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Miami History

Florida was admitted to United States as a State on March 3, 1845 (27th State), and the city of Miami was founded on July 28, 1896.  From the beginning, Miami’s rich sub-tropical abundance, its sun, sand and beautiful beaches have attracted seekers and dreamers. The Tequesta Indians found this land more than 10,000 years ago and had it all for themselves until the Spanish “rediscovered” it again in the 16th century.

In the 19th century, wreckers from the Bahamas came to South Florida and the keys to hunt for the remains of an international array of ships that crashed into the Great Florida Reef. At about the same time, the Seminole Indians, along with a group of runaway slaves came to Florida.
In 1891, a plucky widow named Julia Tuttle moved to Florida and purchased 640 acres of land on the north bank of the Miami River. Tuttle later talked wealthy railroad builder Henry Flagler into extending his railroad into Miami, building a luxury hotel and laying out a new town. These developments resulted in the birth of a new city.

As a result of these developments, thousands of new comers arrived in Florida. Even then, Miami had a very diverse population; people with a variety of cultures, from every part of the world flocked to this new city. Miami’s first mayor was an Irish Catholic. Most of the early merchants were Jewish. African Americans and Black Bahamians made up one-third of the City’s incorporators. Despite vast developments Miami fell into a deep depression three years earlier than the rest of the nation.

After the 1926 hurricane Miami didn’t stay down for long. Its resilient spirit brought it out of the 1930’s depression ahead of the rest of the nation. This happened in part due to the aviation industry. During the depression, Pan American Airways began the era of modern aviation with “Flying Clippers” from Miami Dinner Key. Even then, Pan Am advertised Miami as the “Gateway to the Americas”. Today, the Pan-am terminal is the home to City of Miami officials: City hall.

Countless men and women who trained in Miami during World War II hurried back to South Florida after the war creating another period of phenomenal growth. Despite all of this development, Black Miamians were still waiting for their own dreams to come true. Segregation of the races was prescribed by both law and custom as the order of the day. Even the color of the beaches was clearly defined during this period as separated.

As a result of this segregation, Overtown developed a unique identity and a sense of pride in its people. So teachers, administrators and staff of all public schools were integrated.

When Fidel Castro took over Cuba in 1959, Miami’s history took an unexpected turn. In a single decade, more than a half million Cubans fled to South Florida. In about four months, 125,000 refugees arrived in Miami. As they stayed and prospered, they helped transform Miami into a true connecter to Latin America.

During the 1980’s, our city experienced days of racial tension. A wind of rage, hate and fear blew over the city. At least 18 people died and more than a thousand were injured. Another sort of wind blew over Miami on August 24, 1992. Hurricane “Andrew” lashed South Florida leaving death and destruction behind. Once again Miami overcame the nightmare.

Three years later the City of Miami fell into the worst financial crisis of its history. To help the City survive, the state government created a supervisory board to watch over the municipal services. At the time of this fiscal catastrophe, major bond-rating services reduced Miami’s ratings to junk.

At the beginning of the 21st century, things started to change for the better. Since 2001, the credit ratings have been steadily increasing and now the city is at an all time high level standing with all three of its credit-rating firms.

A six-capital improvement program valued at more than 500 million dollars has been designed to bring sweeping infrastructure enhancement to every neighborhood in the City. The plan includes storm water sewer and drainage projects to mitigate flash floods during the rainy season.

More than ever before, our parks have become a vibrant place for families to enjoy together. The summer programs in addition to sports have many other options for kids with artistic talents.

Our Neighborhoods are more secure thanks to the “Quality of Life Task Force”, a combined effort of different municipal departments. This specialized team has been able to enforce the law and eradicate many illegal activities, as well as, remove thousands of abandoned and untagged vehicles from our streets.

Looking to the future, we have “Midtown Miami” a 1.2 Billion commercial and residential development to be built in the Wynwood area, close to Little Haiti, Overtown, Allapattah and the Design District. Miami Midtown will be the cornerstone for the creation of jobs and economic development in those areas.

History proves that the spirit of Miami’s dynamic, vibrant people always remains strong. Let’s be proud of our rich history and keep working towards a bright future.

Timeline of Significant Events

Date Event
1870 Henry and Charles Lum purchase 165 acres on South Beach for 75 cents acre for the purpose of planting and harvesting coconuts.
1886 Charles Lum builds the first home on Miami Beach at the site of the present Tides Hotel
1894 The coconut venture proves unprofitable for the Lums. They move off the Beach, leaving the plantation in control of John Collins.
1896 John Collins arrives from New Jersey to survey his land on Miami Beach.

July 28 – The City of Miami was incorporated.

