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This exhibit explores the Tamiami Trail’s history, culture, devastating impact on the Everglades, and plans to mitigate that extensive damage. This multi-media interactive exhibit features photographs, historic documents, artifacts, and film.

February 20 - April 28, 2018
Collier Museum at Government Center

3331 Tamiami Trail East, Naples, FL

About the Exhibit

The Collier Museum at Government Center presents Trailblazers: The Perilous Story of the Tamiami Trail, a travelling exhibition originally presented by the Coral Gables Museum and previously on display at the Keys History and Discovery Center. This exhibit will explore the Tamiami Trail’s history, culture, devastating impact on the Everglades and plans to mitigate that extensive damage. This multi-media interactive exhibit will feature photographs, historic documents, artifacts and film. Curated by Jon Ullman.

About the Curator
Jonathan Ullman
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Jonathan Ullman has been building coalitions and organizing activists to restore the Everglades for the Sierra Club for 17 years. He organized a broad-based coalition to build the River of Grass Parkway, a 6.5-mile collection of bridges across Tamiami Trail to restore water flow to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. His advocacy on the campaign to raise US-41 helped result in the first raised mile and an additional planned 5.5 mile of bridging. Ullman is highly-knowledgeable about climate impacts to South Florida and the Everglades and is an accomplished writer and blogger. He is also highly-experienced in media outreach. Ullman spent most of the 1990s working with activists to successfully stop a major commercial airport in Homestead between Everglades and Biscayne National Parks. Before joining the Sierra Club staff in 1998, Ullman served as public relations supervisor for the Miami Museum of Science and Space Transit Planetarium. He has also worked as a journalist in Washington, DC, for the Voice of America, Jack Anderson’s Washington Merry-Go-Round investigative column in the Washington Post, and has also written articles for The Miami Herald. Bringing his professional skills from prior careers in public and media relations as well as news reporting has allowed him to bring an articulate and passionate voice for Everglades restoration and climate action.

The 274.33 mile long Tamiami Trail passes through seven counties. The longest and toughest stretch – 76 miles or 28% of the road – was built across Collier County. Manatee County has the shortest bit to build, just 18 miles.
The idea for building a highway to connect Florida’s east and west coasts originated in 1915 with Dade County’s tax assessor, Captain J.F. Jaudon. The name proposed was a contraction of Tampa and Miami. For a time, the spelling Tamyami was discussed, adding the “y” for Fort Myers.
Construction on the section south of Naples was started in 1916, but came to a standstill in 1921. Barron Collier revived the project two years later. By 1928 his local employee payroll amounted to over $1 million a year.
A bonus system, similar to the plan used to build New York City’s subway line, speeded up road construction from .7 miles to 1.1 miles per month. The record was two miles built in one month.
Reports that work crews had struck quicksand in January 1925, sparked fears for a time that the road would be abandoned.

The 31 mile stretch from Carnestown to the Dade County line had to be blasted out of solid limerock and piled up again to form the roadbed. The resulting causeway formed the longest dike built outside the Netherlands.
Work on the Tamiami Trail alone used up a railroad boxcar of dynamite every three weeks for three years, moving Florida up from the 15th ranked consumer of dynamite in the nation to 3rd place by 1927.
Despite the heat, 7-foot rattlesnakes and hazardous conditions, no lives were lost building the Trail across Collier County.
Seminole Indians proved invaluable as guides and were given free bus fare on the Trail until World War II.
The Trail’s first traffic accident occurred just hours after the road was officially opened when a dozy driver fell asleep at the wheel and flipped his car over.
For many years, the most popular tale of wildlife vengeance on Trail travelers involved a 300-pound brown bear that charged headlong into a New Jersey motorist outside Naples in August 1930. A panther repeated the attempt in 1931, ripping off an Orlando visitor’s rear fender.
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