History of Miami Beach (Then & Now)

Thursday, October 24, 2013 | Art Deco District, Miami Beach Real Estate, Miami Miscellaneous, South Beach Real Estate | Posted by Sunny Isles Miami Beach Real Estate

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Miami Beach Then & Now

Thousands of years ago, the Tequesta Indians inhabited the land that is now Miami, Florida, and it was not until 1566 that the first Europeans came to the area. Pedro Menendez de Aviles claimed the land for Spain, and they quickly established a mission.

Many development sites have found the remains of these original Miami settlers. In 1821, the Spanish flag was lowered and the Stars and Stripes were raised over Florida. Enterprising ship wreckers from the Bahamas came to South Florida and the Keys in the early 19th Century, to hunt for the riches & remains of an international array of ill-fated shipwrecks that crashed onto the Great Florida reef. At about the same time, the Seminole Indians arrived along with a group of runaway slaves. The United States built Fort Dallas to use as a base while fighting the Second Seminole War from around 1835 to 1841. They fought to stay here in Florida, and the areas soon a war zone from 1836 to 1857, with most non-Indian residents being soldiers stationed on the Miami River at Fort Dallas. Some of the soldiers and a few frontier settlers gave Miami the beginning of a new foreign born population. At war’s end the majority of Indians were driven into the Everglades.

The area’s greatest changes came thanks to a visionary Cleveland, Ohio widow named Julia Tuttle who purchased 600 plus acres on the north bank of the Miami River in 1891, moving her family into the vacant and abandoned Fort Dallas buildings. Within four years, Tuttle, who was known as the “Mother of Miami” convinced the Standard Oil co-founder Henry Flagler to extend his railroad on into Miami, build a new luxury hotel and lay out a plan for this new town known as Miami. The railroad soon arrived and the City of Miami was incorporated on July 28 of 1896. At that time, it had a population of only 300 people! The city was starting to grow though, and it was growing rather quickly.  World War II brought another 100,000 residents to Miami Beach when the Army Air Corps and the navy established major military training centers. Many of these servicemen made Miami their permanent homes after the war. By the end of the 1950’s, South Florida had then doubled its population.

Greater Miami never lacked in fast forward thinkers including John Collins (from New Jersey) and Carl Fisher, who together in 1913 embarked on an agriculture venture on a small area of oceanfront beach and started a bridge across the bay. John Collins constructed a rickety wooden toll bridge known to be the longest in the world. It would be the first connection of Miami to Miami Beach. In 1925 the Biscayne Bay Improvement Company bought the bridge from Collins and replaced it with the Venetian Way, a series of arched bridges linking a chain of five islands plus the already existing Bull’s Island (renamed Belle Isle) to the Beach. And so Rivo Alto, San Marino, San Marco, DiLido, and Biscayne Island referred to as the Venetian Islands were born. Once the Venetian Causeway was complete, the isles became an even more fashionable place to spend the winter for rich northerners, exactly the people that Miami Beach co-founder Carl Fisher of Fisher Island hoped to attract. From there they could be endlessly entertained thanks to showman Fisher’s public relations stunts. He introduced manned gondolas to float around the waters, and he coaxed boating mogul & competitor Gar Wood to stage speedboat races in the bay. Part of the oldest remaining causeway in South Florida, the 85+ year old Venetian is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. These days it spans the city of Miami at 15th Street to the city of Miami Beach at Dade Boulevard.

Miami Beach Real Estate

“The Beach” was big from the turn of the century all the way through 1925 when the market started to weaken. A hurricane followed a year later, and then the Great Depression took some of the steam out of Miami during the 1930’s. After World War II, the growth of Miami started again. Miami Beach FL was then born. Nicknamed “The Magic City” and the “Gateway to Latin America”, Miami is the 44th most populous city in the U.S. Stretching ten miles distance, these connected islands, which were named the “Sun and Fun Capital of the World” by Jackie Gleason, are separated from Miami by a 3 mile expanse of the shimmering waters of the Biscayne Bay. Since the early days of the Honeymooners and “away we go,” this Atlantic coastline community has undergone a “sand lift” which restored this land of paradise to its tropical glory and caused another major development boom since the 80’s.

