[page 1]

(ca. 1883) handwritten pencil

A Gulf Coast of Florida
By R.J. Levis, M.D.
From "The Continent."

The season is at hand when those who, like the birds
of summer, take annually their flight southward, will be
thinking of running away from winter. There are many
who seek genial air and sunlit waters for pleasure only,
others to escape from the chilling discomforts of winter;
and the great invalid corps, turning its back on cold and
death when the leaves fall, makes its pilgrimage to sunny
In the choice of a climate for invalids in general, there
are certain health-giving factors which may be summed up
as equability of temperature, purity of atmosphere and compara-
tive dryness.
I regard it as essential for most invalids that the tem-
perature shall be such that they may be able to remain for
an indefinite time out in the open air without discomfort,
and to freely permit it to enter their apartments at all hours
of the day and night.
The general prevalence of bright, clear, sunny days,
with the rarity of cloudiness and a light rainfall, are essen-
tials of a winter health resort for lung diseases. The physic-
ological, and specially the stimulating and cutrophic effects
of sunlight on the human system, are well recognized;
but, owing to the in-door habits of invalids, are too little
The discomfort and depression produced by the preva-
lence of violent winds are familiar to most conditions of
invalidism, and climates of continuous and moderate air-
movements are found to be the most desirable.

[page 2]

An atmosphere of varying electric conditions, with the
Consequent production of ozone, purifying the air and keep-
ing it free from septic germs, is favorable.
A dry soil of sand or gravel, which quickly absorbs and
Filters away the rainfall from its surface, and does not keep
The air moist by evaporation, is an essential of a winter
health resort for pulmonary affections.
The salubrious atmosphere from extensive pine forests,
with their ozone and antiseptic influences, should incline
invalids to the choice of such proximity.
Facility for sea-bathing, at a tolerable temperature
throughout the winter, gives occupation and pleasure, and is
an important adjuvant in the treatment of some morbid
As in incipient and developing pulmonary tuberculosis
and in many other diseases prevalent among the dwellers in
cities, it is essential that there shall be a change of
habits from a sedentary to an out-door life, the region for a
health resort should be one in which there are abundant
opportunities for amusement or for agreeable and profitable
work in the open air. In a region of country where open-
air amusements can be varied by riding, hunting and sail-
ing, and where the scenery is an attractive blending of
vistas of forests and stretches of water, the conditions most
favorable to an out-door life will be most happily presented.
The poorly-nourished victim of tuberculosis should not
be banished to a land where his diet may be impoverished
by the lack of fresh meats and vegetables. If he is where
he can add to his fare by the products of his recreations of
hunting and fishing, then will good digestion be most likely
to wait on appetite.
Agreeable society is an essential of happiness and a pre-
ventive of depression of spirits in the class of invalids who
are obliged to seek winter quarters away from home. Their
associations should not be in a crowded caravansary, where
the halls echo with sad sound of coughing, and the cor-
ridors seem sepulchral with the hoarse voices of sufferers.
Far better is it to find companionship with the woodsman

[page 3]

or the fisherman, and be entertained by their woodcraft or
simple lore of boats, bays and streams.
The ideal winter climate for invalids, embracing per-
fectly all the essentials and suited to the fancy and caprice
of sufferers, may not be found, but it can be approximated
in its most important requisites.
It is evident that in Europe and in this country mild or
warm climates have of recent years grown most in favor as
winter health resorts. In our own land Florida has become
the great winter sanitarium for consumptive invalids, for
the nervous and debilitated, and for valetudinarians of all
degrees, with the prospect of increasing in repute as the
merits of some of its most advantageous localities become
more generally known. My personal observations of
Florida have extended over the regions usually visited by
invalids and tourists, and over a domain of wilderness
beyond the ready access of travelers. The greater part of
the territory of the entire State still remains inaccessible to
invalids, and the tide of travel is mostly confined to the
great water-course of the St. John's River and its vicinity;
but the increased developments of railroads and of the coast
and interior navigation are about to speedily spread travel
over a most attractive sanitary region. That there are
portions of Florida much more suited for winter homes than
those generally resorted to it is the object of this article to
Florida is a land of many waters. It has a coast line
of about twelve hundred miles. Its rivers, lakes, everglades
and lagoons are numberless. It is estimated that from a
fourth to a third of the entire State, varying with the season
of the year, is covered by water. To its extensive and
peculiar water containing and surroundings is due to its unique
and wonderfully mild and equable climate. Florida is our
nether land, which, as Sidney Lanier wrote, by "its penin-
sular curve whimsically terminates our country in an inter-
rogation point." It geographically and climatically resembles
Italy, but its air is more bland and healthful, and its soil
Has even a greater range of productiveness.

