Carl G. Fisher worked with fruit farmer John S. Collins to "improve" the barrier island near Miami, Florida which they began to call "Miami Beach". They worked to clear and protect land for development by building the Venetian Islands, a series of artificial islands in north Biscayne Bay.
Collins hired predominantly black work crews from "Colored Town", now known as Overtown, in his orchards and for clearing the mangrove forests on the barrier islands that would become Miami Beach. His crews used imported Asian elephants for pulling stumps and heavy lifting as well as mules and machinery. The black workers who did the work of clearing the mangroves and building solid land in Miami Beach out of a mangrove sandbar were unable to purchase property on the new land because the Lummus brothers' Ocean Beach Realty Company sold lots only to whites, and Fisher's Alton Beach Realty Company sold much bigger and more expensive lots for more expensive luxury homes.Fisher loved to stage publicity stunts to generate interest in his new development properties. He organized speed boat races in the bay south of Belle Isle, to promote his new Flamingo Hotel. Fisher was attempting to promote Miami Beach as a new luxury resort destination to the wealthy tourists who visited hotels like the Royal Palm Hotel across the bay in Miami, but who shunned the more casual oceanfront casinos operated by Collins.Fisher acquired a baby elephant, which he named "Rosie". "I'm going to get a million dollars worth of advertising out of this elephant," he said. He featured Rosie as a sort of mascot for the area in publicity photos that promoted Miami Beach as a luxury vacation destination. In 1921 Rosie starred in publicity photos as a "golf caddy" for vacationing president Warren G. Harding, which established Miami Beach as an exotic destination.Another of Fisher's publicity gimmicks, the Miami Beach bathing beauty, originated at around the same time. "We'll get the prettiest girls and put them in the goddamndest tightest and shortest bathing suits, and no stockings or swim shoes either. We'll have their pictures taken and send them all over the goddamn country!" The controversial photographs, depicting more bared flesh than was considered appropriate at the time, had exactly the desired effect. Property values in Miami Beach soared.
Rosie remained a fixture at press events for Fisher's resort hotels, giving rides to children while another of Fisher's elephants named Baby Carl helped to scoop sand during the construction of the Nautilus hotel in 1924. She was well-known and widely loved, and apparently survived as late as at least 1938, where she appeared at a party in support of the Miami Beach Committee of One Hundred on Boca Chita Key.Singer Island
Singer Island is a peninsula on the Atlantic coast of Palm Beach County, Florida, in the South Florida metropolitan area. Most of it is in the city of Riviera Beach, but the town of Palm Beach Shores occupies its southern tip. Its latitude of is 26.784 N and its longitude is −80.037; West Florida's easternmost point is in Palm Beach Shores. Before the Palm Beach Inlet was created, Singer Island was connected to the island of Palm Beach to the south.Named after Palm Beach developer Paris Singer, a son of the Singer Sewing Machine magnate Isaac Singer, Singer Island has parks, marinas, hiking and bike paths, as well as 4.7 miles (7.6 km) of white sand beach that has been considered one of the top five beaches in Palm Beach County.
Singer Island is 3 miles (4.8 km) from North Palm Beach, 5.4 miles (8.7 km) from West Palm Beach, 5.4 miles (8.7 km) from Palm Beach Gardens, 6.2 miles (10.0 km) from Juno Beach, and 10.6 miles (17.1 km) from Jupiter.
Singer Island was originally planned by Paris Singer as a development called Palm Beach Ocean. Along with Addison Mizner, Singer intended to build a luxury resort hotel called the Paris Singer Hotel on the south end of the island, and a more typical resort called the Blue Heron toward the north, with homes and a golf course in between. Due to problems clearing titles, Singer's plans changed, and he decided to build only the luxury hotel on the island's south end and to call it the Blue Heron. Virtually every home lot in Palm Beach Ocean was sold, and $2 million (the equivalent of approximately $28 million in 2018) was poured into the Blue Heron. However, due to the abrupt end of the Florida land boom of the 1920s, not a single house was built on any of lots, and the Blue Heron was left uncompleted. Its shell was razed in 1940. The Hilton Singer Island Oceanfront Resort now stands in its place.
Today, Singer Island is a picturesque, upscale and pristine home to thousands of condo owners. The tallest building is the 42-story "Tiara", which has been severely damaged by several hurricanes since 2004. Its residents were displaced from 2004 to 2008.Singer Island is home to professional golfer Michelle McGann, a longtime resident, and was also home to rocker and E Street Band member Clarence Clemons.South Side School (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
The South Side School is a historic U.S. school in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It is located at 701 South Andrews Avenue. On July 19, 2006, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. South Side School opened in 1922 due Florida land boom of the 1920s.