The famous Art Deco Historic District features streamlined modern architecture as well as Art Deco styles in the one square mile vicinity that contains these famous treasures. Miami Beach, known for its Millionaire’s Row, burst onto the International scene in the 1990’s spanning Collins Avenue from 44th to 59th Street and was known as ‘Miami’ to the world. The affluent & celebrity corridor represented the Billion dollar sandbar on postcards, magazine covers and travel posters all through the 1950’s and 60’s. Its movie set resorts played host to all the big stars of the postwar period from Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley to Lucy Ricardo. By the late 1960s, however, the bloom was off the rose. Millionaire’s Row became a symbol of over development on the Florida coast, and its retirees denizens became the butt of national jokes.

Fidel Castro took over Cuba in 1959 and no one dreamed that this revolution would change Miami as much as Cuba did. Many Cubans came to Miami to escape Castro’s regime. The Cuban exiles were now just beginning to pour into the area bringing the next Miami with them. The 1960’s to the 80’s brought mind blowing change as more than a half million Cuban exiles fled to Miami to start a new life. These innovative refugees launched this area into its future as what many call the “Capital of the Americas.” The greatest influence leading the city’s modern day personality & diversity came with the arrival of Cuban refugees that began in the late 1960’s. They settled in an area dubbed as Little Havana, where salsa music blasts, men play dominoes in the park and breezes carry robust whiffs of café con leche. Miami´s overall cuisine and arts scene swing Cuban, blended with other Caribbean influences. The city has seen its vicissitudes, from natural disasters to political strife, but things really began looking up in Miami, despite the economic debacles.

The 1980’s and early 90’s brought a multi-billion dollar cocktail of investment capital that produced a modernized transportation infrastructure, an amazing new Miami downtown skyline, a rebirth of Miami Beach and a new way of life for residents that features the culture, arts, sports and entertainment all with an international accent. Although it has changed way beyond recognition, Miami Beach has thrived among the changes and overcome many difficulties. Along the beach, the sunlight gives way to an array of neon lights with Miami Beach´s renowned nightlife. For decades South Beach has been a favorite social scene for A-list celebrities, as rooftop lounges at boutique hotels offer plush sofas and savory martinis, while nightclubs promise late nights with music from international DJs.

In the 2000’s, this City started to embrace its new identity as a cosmopolitan city full of fun & life. Luxurious high-rise buildings, aggressive new developments, Art centers and the influx of new people into the area from every walk of life have all helped to make Miami the happening place to be and an amazing place to live. Part of the appeal of Miami Beach is due to the celebrity influx into the city with actors, movies and TV shows portraying Miami as the ultimate playground. The wealthy and the famous love to party in the city which helped make it more attractive to the younger crowds in recent years. Every playground has its sandbox and Miami Beach boasts a seven mile oceanfront sand box bordered by the bright blue Atlantic Ocean waters perfect for beach volleyball, kite boarding, snorkeling, jet skiing, boating and soaking up the Florida sun.

South Beach

It will always be the first location tourists think of when considering Miami, new areas have become ever so popular such as Sunny Isles Beach incorporated in 1997 and resting on the Northern shoreline of Miami Dade County. Russia, Latin America, Canada, France, Asia along with U.S. snowbirds come to enjoy this family friendly location offering parks, great restaurants and incredible shopping destinations. To its east is the great Atlantic Ocean and to the west is the Intracoastal Waterways. The tiny enclave of Golden Beach is to the north and Haulover Park is to the south. The City is midway between Miami & Fort Lauderdale and offers easy access to Miami International, Ft. Lauderdale and Hollywood International Airports.

Miami Beach 1921

The history of Miami is still being written. It’s a great time to come to the Magic City and become a part of it!

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