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Category Archives: Miami
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Time magazine called it “the world’s biggest jigsaw puzzle.” A cloister and refectory built almost 1000 years ago as part of a monastery in Sacramenia, Spain was salvaged from a Brooklyn warehouse and the estate of William Randolph Hearst – and reconstructed in Miami. There were 35,000 pieces in 11,000 wooden crates, mixed-up and misnumbered.
In 1925, Hearst purchased the former Cloisters of St. Bernard de Clairvaux with the intention of using it to surround his pool at his California San Simeon estate. Completed in 1141, it was occupied by Cistercian monks for almost 700 years. Hearst’s plan was derailed by an outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease in Spain, causing concern by U.S. officials who quarantined the shipment, burning the hay protecting the carefully numbered and packed stones. Workers must not have been too concerned with any sort of system as they repacked the massive shipment. Read the rest of this entry
You may never have heard of Heritage Parks, but just like brick and mortar buildings, they play an important part in a community’s history. To find out about the seven stunning Heritage Parks in Miami-Dade County, check out my article in Preservation Today, the magazine of Dade Heritage Trust:
If you want to know more about the area’s history (and I hope you will) visit the Trust’s website and sign-up for some of their excellent programs. www.DadeHeritageTrust.org
Pictured: Homestead Bayfront Park
It’s crazy, informative, quirky, and fun, all rolled into one hectic experience.
I look forward every year to The Villagers’ Historic Hunt.
For more than 30 years The Villagers have held their Historic Hunt in various parts of Miami-Dade County. This year, they sent hunters to the far-south Redland area. For those who haven’t explored this part of greater Miami – it’s known for agriculture. The long straight roads are lined with farms and nurseries, many with exotic tropical plants. Here and there are wonderful berry farms and amazing fruit markets. Stopping for a strawberry shake is always at the top of our to-do list when we are anywhere nearby.
But the Hunt didn’t allow any time for malingering – we had just two hours to find 10 sites and answer the clues. Historical gems were still to be found where you would least expect them. We visited the 100+ year-old Redland Farm Life School, Art Deco-inspired Seminole Theater (The Villagers donated funds to restore the iconic marque), and the pink St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church with its gigantic black church bell sitting like a sentry on its front porch.
My favorite find was the Lilly Lawrence Bow Library, now the Homestead Redevelopment Center. To get to this limestone rock building, we drove through the entrance of Pioneer Village – a charming residential area of Homestead I didn’t know existed.
Most hunters were captivated by the beautiful Buddhist Temple (there really was a sign on one of the buildings that proclaimed “Welcome to Buddha Land”). The sprawling campus certainly has an important place in our modern-day history.
We finished in third place, but having so much fun with friends, sharing new experiences, and learning fascinating historical facts, we all felt like winners.
What could be a better combination than food, art, and a beautiful sunny day?
We ventured on a Miami Culinary Tour of Wynwood and played tourist with a mostly local group of new friends. Wynwood is a rapidly transitioning area of central Miami that is home to the now-famous Wynwood Walls, galleries and amazing restaurants. During this walking tour, our exceptional guide Mirka did a great job of keeping the group together while explaining the story behind the iconic art and artists as well as details about the food we tasted. It was a foodie dream. Read the rest of this entry
If you are a history buff, a business expert, or maybe a little of both, you might enjoy reading my latest articles, written for the Dade Heritage Trust’s bi-annual magazine, Preservation Today. Find out what some of Miami’s oldest businesses have to say about their secret of survival.
It’s easy to take things for granted. Many of us never take the time to see what’s in our own backyard.
Miami’s Stiltsville was a unique, raucous, lively, storied, and often infamous, cluster of shack houses about a mile offshore in the middle of Biscayne Bay. Known for both wild parties and old-fashioned family weekends in the sun, Stiltsville was a destination that promised fun and a hint of the unknown.
When I moved to Miami in the 70s, I took Stiltsville for granted, passing up opportunities to visit. The community had rebounded from Hurricane Donna in 1960, and Hurricane Betsy in ‘65. But then, on August 24, 1992 – it was gone. Or at least most of it was gone. What was left after the fierce winds of Hurricane Andrew was mired in controversy and political wrangling. Not considered old enough (50 years) for designation by the National Trust for Historic Places, powerful people wanted the remaining seven damaged structures demolished.
My husband and I were among the fortunate few when we recently visited Stiltsville on a glorious, sunny afternoon, and spent some very special time (with very special friends) relaxing at the colorful Bay Chateau House.
For four decades, our good friends’ family owned home #14, “Haven from Slavin.” I’ve always enjoyed their family stories of weekends spent fishing, swimming and exploring the tidal flats surrounding the homes. Water levels on the flats are 2-3’ and during low tide drop to just a few inches; a perfect aquatic playground. Their three sons, now with children of their own, enjoy an exceptional shared history of their days on the Bay. It’s one of those sons who is now part of a group of caretakers for the Bay Chateau House.
Today, there are no private owners left at Stiltsville. Instead, there is the unusual relationship forged by the Park Service and former owners; the non-profit, public-private Stiltsville Trust formed in 2003. Owners were transitioned to caretakers of this incredible resource. The U.S. Government now owns the entire area, a part of America’s only national park 95% under water, Biscayne National Park. Visitors can see the area by boat, but very few have the opportunity to actually enter one of the homes.
At its height in the 60s, there were 27 buildings, most on pilings raising them about 10’ above the sandy flats. Earliest records indicate man-made structures as early as 1922, and in the 30s Eddie “Crawfish” Walker sold bait and beer from a shack nailed to a barge. Later in the 30s, things got really hopping with off-shore private clubs. Then the Quarterdeck Club had a long run from the 40s until it burned in 1961, but much of Stiltsville’s boisterous reputation is due to the Bikini Club. The Bikini Club, run out of a yacht towed out and grounded in 1962, made quite a name for itself in its short three-year history. Its reputation was for hard-drinking, gambling, nude sunbathing and who knows what else. The club was closed down for operating without a liquor license and possession of 40 under-size, out-of-season crawfish.
Private clubs notwithstanding, most of the stilt homes were owned by private families, who just loved the beauty, freedom and camp-like vibe of the natural setting. Of the seven surviving structures, one is the Miami Springs Power Boat Club started by firefighters, policemen and workers who lived near the airport. The others are known as the Leshaw House, Hicks House, Baldwin-Sessions House, Ellenburg House and A-frame House.
I’m told by locals that Flipper’s famous TV scene going from deck to Bay was filmed at the A-frame House. Stiltsville also had many famous human visitors, including several Florida governors, local judges, Steven Stills, rib-master Tony Roma and Ted Kennedy. It’s been featured on film and in print, including TV shows Miami Vice and Sea Hunt, as well as several books by local best-selling author Carl Hiaasen.
Who knows what treasure will be the next to disappear. Look around . . . while you can.
For More Info:
For a well-done 30-minute documentary produced by WLRN and featuring local expert, professor Dr. Paul George, visit Stiltsville through this link: http://video.wlrn.org/video/2365452261/
Biscayne National Park: https://www.nps.gov/bisc/index.htm
Check out my latest Pinecrest Magazine story: about lost love; or is it?
Magic, Madness or Marvel? Miami’s Historic Coral Castle Just Might be a Little Bit of Each