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  1. #1
    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    Default Local History and Trivia General Discussion Thread

    This thread is to discuss all things related to Miami and Miami Beach and Broward history. Please stay on topic and enjoy!

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    rk
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    Maria, thanks for starting the thread. The topic is incredibly broad, but I'll start things off with a bit of history/trivia about the origins of Pine Tree Drive:

    In 1908 John Collins planted a double row of Australian pines (Casurina equisetifolia) to protect his young mangoes and avacadoes from salt ocean winds. By 1915 these were already a hedge over two stories high. In 1920, when Jane Fisher (wife of Carl Fisher) went riding there, the old cart track was a bridle path between rows of tall and almost stately trees, and five years later, when the old man's (meaning Collins') orchards were made into subdivisions, the former windbreak was impressive enough to be made into a wide shaded avenue. As Pine Tree Drive it still survives today - the trees being one of the few authentic links with the not-so-distant path.

    The above is paraphrased from a book I read recently: "Billion-Dollar Sandbar" by Polly Redford (Dutton, 1970). It's an excellent account of the early history of Miami Beach.

    I don't know if any of the original trees still survive. In fact the Australian pine is not even a true member of the pine family.

  3. #3
    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    What a great topic to start with! I love it because it ties in something we can actually see.

    Are those not Australian "pines" that border the drive today? I thought they were. Whatever they are, they are still very tall and make it one of the most beautiful drives on Miami Beach. I've seen raptors perched up high there, looking for prey.

    I wonder if Casa Casuarina (Versace Mansion) was named after the pseudo-pines.

    They are all over certain areas of Coral Gables and South Miami too ... this may have coincided with the planting of maleleuca, another non-native species.

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    rk
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    I'm sure those are Australian Pines (Casurina E.) along the drive, but probably not the ones originally planted by John Collins. The average lifetime is supposed to be about 40 to 50 years, but then again I don't know what the std. deviation is, so maybe some are the originals...

    The Casurina (aka "She Oak" or sheoak) is native to Australia and South Asia, and is considered an invasive plant in Florida. All three species found in S. Florida (where their numbers have quadrupled in the last 12 years) are classified as "noxious weeds" by the US Forest Service.

    They certainly are graceful tress, though not a member of the pine family.

    I never thought about how Casa Casurina got it's name. It's probably safe to assume it's named after the tree. Here is what I learnt:

    The mansion was built in 1930 by Alden Freeman (one of the heirs to the Standard Oil fortune) in 1930. It was modeled after the "Alcazar de Colon" built by Christopher Columbus’ son Diego in Santo Domingo in 1510. Reportedly one of the house’s cornerstones contains original brick from the “Alcazar de Colon”.

    The mansion fell into disrepair, and at one time you could rent rooms there for $1 per night (vs $1200 today).

    Versace bought it in 1992 (for $3 million, and spent another $33 million improving it), and next year he purchased and demolished the hotel to the immediate south (corner of 11'th and Ocean) to put in a pool. The name of the hotel escapes me at the moment, but there was a very spirited and public debate about it at the time, with the preservationists eventually losing their case in part because the hotel was built in 1950 (I think the "historic" designation applied to buildings built in 1949 or earlier).

    Apparently the name "Casa Casurina" is original to the house since when it was built, in 1930, though it was know as "The Amsterdam Palace" for a while after 1937 when it was operated as an apartment building.

  5. #5
    Gus
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    Default The Mystery of the Miami Circle

    Great thread, Maria!

    Here's a piece of history some of you may not know - The Miami Circle.

    "In the Heart of Downtown Miami, between the skyscrapers and hotels lies a mystery..."



    July 1998, downtown Miami, Florida. Six apartment blocks have just been demolished, to allow the construction of two brand new 40-storey skyscrapers. As construction workers prepare the site, they notice a strange phenomenon in the ground - a perfectly preserved circle of large holes, almost 13 metres across. What they had stumbled upon would generate huge excitement and controversy: either they had unearthed a rare and mysterious 2,000 year old Indian site - or a 1950s septic tank or an ancient inverted American Stonehenge or a unique Mayan village in North America. For a while theories ranged far and wide. But finally, after examining the strategically-placed holes, and the range of artefacts found around the circle - stone tools, shark bones, axe heads - archaeologists began to believe that this was a genuinely unique site - the remains of a mysterious forgotten tribe called the Tequesta.

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    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    Thanks RK! Once it again, it is a total pleasure to read your posts.

    Gus - yes of course, the Miami Circle! A park was supposed to be built there ... I went to a community meeting at the Historical Museum last year about it. I haven't seen any new construction there though. I will ask my friend, who is a curator there.

    By the way, the Historical Museum of South Florida is changing its brand - now it will be called Miami History. I'm waiting for a press kit.

  7. #7
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    Default Miami History

    FYI Maria

    don't know if you've had a chance to stop by and check out my new blog devoted to Miami's history.

