As I write this article, the city of Miami concludes an unprecedented week of celebrating its rich history through the prism of an ambitious 125e anniversary celebration. I was heavily involved in the city’s memorable centennial celebration in 1996, and never considered the prospect of a 125e. But here we are, and what a celebration it has been!
In our previous column, we looked at the accelerated pace of Miami’s development en route to its incorporation as a city on July 28, 1896. Businesses began to open in early 1896, housed in wood-frame buildings along of Avenue D, the first street in the city, which is today’s South Miami Avenue. Julia Tuttle’s Hotel Miami, although unfinished, opened its doors to guests that spring. A few blocks northeast of the Miami Hotel, Flagler’s posh Royal Palm Hotel was starting to rise.
On April 13, 1896, Henry M. Flagler’s long-awaited railroad entered Miami, a landmark event greeted, said to be, by hundreds of people in a community that had a double-digit population a year earlier. . In early May, the Bank of Bay Biscayne, the colony’s first bank, opened. Later that month, the Miami metropolis, his first journal, began to publish. A weekly published every Friday, the newspaper, despite its hyperbolic name, was an important voice in the magical city until its demise in 1988.
In its inaugural edition, the Metropolis noted that lots owned by the Brickells on the south bank of the Miami River had recently been put up for sale. The newspaper also complained that the community did not have a bridge spanning the river, forcing residents on the north side of the narrow stream, eager to pick up their mail at the Brickell trading post, hail a ferry and pay. a ten-cent toll to reach it. .
Visitors and new residents continued to flock to Miami, already seen as a place of opportunity, a land to be started over. Among the first was Captain TH Abbott, a resident of New Bern, North Carolina, who wrote a letter to his burgeoning community family in early June 1896. Abbott informed them that âwe are got here last night (after visiting Key West earlier)â¦ There has been a big change in this place since we were here three months ago so there were only two houses and two families now there are twelve hundred (1200) people here, a railway, about 25 stores, two gospel tents, a large hotel almost finished, several small ones, a floating hotel, besides several floating restaurants, a press office, a cooler and a sawmill, and a legion of small traders of all kinds.
âThree months ago, this area was a thick virgin forest, now everything is cleared, laid out in streets and partially built, the lots are increasing in value and will soon be held at fabulous prices. Mr. Flagler is building what will be one of the finest hotels in Florida (Royal Palm). It will likely be completed in time for next year’s winter trip, it is located on the north side, a few hundred yards from the site of the historic old Fort Dallas, part of which still remains and is the home of Mrs. Tuttle. “Abbott completed his incisive description of Miami by declaring it to be” by far the most beautiful and beautiful site I have seen on the Florida coast. “
At the time of Abbott’s visit, the Miami metropolis, prompted perhaps by Flagler forces, called for the incorporation of Miami as a city. The newspaper argued that the incorporation was important in “making and enforcing the necessary ordinances.” Among the desired ordinances should be one allowing the new municipality to cope with a difficult sanitary situation, in particular âthe elimination of excreta and all kinds of pathogenic products at specified intervalsâ. Another ordinance would be needed to ban “indecent bathing” by workers who bathed naked in the Miami River and Biscayne Bay.
In our next article in this column, we’ll look at the incorporation of the city of Miami on July 28, 1896.
Paul S. George, Ph.D., is a resident historian at the HistoryMiami Museum. He runs historic tours throughout the county and even beyond for HistoryMiami. In addition, he teaches in Miami / S. Florida and Florida History for the Museum. Dr. George has also led, since 2002, tours of Little Havana as part of Viernes Culturales, a monthly celebration, held every third Friday, of the culture and history of this neighborhood. Tours are open to everyone and free!
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