Skip to main content
USF Libraries Exhibits

Tourism and photo cards

After the U.S. Civil War, northern tourists flocked to Florida to soak up the warm sun and scenic waterways. Railroad magnates Henry B. Plant and Henry M. Flagler constructed a system of railways and hotels to house tourists on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts respectively. The Plant system’s terminus ended in Tampa where Plant built the Moorish-inspired Tampa Bay Hotel in 1891 on the mouth of the Hillsborough River, which now houses the University of Tampa. Not to be outdone, Flagler extended his railroad from Palm Beach to Biscayne Bay and eventually Key West in 1911, constructing lavish multi-million dollar hotels along the way. Plant and Flagler's hotels and railways established Florida as a major tourist destination and precipitated the development of both the Miami-Dade and Tampa Bay areas.