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Juan Ponce de Leon was the first European to explore the Florida coast in 1513, at which time he claimed it for the Spanish crown. St. Augustine, La Florida (as it was then called) was founded in 1565, making it the state's oldest city. As usual, the original inhabitants were overpowered by the more aggressive and better equipped Europeans, and eventually disenfranchised.
In 1763, La Florida was traded with England in exchange for Cuba, and the territory was divided into the colonies of East and West Florida. In 1783, the area was returned to Spain after England's defeat during the American Revolution. La Florida remained a Spanish territory until 1821, when the young United States of America purchased it for $5 million. By 1830, Florida had a population of almost 35,000, though clashes with the native Seminoles continued for several years.
As time passed, the population grew, and Florida became the nation's 27th state in 1845.
West Palm Beach, Florida, owes its history as a tourist area to oil tycoon, Henry Morrison Flagler who, after visiting Florida in 1882, imagined the potential for tourism there. Interestingly, the community of West Palm Beach was originally created for the servants working at two grand hotels, located on the nearby island of Palm Beach.
Flagler built the hotels and began buying up railroads. In 1890, he had a bridge built over the St. John's River, facilitating the development of southern Florida. His Florida East Coast Railway extended past West Palm Beach and eventually all the way to Key West. The Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, created in his honor, is located at Whitehall, his former home, and West Palm Beach's coastal drive bears his name.