[page 4]

No known land is exempt from the liability of its
inhabitants to pulmonary consumption, but in this country
statistics of the last two decades show that the disease pro-
gressively diminishes from our extreme Northern States
southward to Florida. The mortality from consumption, as
compared with all other causes of deaths in Florida, is, by
the census, but 58 to the 1,000; whilst in the State of Maine
it is 258 to the 1,000; Connecticut, 179; Pennsylvania, 142,
and South Carolina, 90.
The low consumption mortality of Florida exists, not-
withstanding the number of Northern invalids who seek too
late its healthy air, only to end their days and add to the
normally very low death rate. The best authority on the
subject, Dr. Kenworthy, of Jacksonville, who has given
much intelligent attention to climate in the cure of con-
sumption and to sanitary statistics in general, believes that
the mortality from consumption among the permanent resi-
dents of Florida actually does not exceed thirty deaths to
the thousand from all causes.
Of the extended seaboard of Florida the Gulf Coast
stretches over seven hundred miles. The climate of this
coast has, in my opinion, more of the essentials of a good
winter resort for invalids tan any other of which I know.
I make this statement after some personal experience over a
large extent of the coast, from much conference with invalids
who have happily tested its merits, and from a comparison
with the thermometric and hygrometric records of many of
the various popular health resorts of the world. The west, or
Gulf, coast of Florida has a temperature more mild, equable
and dry than that of the corresponding Atlantic border. As
compared with that of the much-frequented region of the
St. John's River, in the winter season it is free from malaria-
ous influences, fogs are unknown, and the opportunities and
inducements for an out-door life are far greater. Sidney
Lanier, the poet, whose failing days were prolonged by a
residence in Florida, says that the air of the Gulf Coast is
"milder and dryer than on the eastern coast in midwinter;
and it is to be greatly hoped that increase facilities for

[page 5]

reaching these favorable regions will soon render them
practicable to those who now find the journey too trying."
For the agriculturist and the orange-grower, and for
the gardener who raises early vegetables for the Northern
markets, this coast offers a fertile soil and a climate freer
from destructive frosts than any other part of the penin-
sula. To the capitalist and the investor for speedy increase
in values of lands, it, with the rapid development of railroads
now stretching their competing lines to the fertile hummock
lands and numerous harbors of this coast region, gives
assurance of a flood times of immigration-
"The first faint wash of waves where soon
Shall roll the human sea."
The Gulf Coast has great advantages in its many excel-
lent harbors, and is, in this respect, more favored than the
Atlantic border of the peninsula, which south of the mouth
of the St. John's River, has not a single good harbor. The
best harbors of the west coast are at Cedar Keys, the
Ancolte River, Clear Water Harbor, Tampa Bay, Charlotte
Harbor and San Carlos Harbor; but there are innumerable
inlets, with moderate depths of water, passing in between
the thousands of beautiful islands which border the entire
coast line. These islands or keys are lovely, fertile tracts,
mostly in primitive wilderness, capable of high cultivation,
with a delightful climate, and their only disadvantage is the
liability to partial overflow from the occasional hurricane
tides of late summer or early autumn. Residences on
them can be safely located only on eminences above the pos-
sible reach of the waters, which may rise six or eight feet
above the normal level.
The whole of the Gulf Coast, from Cedar Keys south-
ward, is attentive for health- and pleasure-seekers, but the
southern limit is sharply defined near the end of the penin-
sula by a region so inflicted with insect annoyances as to

render human existence intolerable. How far southward
the coast may be in all respects desirable for winter resi-
dences, my explanations have not determined; but from

[page 6]

Homosassa down as far as the Ten Thousand Islands, a
Region included between the twenty-sixth and twenty-eight
degrees of latitude, the invalid will find a winter climate
presenting the essentials, as I have stated them, of equability
of temperature, purity of atmosphere and comparative dryness.
The mean temperature for the five cold months for a
Period of five years, at the United States Signal Station at
Punta Rassa, about two hundred miles south of Cedar Keys
and one hundred north of Cape Sable, is shown in the
following table:
[table of temperature in Punta Rassa]
Another table shows the maximum and minimum tem-
reratures for the same months in the years 1878 and 1879:
[table of temperature in Punta Rassa]
Here is shown a winter temperature which, with its
well-known equability, renders out-door life agreeable, and
dwelling apartments can always be kept open to the free
admission of air. The winter temperature is rarely so low
as to require even the open wood-fire. The skies, from sun-
rise to ver the tops of the pines and palms to the dip of a red
sunset into the warm waters of the Gulf, are almost always
bright and blue, checkered only by white flying clouds.
The balmy breezes blow mildly and almost without ceasing,
excepting during an occasional lull of calm at the sunset
hour, so that the advantage to health of continuous and
moderate air movement prevails.
As to purity of atmosphere the situation and surround-
ings are extremely favorable. The breezes blow from

