Hamilton Disston, real-estate developer in central Florida, purchased four million acres of state land in 1881. The amount of land transacted, larger than the state of Connecticut, is the largest purchase made by a single person in world history. He became the largest landowner in all of America. Disston’s purchase and his efforts to drain the Everglades from central and southern Florida triggered the state’s first land boom with many towns and cities established through the area.
Disston was an incredible businessman and an outstanding real estate marketing genius. Before I tell more of his story, I want to connect this article’s title to present day business marketing. Our family business is located on Disston Avenue in Tarpon Springs, Florida, one of those many cities he established. We are a very successful marketing firm and are located on Disston Avenue, an avenue of marketing success.
Hamilton Disston was a successful businessman in Philadelphia before coming to central Florida. His family business was the largest manufacturer of saws in the United States in the mid 1800’s. In 1877, diplomat Henry Shelton Sanford invited Disston to go on a black bass fishing trip in Florida. This trip showed him that enormous tracts of land could be reclaimed for agriculture by using canals to drain Florida’s Lake Okeechobee.
The state of Florida was in financial trouble due to mismanagement of a trust fund controlling 15,000,000 acres of state owned land. Hamilton bailed-out the state in 1881 with his purchase of 4,000,000 acres at 25 cents per acre. The impact of his purchase was tremendous. In four years following his purchase, four times as much railway was added than in the 20 previous years. Land sales became very lucrative and the state’s taxable property value doubled. About 150,000 tourists came to Florida during the winter of 1884 alone.
To further attract people to the state, Disston opened real estate offices across America as well as England, Scotland, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Denmark. Hamilton drew people to Orlando and the major cities of Sarasota and Naples, Florida grew out of land he sold. His million dollar record size land purchase reshaped the state of Florida and I am proud to be on his avenue of success.