Henry Flagler, the oil tycoon who hastened the development of South Florida

In a region that prizes showy monuments to wealth, the lone monument to the man who made it all possible has languished in isolation for decades. A soaring concrete obelisk dedicated to Henry Flagler, the oil tycoon who hastened South Florida's development by building a railroad all the way to Key West, it sits on a tiny man-made island in Biscayne Bay, reachable only by boat or, more typically, Jet Ski. It's neglected. Some want to improve it.

"Flagler," says a preservationist, "is probably the most unappreciated titan of the Gilded Age."

But Paul George, a Miami historian, said that when he mentioned Flagler in a college history class he teaches, "It's all kind of blank stares." Most people know the Miami street named for Flagler, he said, but - perhaps because South Florida's population is so transient - most have only the vaguest idea who the man was.

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