This is a project for Roam Coliving. We’re building a global network of communal living spaces. Learn more about us on Medium here and here.
We’re about to open a space in Miami in May in one of the city’s most historic properties. We want to tell you a little bit about its history
In the beginning, there were just two buildings on the river of what became Miami.
It was 1892. The widow Julia Tuttle lived on the north bank of the river and the storekeeper William Brickell lived on the southern edge. Although the modern image of Miami is tied to its beaches, its roots are by the river. Even the word, “Miami,” is derived from a similar sounding word that local Native Americans used to describe “sweet water.”
At the time, none of the condos. None of the resorts. None of the sprawling suburbs. None of it was there.
There was a chicken-and-egg problem. No one wanted to build a railroad to the south without customers or settlers. Then, of course, no one would settle in South Florida without a railroad. Ingraham ultimately was not successful in his expedition.
But a longtime business partner of Standard Oil’s John Rockefeller was. His name was Henry Flagler, and Tuttle would eventually convince him to build his railroad to the bottom part of Florida, kicking off a speculative real estate boom in the 1920s that gave rise to modern Miami.
Tuttle tried hard to lure investors to her community. She offered to give up hundreds of acres of land to induce Flagler to build his railroad south. She wrote to a friend:
“It may seem strange to you but it is the dream of my life to see this wilderness turned into a prosperous country and where this tangled mass of vine, brush, trees and rocks now are to see homes with modern improvements surrounded by beautiful grassy lawns, flowers, shrubs and shade trees.”
Ultimately, it was a great frost in the North of Florida that gave rise to Miami. Tuttle proved to Flagler that her settlement on the river was below the frost line, so he agreed to build 60 miles of track to the south from Palm Beach.
Once it was finished, five hundred voters elected to incorporate the city in 1896, triggering a mini-boom. New residents and tourists began arriving by the train load and turn-of-the-century grand hotels were built to accommodate the Rockefellers, Astors and Vanderbilts.
Our coliving location in Miami is a more modest set of buildings that were built between 1908 and 1914. Its earliest residents included James C. Smith, a doctor, and William C. Eberwine, a milliner.
The river at that time was both a recreational destination and a working river with starch mills, boatyards and docks filled with lumber and fruit for trade.
Now we’re helping to bring it back to life again.