[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: South Florida History: Founders

Monday, March 03, 2008

South Florida History: Founders

For Part 1, click here.

For Part 2, click here.

Part 3 will focus on a few key people who started Miami down the path to where it is today. These names are familiar to all South Floridians, even if some have never heard of the people behind the names.

Julia Tuttle: the name that graces one of our causeways (a.k.a. I-195) connecting the mainland to Miami. Julia Tuttle, a widow, moved with her children to Miami from Cleveland in the 1890s. She purchased a citrus plantation, which would eventually be the key to bringing the ever-important railroad to South Florida (more on that later). Legend has it that right after a bad freeze in 1894, Tuttle sent Henry Flagler a bloom from one of her citrus trees to show that the freeze hadn't affected Miami. To make a long story short, the railroad eventually came to Miami, and the city was incorporated in 1896. Tuttle died in 1898. Her dream of turning a wilderness into a "prosperous country" indeed became true.

William Brickell: Miami's Brickell district, including Brickell Avenue, is named after another Clevelander. William and his wife Mary arrived in Miami in 1871 and opened a trading post and post office on the south side of the Miami River where the Brickell district currently resides. They eventually bought tracts of land from Coconut Grove to the Miami River. Brickell and Tuttle are known as the co-founders of Miami, and their land purchases opened the door for Flagler to bring his railroad down to Miami.

Henry Flagler: Flagler Street divides north and south streets in Miami-Dade County, but if it wasn't for the man himself, Miami's founding would have been delayed significantly and its progress altered. Flagler, coincidentally enough another resident of northern Ohio, was already well-known for being a founding partner in Standard Oil. He eventually became involved in the railroad and hotel resort industry, opening up resorts farther up the Florida east coast as far as the railroad tracks went. After that fateful 1894 freeze, he was convinced to bring the tracks all the way down. Shortly after Miami's incorporation in 1896, he opened the Royal Palm Hotel, Miami's first resort. An interesting side bit: city leaders wanted to name the fledging city "Flagler", but Henry Flagler declined and offered up "Miami".

Royal Palm Hotel

Flagler deserves a post dedicated entirely to him, and I'll eventually get to it.

John Collins: The original Mr. Miami Beach, and yes the Beach's main drag is named after him. Miami Beach 411 has a nice write-up on Mr. Collins here.



Blogger Ms Calabaza said...

I am loving these posts.

10:19 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger nonee moose said...

Robert, these are great posts. Miami history is little known, but there are some great stories.

FYI, check Tuttle's year of death.

9:25 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Robert said...


Tuttle was pretty old when she died, wasn't she? ;)

Year of death corrected.

10:14 AM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Ms Calabaza said...

By the way,

do you know where the Royal Palm Hotel was located? When was it demolished?

One of my pet peeves about my hometown is that Miami just razes everything and there are few historic buildings. That really is a shame.

5:20 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Robert said...

The Royal Palm Hotel sat on the grounds of the DuPont Plaza Hotel, on the north side of the river, which was itself razed a few years ago to make way for high-rise condos.

The Royal Palm was demolished in 1930, after suffering extensive damage in the 1926 Hurricane. I'll likely do a more detailed post on the hotel in the near future.

Part of the reason why so many historic buildings in Miami haven't survived is because we're still a pretty young city. Nevertheless, there's a lot out there that's been conserved, you just have to know where to look.

7:01 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Ms Calabaza said...

thanks. I had thought it was actually across the river from Dupont Plaza on the south side...

9:52 PM, March 04, 2008  

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