On April 26, 1928, the Tamiami Trail opened—and the impossible became possible.
Since the development of the automobile, power players in South Florida had sought ways to connect the coasts via major roads as a means to promote tourism and spur economic growth. All that stood in their way was hundreds of miles of swampy terrain.
In 1915, meetings among state transportation officials and representatives from Tampa, Miami and Fort Myers began putting the dream on paper. Planners went through several iterations of routes, including one that would have sent the road more inland through La Belle. But powerful interests farther south won out.
The project was stymied by heavy rains, sweltering heat and engineering complications. At one point the state ran out of money to complete the east-west portion of the project. Along came wealthy landholder Barron Collier, who offered a compromise: He’d fund the project as long as the state created a new county in his name. Hence, Collier County was carved out of Lee County, and the Tamiami Trail cut through Collier’s land on its way to Miami.
Pictured are four unidentified men at the border of Dade and Collier counties on the day the Tamiami Trail opened to traffic. The 275-mile road was met with much fanfare—and it helped spur the growth we now see in Southwest Florida. It served as the major connector of the coasts in South Florida until Alligator Alley opened in 1968.