1903 The Army Corps of Engineers dredge the first opening to the Atlantic Ocean, cutting through mangrove swamps at Government Cut. The project allows for a safer, more direct access to the port of Miami.
1917 Miami Beach changes its status from a town to a city.
1918 Mac Arthur Causeway is completed connecting the mainland and 5th Street.
1926 A terrible hurricane struck Miami. As a result 100 people lost their lives and thousands of homes were destroyed.
1959 Fidel Castro takes over as leader of Cuba and the exodus of Cuban refugees to Miami begins.
1970’s After decades of civil battle, school segregation was finally defeated.
1973 Miami Dolphins complete undefeated season and win the Super Bowl.
1980 Miami experienced its worst immigration wave during the Mariel boatlift which brought 140,000 Cubans to Florida.
1992 August 24 – Hurricane Andrew hits south Dade County causing $30 billion in damage.
1997 Gionni Versace’s is murdered on the steps of his Ocean Drive estate, Casa Casuarina.
2000 Miami Beach named #1 Urban Beach by Surfrider Foundation.
2001 January 18 – Morris Lapidus dies in Miami Beach. (Architect for Fontainbleau and Eden Rock in the 1950’s)

Interesting Facts on the City of Miami


  • Miami-Dade County area: 1,955 square miles (3,145 square kilometers)
  • Elevation: 12 feet (3.6 meters)
  • Miles of Beaches: 15+


  • Subtropical climate with year-round sunshine
  • Annual average daily temperature: 76 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius)


  • More than 800 parks
  • Biscayne National Park
  • Everglades National Park
  • Crandon Beach County Park
  • Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
  • Consistently in Dr. Beach’s top 10 Best Beaches in the U.S.
  • Award-winning tennis and golf
  • Water sports (parasailing, windsurfing, wave-running, jet-skiing)


  • Miami-Dade County population: 2.4 million+
  • Ethnic breakdown: White 69.7%, Hispanic 57.3%, Black 20.3%
  • Median household income: $31,531


  • 35 municipalities including Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami, the City of Miami Beach and Bal Harbour Village.


  • 460+ hotels and motels and nearly 50,000 rooms


  • Miami International Airport: 33.5 million travelers, 3rd in U.S. for international passenger traffic
  • Port of Miami (Cruise Capital of the World): 3.5 million annual passengers
  • 36 taxi companies, 1,827 taxi cabs
  • 21-mile elevated Metrorail mass transit
  • Metromover 4.4-mile urban loop
  • SuperShuttle airport transportation
  • Passenger rails: Amtrak and Tri-Rail

Professional Sports Teams:

  • Florida Marlins Baseball
  • Miami Dolphins Football
  • Miami Heat Basketball

More Facts About Miami:

  • Miami Beach’s Art Deco District contains the world’s largest collection of Art Deco Architecture (800+ buildings)
  • Miami Beach is home to one of the largest snow skiing clubs in the United States
  • Miami is the Wreckreational Diving Capital of the World, containing Miami over 50 diveable wreck sites—such as ships, oil platforms, army tanks and the Spirit of Miami Boeing 727 jet– sunken to provide artificial reefs for marine life.
  • Miami Beach was dubbed the Sun and Fun Capital by Jackie Gleason when he broadcast his show here in the 1960s. Today Miami Beach is known as America’s Riviera and the Latin Hollywood.
  • Miami Beach is a man-made island that was once a Coconut Grove Plantation.
  • Julia Tuttle, — the “Mother of Miami” — convinced Standard Oil co-founder Henry Flagler to extend his railroad from central Florida to Miami, build a luxury hotel, and lay out a new town. She did so by sending him perfect Miami orange blossoms during a crop freeze north of Miami. The railroad arrived in 1896. The City of Miami was incorporated on July 28 that same year.
  • Miami is home to the world’s only Everglades eco-system, made famous in Marjorie Stoneman Douglas’ book The River of Grass.
  • Miami is home to 150+ ethnicities and 60+ languages
  • The popular television series “Miami Vice” made its debut in 1984. On July 28, 2006, “Miami Vice: The Movie” will be released in theaters nationwide. The film stars Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx. Memorable films made in Miami include: “Something About Mary,” “The Birdcage,” “Goldfinger,” “Scarface,” “True Lies,” “2 Fast 2Furious,” “Bad Boys,” “Bad Boys 2” and “Out of Sight.” Miami’s unique sport of Jai-Alai features pelotas which are recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as traveling up to 75 mph.

What the Media is Saying About Miami

The global press love Miami, ranking it as a top hotspot for romance, great beaches, nightlife, shopping and recreation/fitness. Here are only a few recent accolades:

  • American Express Travel agents ranked Miami as #3 destination in U.S. for families (2006)
  • Miami’s Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne ranked #8 in USA Today’s Dr. Beach Top 10 Beaches list in 2005 (also rated a Top 10 U.S. Beach by in 2004).
  • Self magazine named Miami #3 Fittest City in U.S. in 2005
  • MovieMaker Magazine ranked Miami #7 best place in U.S. to film
  • AOL/Travel readers ranked Miami in 2004 as: #1 for Meeting Someone New, #3 for Clubbing, #5 for Romance and Outdoor Recreation/Exercise, #7 Ideal Hotels & Resorts, #7 for People-watching, #8 for Shopping and #9 for Places to Take in Views.
  • Modern Bride ranked Miami #10 in U.S. for Best Honeymoons in 2004
  • USA Today ranked South Beach #1 for Best Beaches for Nightlife and Haulover Beach as #1 for Best Clothing-optional Beaches in 2004
  • Travel Channel ranked South Beach as one of Top 10 Best Beaches in the World.
  • Miami ranked #1 Best City for Doing Business in Latin America by America Economia magazine in 2002.
  • Miami No. 7 in ranking of movie-friendly cities by MovieMaker magazine 2005.
One Comment leave one →
  1. October 23, 2010 12:46 PM

    Wonderful post about Miami history. I am not a native of Floria,but I am very intrigued by its history. Especially, the group of natives, who had this wonderful tropical paradise to call their home.

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