Miami History

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Miami's History

The area presently know as Miami, was the settlement of the Tequesta Indians prior to the arrival of the first European settlers.  The first European settlement did not occur until the early 1800's.  The first permanent settlement occurred along the banks of the Miami River after the conclusion of the Seminole Wars.  Dade County was founded in 1836 and was named after Francis Dade, a soldier who died in the Seminole Wars.  In 1842, William English established a plantation on the site of Fort Dallas which he named the "Village of Miami."

In 1886, Charles Lum built the first home on Miami Beach alongside his 165 acre Coconut Plantation.  In 1891, after the death of her husband, Julia Tuttle moved permanently to a citrus plantation she purchased in the Miami area.  While in Miami, Tuttle worked with William Brickell, owner of a local trading post, to persuade Standard Oil Magnate Henry Flagler to extend his Florida East Coast Railway South to Miami; Flagler declined.  In 1895 after a terrible winter freeze which killed all citrus crops north of Miami, Tuttle was able to persuade Flagler to extend his railway south by sending him an Orange Blossom which was unaffected by the frozen temperatures experienced across the state.  The Florida East Coast railway was extend into Miami in 1896 and regular service began in April of that year. 

On July 28, 1896, the city was officially incorporated with just 444 citizens.  In 1897, Flagler's extravagant Royal Palm Hotel was completed along the north bank of the Miami River and quickly began drawing visitors from the Northeast and Midwest.  Nonetheless, Miami grew at an exceptional rate, through a period known as the land boom.  On July  25, 1905  Miami Streetcar Service began with a single car operated by the Miami Electric Railway Company.  Around 1911, Glen Curtiss established a flight school in Miami near present day Opa-Locka.  Development spurred westward as canals were built to drain Everglades lands.  Villa Vizcaya was constructed between 1914 and 1916 by James Deering and involved 10% of Miami's population at the time in order to construct the mansion.  Miami's downtown boomed, witnessing the construction of the Everglades Hotel (1925), Miami News Building (Freedom Tower, 1925), Olympia Theater (1925), Seybold Building (1925), and Roney Palace Hotel (1926) among others. In 1920, Streetcar service linked Miami Beach with the mainland via the county causeway and in May 1926 between Miami and Coral Gables via Coral Way.  The University of Miami was founded in 1925 in Coral Gables by a group of citizens.  The great hurricane of 1926 brought an early start of the Great Depression, killing nearly 400 people, leaving thousands more homeless, and driving tourists away.  The Royal Palm Hotel was damaged beyond repair and was torn down in 1930.   The Miami Courthouse was completed in 1928, using plans for a courthouse originally designed for Atlanta and also served as jail and city hall. 

In 1933 an Assassination attempt on Franklin Delano Roosevelt occurred in Bayfront Park by Giuseppe Zangara.  Zanagara's shot missed Roosevelt, hitting Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak who died two weeks later of his injuries.  The Miami Streetcars rolled for the last time on November 16, 1940.  During World War II, due to extensive German U-boat activity along the Florida shores, the US Military established extensive training facilities on Miami Beach.  Miami Stadium was built in 1949 to house the Miami Sun Sox of the Florida International League.  

In 1954 the Fontainebleau Hotel, designed by Morris Lapidus opens on the former site of the Firestone Estate.  The Eden Roc Hotel, another legendary Miami Modern (MiMo) Hotel opens next door to the Fontainebleau in 1956.  In 1956, Dade County became the first county in the state to become a home rule charter county.  The 1959 Revolution in Cuba which brought dictator Fidel Castro to Power, was the beginning of a mass exodus of Cubans to Miami.  By the end of the 1960's, over 400,000 Cuban refugees resided in Miami.  Over 3,000 "freedom flights" were conducted by 1973 bringing more than 150,000 Cubans to the city.  In 1960, Dade Junior College  was founded as the area Community College. 

In 1972, Florida International University began as the area's first full four year accredited university.  By the 1970's the county population had grown to well over 1 Million inhabitants and in 1976, preliminary studies began on Metrorail, the area's first rapid transit system.  The McDuffe Riots in 1979 divided much of the city when an all white jury acquitted a  group of white policemen on the murder of Arthur McDuffe.  In June 1979, Construction of Metrorail began by the University of Miami in Coral Gables.  Metrorail was completed in 1984 and featured an elevated people mover system in city's central business district.  In 1984, the Stephen P. Clark Center was completed in downtown as the seat of the County Government and central Metrorail train station. 

Miami From the Bay (c. 1905)

Downtown Aerial (c. 1913) 

Millionaire's Row Brickell Subdivision (c. 1915)

Downtown Aerial (c. 1920)

Downtown after the Hurricane of 1926

Downtown (c. 1927)

Panoramic View of Downtown (c. 1927)


Miami Courthouse Construction (1927) 

Biscayne Boulevard in the Late 1920's

Miami and Brickell Key (c. 1928)

Miami Aerial Looking North (c. 1928)

View of Miami River, Downtown, and Islands (c. 1930)

Downtown from Biscayne Bay (1939)

Miami Stadium (1949) Demolished (2001)

Miami Beach  Fontainebleau Hotel Under Construction around the Firestone Estate (c. 1954)

Aerial Looking South at the proposed Miami Herald Building site (1959)

Burdines' Christmas Display (c. 1960)

Looking North on Biscayne Boulevard (1962)

Looking North along the Florida East Coast Railroad and Downtown Train Terminal (1962)

Central Business District (1960s)

Central Business District (1970s)

Looking West from Biscayne Bay (c. 1971)

Bicentennial Park's El Nuevo Mundo Sculpture (1977)

Aerial of Port (c. 1977)

 Looking Northeast (c. 1980)

Christo's Pink Islands (1982)

Metrorail River Crossing, November 3, 1983

Metrorail (1983)

Metrorail (c. 1984)