[page 7]

either the vast area of waters of the Gulf or from over great
forests of pine, palm and cypress, with their ozonizing influ-
ences. It is due to these agencies and to the remarkable
dryness that an aseptic condition of atmosphere exists.
I have seen venison, game birds and other meats remain for
many days, or even for weks, hanging unprotected in the
ppen air, free from taint, and becoming merely hard and dry
without decomposition.
No claim for the sanitary merits of the Gulf Coast of
Florida will create so much surprise as that of the compara-
tive dryness of its atmosphere. The natural and popular
inference that it has a moist climate must be from a con-
sideration of its vast traverses and surroundings of water,
fresh and salt, and not from the trustworthy reports of the
Signal Service or from personal observation. I am not able
to give a reasonable explanation of the cause of the remark-
able dryness of the atmosphere, admist such a realm of
waters; but that the climate of this coast is comparatively
dry and bracing can be proved by the records of official
observation and attested by the permanent residents of the
region. The following table, from official data, of relative
humidity of some winter resorts of Europe and America
shows particularly well for Punta Rassa, on the Gulf Coast
of Florida, during the five cold months:
[temperature chart of five cold months]
Data supplied by the United States Signal Service
prove that during the five cold months the relative humidity
of Florida, as taken at a number of widely spirited stations
of observation, is less than that of what is popularly called
the "dry winter climate of Minnesota."

[page 8]


The very small rainfall at Punta Rassa during the five
cold months, given in inches and hundredths, from the
statistics of the Signal Service, is as follows:
[rainfall chart]
The mean of the maximum and minimum temperatures
of the water of the ocean bottom, at Punta Rassa, for the
five cold months during five years, from 1878 to 1883, is
here shown:
[ocean temperature chart]
Such temperatures render sea bathing agreeable through-
out the winter and early spring months.
For an attractive out-door life in the winter for invalids
I know of no region equaling the Gulf Coast of Florida,
with its great bays and harbors for sailing, its wonderful
fishing and excellent deer hunting, and for the great abundance
of feathered game in the forest and on the waters. There
is perpetual inducement to spend time in the open air. The
sun does not parch, the winds do not chill, and the atmos-
phere has that indefinable poetic quality called "dreamy."
I have felt comfortable in the bracing air when very lightly
dressed, and not oppressed when heavily clothed. Sea-
bathing is agreeable on the shelly or white sandy beaches
all through the winter. And I have found the water warmer
on the western than on the eastern coast of the peninsula.
The reason that the Gulf Coast has not been more
popularly known as the sanitary resort is the want of con-
venient access and of accommodations for sojourners, but a

[page 9]

Happy change is at hand. Coasting steamers now run into
All of the more important harbors, as those of Anclote,
Tampa, Charlotte, and San Carlos; and railroads are rapidly
being constructed to reach the towns all along the coast.
The want of convenient residences for invalids is now quite
Overcome, and comfortable accommodations can be had in
every village. The hospitality of the people renders the
stay genial and social, and it is a common remark, which I
have happily verified, that in Florida wherever you see a
house you can find a home, for every home seems open to
welcome the stranger.
At a most attractive and salubrious location on the
high peninsula between Tampa Bay and the Gulf Coast, on
the shore of Lake Butler, a beautiful site for villas is being
developed, and a large hotel will be ready this winter for
the accommodation of health- or pleasure- seeking visitors.
This locality can be readily reached by the coasting steamers
from Cedar Keys to the Anclote River, about seventy-five
miles. A railroad tending in that direction, by way of
Waldo, Ocala and Brookville has now reached within a
short stage ride of the coast near Lake Butler. The land
here is much elevated, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico,
Lake Butler and the great Tarpon Spring. The elevation
of this region, which is the highest on the coast, and its
extensive water surrounding, render it most favorable for a
winter resort, and indeed, for residence during t he entire
year. A number of persons from the North are about
erecting cottages on the shores of Lake Butler, so that
abundant accommodations will soon be ready for winter
visitors to this favorable locality.
To all who would escape from the severity and dangers
of our Northern winters and seek a mild, equable and com-
paratively dry climate, free from malarial influences, and
where life in the open air is always practicable and agree-
able, I commend a journey to the Gulf Coast of Florida.

[page 10]

Washington, D.C. January 16, 1883
Statement showing t he mean, maximum, minimum and water temperatures; the
Precipitation, in inches and hundredths, and the mean relative humidity, at Punta
Rassa, Florida, for each month from the commencement of observations to Decem-
Ber, 1882. (Compiled from the records on file at the office of the Chief Signal Officer,
U.S. Army, Washington, D.C.)
Punta Rassa, Florida. - Mean Monthly Temperatures.
[mean monthly temperatures chart]
NOTE - The Daily means are obtained by dividing the sum of the readings at the
Three telegraphic observations by three; the monthly means by dividing the sum of
The daily means by the number of days in the month.
[chart of maximum temperature]
[chart of minimum temperatures]

[page 11]

Average depth of the water at the place where observations are taken, is 11.9 feet.
[water temperature chart]
[precipitation chart]
MEAN RELATIVE HUMIDITY. - (From The Three Telegraphic Observations.)
[chart of relative humidity]

[page 12]


[graphic map of gulf coast of Florida]