Sponsored by the Tampa Automobile Club and The Tampa Daily Times, sixteen vehicles, plus the pathfinding car and a press car departed Tampa on November 23, 1909, on a grueling four-day round trip. The purpose of the “run” was to bring attention to the poor quality of roads in Florida, and to urge public officials to make the necessary improvements.
On November 25th, at 5:40 pm, for almost an hour, a steady stream of automobiles began to arrive in Kissimmee at with No. 11 being the first car to roll in and stop at the Graystone Hotel. Mr. H.C. Stanford was the official checker for each vehicle as it arrived and the cars were parked in the Graystone garage for the evening. The hotels were overflowing with aninflux of tourists, who wished to witness the arrival of the vehicles. As a result, the drivers were escorted to the second floor of the old opera house, where accommodations had been prepared.
After resting for half an hour, they were treated to an elegant Thanksgiving banquet at the Graystone, courtesy of the Kissimmee Board of Trade. Speeches were given by the Mayor, Senator Carson, and other officials. The Kissimmee Concert Band performed during the evening’s events. Following breakfast at the Graystone, the motorists began to leave at 7:30 A.M. for the last leg of the journey to Jacksonville.
It would take another six years before construction of The Dixie Highway, running north to south, would begin. It would not be completed in Osceola County until 1919. A gateway welcomes travelers to the area as you cross from Orange County into Osceola County on what is Orange Blossom Trail.
In 1984, on the seventy-fifth anniversary, a re-enactment of “The Great Endurance Run”, was performed. The Osceola County Historical Society erected an historical marker on the site of the former Graystone Hotel. The marker may be viewed in the courtyard of the BB & T Bank on Broadway in Kissimmee, Florida.
Source: “Kissimmee Valley Gazette”; www.waymarking.com
Photo Courtesy: Mike Bast