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Biscayne Tales: the Miami History Podcast
17 minutes | Feb 7, 2017
Home to more than 70 art galleries, retail stores, shops, bars, and restaurants, not to mention all the street art, graffiti, and hipsters your heart could ever desire. Wynwood has a rich history starting in 1913 when it was dubbed Wyndwood. The neighborhood grew to become a working class area and eventually even became know Little San Juan when Puerto Rican immigrants made it their home. After ups and downs, by the early 2000s the arts scene was starting to take root in the area and the rest is history.
34 minutes | Aug 29, 2016
The Tequesta and their ancestors lived in South Florida for over 3000 years. These people used all the natural resource available to them, the ocean, the bay, the tree hammocks, and the Everglades. As with many other Native American groups the arrival of Europeans would soon spell the end of their culture. Even though they had over 3 millennia of history in the area not much remains of the Tequesta now, but that doesn't mean they are forgotten.
27 minutes | Feb 21, 2016
The Mother of Miami
Julia Tuttle, the Mother of Miami, saw the promise of a sleepy outpost of civilization tucked between Biscayne Bay and the Everglades. Her vision helped create the city of Miami. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Julia's life was heading toward the mundane but the death of her husband forced Julia into the role of bread winner for her family. Unafraid of using her connections to some of the wealthiest in the United States, Julia worked hard to connect the Miami area to the rest of Florida. In the end because of her tenacity and a little help from one of the worst freezes in the history of Florida, Henry Flagler decided it was time to bring his railroad to Miami.
32 minutes | Aug 31, 2015
Less than 20 miles from Miami are a group of islands that seem like a tropical paradise (excuse the mosquitos please). These islands are the Upper Florida Keys, the ones not connected to land by the Overseas Highway, but once upon a time there was a plan to connect them and turn these pristine islands into "The Next Miami Beach." Along with that dream was born Islandia, an incorporated city inside of today's Biscayne National Park. We discuss the history of this area and the colorful characters that crossed its path over the years.
18 minutes | Feb 25, 2015
The Half Moon
On nautical maps of Biscayne Bay, just out side Bear Cut (a narrow waterway that separates Key Biscayne and Virginia Key), there is feature simply labeled “obstruction.” That term belies the rich history of the ship that rests under the waves on that shallow shoal. The Half Moon, or Germania its original name, has a rich history linking many of the seminal events of the 20th Century. From the raise of nationalistic Germany to WWI to Secret government plots and rambunctious Miami of the 1920s the Half Moon saw it all. After its sinking the ship, and the story, was lost to history until recently. In the 1980s and 1990s the ship was rediscovered and interest in its story lead to it becoming an Underwater Archaeological Preserve and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Journey along as we see the historical sights on this ship that has been waiting for 85 years to make its next voyage.
31 minutes | Dec 30, 2014
Miami's First Christmas (1896)
Just months after its incorporation Miami celebrated its first christmas with hope for the bright future that was too come. With christmas sales at local stores, increased tourism, famous guests, and construction all around that first christmas would be a good precursor for all others to come after it, except that this holiday season disaster struck. The christmastime fire of 1896 leveled the business district, made local legends into heroes, and changed the layout of the city in ways that can still be seen today.
22 minutes | Oct 19, 2014
Ghosts of the Biltmore
With Halloween creeping around the corner, we check in with the ghosts up on the 13th floor of the Biltmore Hotel. Strange happenings have long been whispered about in that historic hotel. Founded in 1926, the building was converted into a military hospital at the outset of World War II before sitting abandoned for fifteen years. Long-passed mobsters and wounded veterans are said to still wander its haunted hallways. Our guide to the Biltmore is Linda Spitzer, once its official storyteller (yes, that's a thing) and still its unofficial cryptkeeper. Monthly crowds once packed the hotel lobby to hear Linda, a professional storyteller for over 25 years, speak of its paranormal past. She shares with us the stories behind the ghosts she met and the stories she heard during her time there. Happy Halloween.
