AUTHORS WEBSITE WWW.FLORIDASBIGDIG.COM
A native of Fort
Lauderdale, Florida, William G. Crawford, Jr., is the author of numerous
articles on Florida’s Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, has written scores of
others on Florida history, and is an acknowledged expert on the waterway’s
history. He has appeared as historian on the History Channel’s Modern Marvels
documentary on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.
A Fort Lauderdale
attorney for more than thirty years, Crawford is past chair and a longtime
member of the Broward County Historical Commission, past president and a trustee
of the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, historian of the Lauderdale Yacht
Club, and the City of Fort Lauderdale’s 2004 Citizen of the Year for his efforts
in preserving the city’s history. He is a graduate of the University of
Virginia and the Stetson University College of Law.
Crawford has lived in
Fort Lauderdale, a city straddling the Intracoastal Waterway, his entire life
and when not practicing law, is found rowing his ultra-light one-man shell in
and about the waterway. He and his wife, Dr. Claire M. Crawford, a longtime
member of the Broward Cultural Council, reside in Fort Lauderdale in a home
designed by his father, William G. Crawford, a noted local architect who
practiced architecture there from 1937 until 1978.
Bill Crawford is available for presentations to
historical societies, corporate functions and all groups interested in the
history of Intracoastal Waterway. He can be contacted by e-mail at WILLGENT@aol.com
About the Book
The dream of a waterborne
superhighway that would unite the nation and move its commerce dates back to the
Founding Fathers. Like many outsize dreams, realizing it took decades of
determination, engineering feats, financial wizardry, and lobbying. The
Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIW) now stretches from
Boston to Miami, fulfilling its
purpose of protected passage for ships and boats, serving for commerce in some
areas and recreation along its length.
In this first
comprehensive look at the construction of the Florida portion of the AIW,
Crawford traces the roots of the waterway back to the Founding Fathers, through
the history of the Canal Era and its difficult path in Congress and in Florida's
young legislature as one of the early private-public partnerships, drawing upon
early records and land deeds, and tracking the history of the men who made it a
The story of
Florida's Big Dig resonates with
readers who have followed other major construction projects, be they the
extension of the railroads to the west or the massive ‘Big Dig’ highway network
under Boston. It also serves as a new
window on the evolution of transportation in the
States and the state of
Florida. In this volume, readers
meet the Founders during their quarrels over the proper role of government in
commerce, intrepid St.
Augustine investors in the
Florida waterway whose vision
exceeded their pocketbooks, and New
England capitalists who made
their marks leading many of the nation's major enterprises of the era.
By the time the waterway
was completed in the 1930s, it was obsolete for its intended purpose because
railroads and highways carried the freight once envisioned moving by barge and
ship. Still, it played a major role in the safe passage of commerce along the
Atlantic Seaboard during World War II. Today, it promotes recreation and one of
Florida's major economic
engines, the boating industry.
Although this volume is a
work of scholarship that pulls together original documentation from sources
around the United
States and in
Canada, it also is a tale of an
inland passage for seafarers and a yarn of the men and machines that would
reshape nature for human uses.
FROM THE Palm Beach Daily News, November 17th, 2009
By MICHELE DARGAN, Daily News Staff Writer
'William Crawford was looking for some research on the Intracoastal Waterway and asked an historian if there was a book about it.
"He said, 'Why? Would you like to write one?' " Crawford said.
That was 10 years ago.
Crawford authored Florida's Big Dig: The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville to Miami, 1881 to 1935, published by the Florida Historical Society in November 2007.
Crawford was the first speaker Tuesday in The Prologue Society's 2009-10 season at Northern Trust Bank....'
click here for the continuation of article on the Palm Beach Daily News website
FROM THE SUN-SENTINEL, JUNE 3, 2008
| South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Lawyer and amateur
historian Bill Crawford wasn't looking for a book project, but one found
In researching Broward County's legal past, Crawford needed
information on an island once said to be owned by mobster Al Capone. So he asked local historian Rodney
Dillon if there were any books on the Intracoastal Waterway.
don't you write one?" Dillon replied.
"I said, 'Well I'll think about
it,'" Crawford recalled. "Ten years later the book comes out."
Florida's Big Dig: The
Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville to Miami, 1881 to 1935 was published by the
Florida Historical Society in November, the first book to tell the story of the
waterway that shaped the state and made South Florida a boating
And it was penned by a self-described "dry land sort of
In May, the society, acting on a decision by three independent
judges, named it the year's best book on Florida history. The 400-page volume
was featured as an editor's choice in the June issue of Southern Boating magazine, and about 900
copies of the initial 1,000 press run have been sold.
"The simple fact is
nobody has ever done a history of the Intracoastal Waterway," Nick Wynne,
director of the Florida Historical Society, said from his Cocoa office. "This
was an area of Florida's history that had not been explored
Crawford, 58, Fort Lauderdale, is hardly a serious boater,
though he does traverse the Intracoastal Waterway in a rowing shell. And while
he had written numerous short articles for historical journals, he was at a
disadvantage when it came to writing a full book.
"Writing is something
that never came easy to me," he said. "I had to learn to write and then I had to
learn the historical method."
In other words, don't recite dates, but
tell a story.
There came a decade of weekends spent writing, and
vacations that morphed into research excursions. Crawford's inquiries stretched
from Dublin to New Zealand, and resulted in box upon box of background
Though writing was a challenge, Crawford did have one edge: His
lawyer's eye. "I read a lot of legal documents," he said.
advantage was his wife, Claire, who helped with research queries and to whom he
dedicated the work. "There is no way I could have written this book without
Claire," he said.
The result was a heavily footnoted, scholarly tome that
also could appeal to boaters familiar with the Intracoastal Waterway. "It isn't
a quick read; it's a very weighty book," Crawford said.
"Often you get
books that are both scholarly as well as popular, and Bill's book certainly does
that," Wynne said.
"He's very thorough, meticulous and logical," said
Paul George, Miami-Dade College professor and widely known area historian. "He
has shed new light on a topic that hasn't been studied to this degree
Crawford will continue with his historical research: "It's not a
hobby, it's a passion."
He may revisit a favorite topic: desegregation of
Fort Lauderdale beaches. But another book is not on the immediate horizon.
"Books are hard to come by; they take a long time to write," he
Crawford's book is available on Amazon.com and at Bluewater Books on the 17th
Street Causeway. It also can be found on the Web sites of most major bookstores,
but not on their shelves. Still, the nonprofit historical society is working to
meet the demand.
"We're already making preparations for a reprint," Wynne
Robert Nolin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or