    MiamiArchives(dot)blogspot(dot)com

    I rely heavily - but not exclusively - on the old issues of the Miami News archived on Google.



    bill

  8. #8
    rk
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    Default New world record at Indian Creek

    bill: very interesting new blog. Keep up the good work.

    Since we were talking about Indian Creek in the other thread (Where are the city's statues?) I thought I'll add something about boat racing on Indian Creek.

    Boat racing was introduced to Miami in a big way when Carl Fisher and his wife Jane started spending winters here from Feb 1910 (they only spent a week on their first visit, but after that Fisher bought a house on Brickell Ave, sight unseen, and spent several winters in the area). Fisher was always interested in racing, starting with bicycles and moving on to cars (he built the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909). It was no surprise that he became interested in boat racing during his winters in Miami and (later) Miami Beach.

    One of Fisher's friends and fellow boat enthusiasts was Gar Wood, who had made his fortune in Minneapolis and came to Miami in 1916, and with Carl Fisher, made Biscayne Bay famous for boat races.

    In 1931 Gar Wood did something that had never been done before: he drove his boat over a mile long course on Indian Creek at over 100 mph. No one had ever traveled over water at that speed before.

    The feat (in March 1931) is described in the May 1931 issue of "Yachting" (online at http://www.lesliefield.com/races/193...ub_regatta.htm)

    Here is an excerpt:

    "It was about eleven o'clock when Commodore Wood signalled the timers that he was ready to begin his two official runs, one in each direction. He took a flying start of less than half a mile and as he crossed the starting line, the time was recorded on the tape of the electric timing machine. Down the course he came, straight as an arrow, faster than any boat had ever been driven before. Steady as a locomotive, with not the sign of a jump in the boat, he approached the end of the mile in less time than it takes to tell this. Click went the timing machine recording the end of the first run. Only a moment was necessary for Mr. Porter to read off the time which had been recorded on the tape. 35.73 seconds he announced, equivalent to 100.756 miles per hour. A mighty cheer went up from the crowd — one hundred miles an hour in a boat, the speed mark sought for years and years had been made."

  9. #9
    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    That is a great story, RK! I had no idea. Thanks for posting that. I'll think of it as I pass by every time. And to think it is such a quiet creek today, really, with only the rowers seen practicing.

    Bill - I am aware of your site. Great job!

  10. #10
    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    Since we are on the topic of Indian Creek, the general mid-beach area and we've already discussed the Casuarina trees, I wonder how many of the royal palms we see today were planted by Fisher's Japanese landscape architect. His parcel and nursery was located not far from where I used to live, just near the waterway off Meridian Avenue and 41st street. The greenery in that neighborhood is by far the best on the beach. I remember walking under an ylang ylang tree one sunset that wasn't even blooming but was somehow still fragrant. This was on the swail -- not on private property. It would be interesting to know which trees were from the first generation of Fisher's overhaul, turning this mangrove barrier island into a tropical paradise with imported exotic plants.

    Royal Palm Avenue, of course, is the best place to see the majestic trees and Arthur Godfrey Road is lined with them -- beautiful, but major sidewalk hazard!

    (I started an old thread about royal and coconut palms here: Royal Palm and Coconut Trees - Be Careful!)

  11. #11
    rk
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    Maria, yes, interesting how so many trees got their start thanks to the Japanese gardener hired by Fisher.

    Did you ever post a review of "Blueprint of an Eden"? It has many photos of historical interest.

    Re. Indian Creek, if only trees could talk! I'll post another boat racing episode from there next time.

    Speaking of Fisher, you all may recall that Carl Fisher first came to Miami in Feb 1910. He only spent a week, but liked the weather so much that by the next winter he bought a house (named "Shadows") on Brickell Avenue, sight unseen, and spent most of his subsequent winters in the area.

    I recently came across the oldest mention of Fisher in a Miami newspaper. It is from the Mar. 1, 1912 issue of the Miami Metropolis:

    Name:  Fisher-Early_mention-Maimi_Metropolis-Mar-1-1912.jpg
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    The Hudson Motor Company of Detroit was an important manufacturer of cars since 1909, and cars with that name were produced until 1957. Many safety innovations we take for granted today were first introduced by Hudson, including dual brakes, generator charging light, and an oil pressure gauge. In 1954 Hudson merged with Nash Motors to form American Motors Corporation (AMC) which most will remember later merged with Chrysler in the mid-1980's. There are some photos of Hudson's on the wikipedia page:
    Hudson Motor Car Company - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Interesting footnote about that notice from the Miami Metropolis. It turns out there was no one named "Lloyd Chapin" connected with Hudson Motors. The chairman of Hudson Motors was actually Roy D. Chapin, who was later also the U.S. Commerce Secretary. I can only assume that the reporter who posted the above story in 1912 was working off handwritten notes, and misread "Roy d Chapin" as "Lloyd Chapin".

  12. #12
    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    What an interesting side note, RK. Thank you!

    Yes, that must've been a typo.

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