An introduction by Times staff writer Jeff Klinkenberg
Times photographer Scott Keeler talks about the diversity on the Trail

Ambition and sweat tamed the Everglades just enough to bring modern life to Tampa and Miami. Now, 75 years later, we speed along a road where civilization runs wild as the alligator.
[Times photo: Scott Keeler]
THE ROAD ROARS ON A truck loaded with crab traps roars across the Tamiami Trail. Then silence, until an opera of frogs begins its nightly chorus.
Listen to a 1960 recording of the instrumental song "Tamiami" by Bill Haley and His Comets, taken from the 45 rpm record Candy Kisses/Tamiami Warner Brothers Record Label # WB5145. The song was named after the Tamiami Trail, where Haley spent time performing in various clubs. The song was written by saxophone player Rudy Pompelli.

Let Us Now Praise A Famous Road: United States 41.

Not the part of U.S. 41 that begins in Copper Harbor, Michigan, and sashays south until it penetrates Tampa. Let us praise the part that starts in Tampa and passes through Gibsonton and Ruskin and Bradenton, creeps through Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples, slithers east into the wilderness of the Big Cypress, Ochopee and the Miccosukee Reservation in the Everglades and blows into Miami, blows into Miami like a hurricane, and congas and rhumbas and sambas through the impossible traffic of Little Havana before petering out a couple miles later at Brickell Avenue, U.S. 1 on your trusty gas station road map.

We call the 275-mile Tampa to Miami stretch of U.S. 41 the Tamiami Trail.

The 75th anniversary of the completion of the Tamiami Trail happens on April 25. It will probably be treated like a local story in much of the United States, though it should be more. The Tamiami Trail, perhaps America's funkiest road, marries shell-lamp Florida with the Florida of pinky rings and dry martinis. It's our version of the famous Route 66, though without the Joad family of The Grapes of Wrath or the Bobby Troup song, (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, which even the Rolling Stones recorded. Who needs Mick Jagger when you got bears and alligators, circus sideshow performers and fine art masterpieces, juicy tomatoes and roasted Cuban pork?

Miami's Capt. James J. Jaudon, who wanted to develop his holdings in the Everglades, thought up the idea of a road linking Florida's coasts in 1916. In Tampa, E.P. Dickey of the Board of Trade seconded the motion and suggested a name, the Tamyami Trail.

"Good heavens," bellowed the editor of the Estero American Eagle. "The name sounds like a bunch of tincans tied to a dog's tail and clattering over cobblestones." But in Miami, William Stewart Hill, a Herald writer, sprinted to his typewriter. Whenever interest waned, he batted out another story.

[Photo: Collier County Museum]
Barron Gift Collier made a fortune in the New York advertising business before moving to Florida. Later, he helped fund the construction of the Tamiami Trail. A County is named after him.

Barron G. Collier, a Southwest Florida millionaire who amassed a fortune in the New York advertising business, bankrolled Trail construction when the state ran out of money. In return, a county was named for him. Collier wanted more than immortality. From his mansion he looked with envy at all that Henry Flagler money over in Miami and plotted a way to get it flowing in his direction. The Tamiami Trail was the pipeline.

Considered among the world's great engineering feats, the Tamiami Trail took a dozen years of sweaty, buggy, boggy work to complete. It took dreamers and schemers and $8-million. It took a lot of dynamite to blast away stubborn rock. It took oxen, especially an ox named Old Blue, to haul stuff through the Everglades. Paul Bunyan would have been there, but he was scared of mosquitoes.

The mosquitoes still await new blood. They'll get it as an ambitious Everglades Restoration Project picks up steam. An important part of the project involves retooling sections of the Tamiami Trail. Of course, people are arguing about it; people always have argued about getting the Trail right once and for all.

Thousands of workers, as tough as corn cobs, built the road. Only one known member of the crew is alive. He is a fragile 95, but his rich memories are intact. Deep in the Everglades, a Miccosukee Indian elder dwells on his sad memories of how the road altered his culture forever.

"Not all changes are good," he says. "It is very hard to live in two worlds." Chapter 1