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Florida’s Great Freeze

January 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

By Phineas Upham

1894 was a rough year for Florida. It suffered two extreme cold fronts that devastated crop production for the year. The first occurred in December, and was relatively mild when compared to the second. The storm spared most mature trees, but that only made the impact of the second storm worse. This is unique because December was actually colder than February of 1895, measuring 18 degrees Fahrenheit.

Nearly all citrus froze a year later as temperatures plummeted to the 26 degree mark. To put things in perspective, the state was producing over six-million boxes of fruit each year before the “Great Freeze.” After the event, production fell to a mere 100,000. The county wouldn’t hit one million boxes sold until 1901.

Land values tumbled.

This is part of what fueled the real estate boom that occurred in the 1920s. Citrus growers had taken their stock North, Julia Tuttle being a notable example as she founded the city of Miami. Real estate investors saw opportunity there, especially after the land’s value as an “island paradise” was being played up by developers.

The influx of cash drove up property values, except there were no settlers to stay.

Florida continues to struggle with events that disrupt the production of citrus. It has become one of the most efficient places in the world at dealing with cold fronts, and it produces more citrus than any country in the world except for Brazil. The Great Freeze took its toll, but the event had implications that lasted into the present.

About the Author: Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phineas Upham website or Twitter page.