Flagler statue delayed by courthouse restoration
By Suzy Valentine
Restoration of a court building has delayed for three months the installation of a $75,000-plus statue of the man who brought the railroad to Miami.
A bronze of Henry Flagler, a copy of a statue that stands in St. Augustine, was to have been unveiled at the Miami-Dade County Courthouse on April 13 - the anniversary of the railroad's arrival here.
However, work on the courthouse steps must take place before officials can pour a concrete base for the statue, which will hold up the unveiling until July - the 110th anniversary of the founding of Miami.
"It's a pity," said John Blades, executive director of the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, which is housed in Mr. Flagler's former winter retreat, Whitehall. "April is toward the end of the tourism season so there would have been more people in town, but July is also a great time."
"We're shooting for that date," said Bill Iverson, collections specialist for Miami-Dade Art in Public Places. "A couple of the coordinators are on vacation, but we hope to firm up the details in the next few weeks."
The replica is larger than the original.
"It is 7 feet tall," said Mr. Blades. "In an outdoor environment, a statue can look small. That's why we scaled it up so it is suited to the open."
One of Mr. Flagler's great-grandchildren is funding the statue, which is to cost $75,000 or more.
"It will be at least that much," Mr. Blades said. "We have to factor in the cost of the base."
The reproduction, six years in the making, will have an appropriate final resting place, said one enthusiast.
"We need to fortify the base. Then the statue will be installed on the south side of the courthouse facing Flagler Street," said Frank Lopez Del Rincon, an administrator at Rock Granite USA in Miami.
"The statue is to be positioned on the steps of the plaza," said Mr. Iverson. "There is a gap in the fence. The statue is to be set in the space left in the protective fence."
Its installation was never contingent upon the courthouse restoration project, said Mr. Lopez Del Rincon.
"Its implementation doesn't hinge on completion of that project," he said.
The pioneer's legacy went beyond transportation, Mr. Blades said.
"Mr. Flagler invented modern Florida," he said. "Besides the infrastructure, he brought agriculture and tourism, which are still the main legs of the state's economy."
"Mr. Flagler was an entrepreneurial individual," said Mr. Lopez Del Rincon, "up there with the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and Hearsts of this world."
Before he died in 1913, Mr. Flagler had spoken prophetically.
"He said, 'My friends up north want to do a statue of me,'" said Mr. Blades, "'with the inscription "pro bono publico" - a damned fool.' His legacy is that he took on the single most ambitious infrastructure project by an individual although he didn't expect to turn a profit."
Efforts to commission a $200,000 statue of Julia Tuttle, credited with turning Miami into a city, get under way this month while a $300,000 reproduction of the founder of Coral Gables, George Merrick, is to be unveiled next month.