The architect of the South Side School was John Peterman and the builder was Cayot and Hart. In 1949 the school was expanded, it was enlarged again in 1954. South Side School was changed from an elementary school in 1967 to be a school for special needs children. In 1990s the school was closed. The school became a city-designated historic landmark in 1996. Although the city hopes to turn the building into a cultural arts center, the renovation has encountered several setbacks.Studebaker Building (St. Petersburg, Florida)
The Studebaker Building (also known as the USGS Center for Coastal and Watershed Studies) is a historic site in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is located at 600 4th Street South. On July 5, 1985, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Built in 1925, the Studebaker Building is historically significant for its association with the Florida Land Boom of the 1920s and the relationship of the automobile industry and suburbanization. The building symbolizes the importance of the Studebaker automobile within that industry in the 1920s, particularly the Peninsular Motor Company of southwest Florida, the fourth largest Studebaker dealer in volume in the country by 1925. When the building opened, the company was the fourth largest Studebaker dealer in the world. The company employed 300 people, with 56 working in St. Petersburg's showroom. However, by 1926 the Peninsular Motor Company went bankrupt as a result of the collapse of the boom, and the Studebaker Building was closed.Tampa Southern Railroad
The Tampa Southern Railroad was a subsidiary of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad originally running from Uceta Yard in Tampa south to Palmetto, Bradenton, and Sarasota with a later extension southeast to Fort Ogden in the Peace River valley built shortly after. It was one of many rail lines built during the Florida land boom of the 1920s. Most of the remaining trackage (between Tampa and Bradenton) now serves as CSX Transportation's Palmetto Subdivision. Another short portion just east of Sarasota also remains that now serves as Seminole Gulf Railway's Matoaka branch.The New Klondike
The New Klondike is a 1926 black-and-white silent romantic comedy sports drama film directed by Lewis Milestone for Famous Players-Lasky. The film was set against the backdrop of the Florida land boom of the 1920s, and stands as Ben Hecht's first film assignment.The Tropical Sun
The Tropical Sun was South Florida's first newspaper, established in 1891 and based in Juno Beach, Florida. Founded by Guy Metcalf, the paper was published in Juno, which was the county seat of Dade County (which then extended from modern-day Martin County south to Dade's southern boundary at Florida Bay). The Tropical Sun was the pioneer's tie to the outside world, and later covered the events of the Florida land boom of the 1920s and its subsequent bust in preceding the Great Depression in South Florida. Byrd Spilman Dewey served as its first columnist, writing "The Sitting Room" column under the pen name "Aunt Judith." It also documents the growth of tourism, the presence of malaria in Florida prior to World War II, and other issues related to the struggles of the developers of south Florida's Atlantic coast. The only rival to the Tropical Sun was The Miami Metropolis, which eventually became The Miami News, and The Miami Evening Record.
The Tropical Sun was published as a weekly for most of its history but, also, as a semiweekly between 1903 and 1906. Miami and Dade County saw an increase in tourists after 1906 when Henry Flagler's railroad opened service to Key West. Before this date, tourist traffic to Key West would have involved travel by city. The location of The Tropical Sun's offices in Juno, Florida, "set back from the (railroad) track some thirty feet and from the wharf about fifty yards" is telling of both the newspaper's and south Florida's relationship with and their reliance on tourism. Between 1891 and 1895, The Tropical Sun was published in Juno, Florida. From 1895 to 1926, it was published in West Palm Beach, Florida. For a time beginning in 1914, the newspaper published both as a weekly under The Tropical Sun title and as a daily under the title, the Daily Tropical Sun.
Archives of the newspaper today are kept by the Historical Society of Palm Beach County in the basement of the 1916 Palm Beach County Courthouse.Thomas Reed Martin
Thomas Reed Martin (born April 28, 1866 in Menasha, Wisconsin - died February 1949) was an architect who was brought to Florida by one of its major developers during the turn of the twentieth century. He designed some 500 residences and various public and private buildings in Sarasota, as well as commercial buildings. His Florida buildings are located from Tampa to Fort Myers with many in Nokomis.
He drew the original sketches for the home of Mable and John Ringling, but the design by Dwight James Baum was selected by Mable Ringling and built by Owen Burns after Martin declined a fee reduction proposed by John Ringling.Many of Martin's buildings are listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). He was listed as a Great Floridian in 2000.Martin was the son of William Davidson Martin and Myra Martin. His family was part of the construction business for generations.Graduated from high school in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, he moved with his family to Chicago in 1883. Thomas married Sadie W. Coffin on February 19, 1890. They had three sons and a daughter.Martin was first employed as a draftsman with Global Machinery Co. in Chicago. He apprenticed with the architectural firm of Holabird and Roche in Chicago. At that firm, Martin met wealthy Chicago socialite and art patron, Bertha Palmer, the widow of Chicago real estate developer Potter Palmer.
Palmer commissioned Holabird and Roche to design her large winter home in Sarasota. Sketches for the house bear Martin's trademark signature. She soon would become one of the largest landholders in Florida and she also became renowned for her real estate developments and the introduction of revolutionary agricultural and ranching practices in Florida.
At the age of forty-four, Martin came to the Sarasota area from Chicago to work for Palmer in the fall of 1910. He was joined by his wife and children in 1911. He set up his own practice, which flourished throughout the Florida land boom of the 1920s. Among the five hundred homes Martin designed in the Sarasota area, are many "Floridian" style homes use glass block and formed concrete embellished with Mediterranean Revival features.In the 1930s he and his son, Clarence, were the architects for the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium. It was a federal economic stimulus project.