Escape from the frost
Dr. Marvin Dunn goes into detail about how the Great Freeze in the late 19th century affected South Florida’s development.
The great freeze launches a great city
Snow in the sunshine state?
In the winters of 1894 and 1895, right before Miami became a city, most of Florida was hit with some of the coldest weather ever recorded. Temperatures had dropped below 20* across the state once in December, and again in February. The result: a monumental loss to citrus crops and the devastation of many farmers’ livelihoods.
These back-to-back temperature drops would be come to known as The Great Freeze. Before 1895, Florida’s citrus industry was thriving, and the state was producing six million boxes of fruit per year. After the freeze, the state was only producing 100,000 boxes per year.
According to the legend, this event is what caused Miami’s founder and visionary Julia Tuttle, to send fragrant orange blossoms to railroad magnate Henry Flagler to demonstrate that the freeze did not affect South Florida. He was so impressed, he was persuaded to expand his railroad to the fishing village that would become Miami.
This decision resulted in the influx of population looking for work and warmer weather. In 1896, the city became incorporated with a little more than 300 residents. Today, Miami is home to over 470,000 people. Florida’s citrus industry has completely bounced back and leads the United States in production of the crop.