A Brief History of Flagler Avenue in New Smyrna Beach

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Flagler Avenue in New Smyrna Beach is five blocks from ocean to river and bubbling over with surf shops, coffee shops, spas, art galleries, bar and grilles, unique gift shops, clothing boutiques, a vibrant nightlife and a full calendar of exciting events, but it is also oozing with rich history and oodles of old Florida appeal.

For instance, you can grab a bite and a brew at the Flagler Tavern, which was established in 1928 or enjoy a stay at Flagler Avenue’s Riverview Hotel & Spa, which began in 1885 as a two-story hunting and fishing lodge. Due to the success of the Flagler Railroad, the Riverview Hotel became a popular tourist destination for many northerners who were looking for a warm respite in the winter months. 

In fact, Henry Flagler had a more lasting economic impact than anyone in Florida. Florida was once one of the poorest states, yet today Florida’s economy is larger than 90% of the world’s nations – thanks in large part to Henry Flagler. 

New Smyrna’s Flagler Avenue was named for Henry Flagler who lost his shirt in the salt mining industry after the Civil War when salt was no longer in such high demand. Heavily in debt, Flagler’s luck changed when he worked in the grain business to repay his debts and met John Rockefeller. Flagler became a 25% partner in Rockefeller’s oil refining venture – later known as Standard Oil.

Then, at the advice of their physician, Henry Flagler took his ailing wife to Florida in hopes of improving her condition. He found the area charming, but lacking in satisfactory accommodations and transportation. Yep, you guessed it. Next came the Florida East Coast Railway System and a string of now famous hotels along the route.