[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: South Florida History: Cape Florida and Fort Dallas

Monday, February 25, 2008

South Florida History: Cape Florida and Fort Dallas

This is Part 2 in the series on South Florida History. You can check out Part 1 here.

(Much of the information contained below courtesy of the book Miami: Then and Now by Arva Moore Parks and Carolyn Klepser).

Although Miami wasn't officially incorporated until 1896, the first-known permanent structure was built back in 1825 on Key Biscayne. Most of us know it as Cape Florida Lighthouse, although to Cuban-Americans it is affectionately known as El Farito (the little lighthouse).

Lighthouse circa 1923 (picture courtesy of USCG)

The lighthouse has had a tumultuous history. The Seminole Tribe, much more aggressive than the native Tequesta, burned the lighthouse down in 1836 in protest of American occupation of Florida. After it was rebuilt from 1847-1855, Confederate guerillas destroyed the lens during the Civil War. The beacon remained dark until 1867 when it was restored. The lighthouse was eventually retired from "official duty" in 1878 upon the installation of Fowey Rocks Light about 5 miles to the south. The structure was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, five years after it was purchased by the State of Florida. Dade Heritage Trust began a restoration process in 1988, which was delayed and almost completely undermined by the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Andrew completely leveled the non-native Australian Pines that once inhabited Cape Florida, and an extensive restoration and re-planting project was undertaken. The result is native vegetation and a much nicer area. The lighthouse reopened to the public in 1996, just in time for the Miami Centennial. The beach surrounding the lighthouse is one the best local beaches, IMO, due in large part to a more family-friendly atmosphere and lack of wave action.

A few years after the lighthouse was built, another structure was built in response to the Seminole uprising. Fort Dallas was initially established as a military post in 1836 on the north bank of the Miami River.

Map of Miami in 1849 with Fort Dallas (courtesy of University of Miami History Photo Archive)

The U.S. Army eventually added two stone buildings after taking over the facility in response to the Second and Third Seminole Wars in 1849 and 1855. Interestingly enough, the first use of one of the buildings was as slaves quarters. Some of the buildings on the barracks suffered fire damage and were eventually destroyed. However one of the buildings still remains, a coral rock building believed to be Miami's first such structure, which was moved from the original site to today's Lummus Park on NW 3 Street in Miami in 1925.



Blogger Ms Calabaza said...

Thanks for these posts on Miami history. Bravo!

1:47 PM, February 25, 2008  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Yes, very interesting. Thanks.

9:09 PM, February 25, 2008  
Blogger Dayngr said...

I've yet to see this little beauty in real life but I'm looking forward to it one day.

10:26 PM, February 25, 2008  

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