35 minutes | Sep 14, 2014
At the tail end of the 19th century, Miami was a healthy city, nearly doubling its population each year since the railroad had come in. Then the fever came. From the first rumours of an outbreak in Key West, Miami was on high alert: yellow fever was the scourge of cities at the time, especially those on the edge of the tropics. So when one recent emigre was diagnosed with yellow fever, everyone knew what it meant. As more cases were confirmed positive, the nascent city was in a panic. Miami's first doctors, racing to prevent the spread, were eventually compelled to institute a quarantine. For weeks, only a select few - the Immunes - could enter or leave the city. Armed guards patrolled the perimeter of the city and manned makeshift guard towers. Meanwhile, the besieged residents could only read the list of victims posted outside the drugstore and pray they avoided the same fate. Very little was known about the causes and treatment of yellow fever at the time, leading to remedies of dubious efficacy, including whiskey enemas to cocaine. For better or worse, Miami would be one of the last cities to enjoy those treatments. The root cause of yellow fever the following year and a vaccine was developed several decades later. Still, the disease remains endemic in much of Africa and South America.
24 minutes | Jul 27, 2014
The Surf Club
The Surf Club, most famous of Miami Beach's Jazz Age private clubs, first opened in 1930. Founded as an alternative to the stuffy Bath Club and the downmarket Roman Pools, it was housed in an ornate high-Renaissance building on a then-empty stretch of beach. Over time, the glitteratti and social elite flocked to the club, attracted to its reputation for exclusivity and opulence. It became a favorite haunt for the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor as well as Winston Churchill and the former King Edward VIII. Showing its age after so many festive years, new owners now promise to restore the luster of the venerable Surfside institution. They intend to erect two glass hotel-condominium towers on either side of the original Russel Pancoast design. In this episode, we discuss the Surf Club as it was and the world in which it thrived.
30 minutes | May 12, 2014
Candy-bar salesman, bicycle stuntman, race-car driver: Carl Fisher had lived a full life by the time he turned 20; he was just getting started. The middle-school dropout from a humble Indianapolis home soon parlayed his considerable talent and flair for the dramatic into an automotive fortune. But the next chapter of his life would prove even more unlikely. He poured his fortune and spectacular salesmanship into a dream only he saw, a swampy island just off the coast of a still-new Miami. The automobile-magnate turned developer who would later be called "Mr. Miami Beach" originated much of the structure and especially the spectacle that's come to define the Beach. He financed the first bridges to link it to the mainland, built one of its first iconic resort hotels, and started development of the island which bears his name (and which he later exchanged for a yacht). With help from Rosie the Elephant and tons of other gimmicks, he then set out selling his fantasy to the tourists of the world. Along the way, he created the Indianapolis 500 and built some of the first highways criss-crossing the United States.
15 minutes | Mar 19, 2014
Episode XV - Prinz Valdemar
In 1925, a massive 400-foot long sailing vessel named the Prinz Valdemar pulled into the port of Miami, to a city in the grips of real estate madness. All over Miami, property prices were rising exponentially, creating (and created by) an influx of people and money that overwhelmed the small city. Then, tragically, spectacularly, the Prinz Valdemar capsized in the mouth of the port's turning basin, preventing any traffic in or out. Much-needed supplies waited at anchor off the coast as the craze slowly starved. The Prinz was eventually righted and placed in Bayfront Park, where she stayed there for decades... until Miami's next land boom.
24 minutes | Feb 12, 2014
Episode XIV - Black Caesar
Pirates, treasure, lost boys - it's not Peter Pan but our very own Black Caesar, an escaped slave turned pirate who made his home just off Elliott Key. Not content with just terrorizing the waters around Biscayne Bay, Black Caesar left for the pirate capital of Nassau and on to the crew of the notorious Blackbeard. After a legendary battle with British forces, Black Caesar was eventually hanged. His legend would not die as easily though. A hundred years later another man would take up his moniker and continue his tradition of piracy in the waters surrounding Miami. This later Black Caesar would meet an end far more gruesome than his 17th century namesake. The name Caesar lives on nautical charts and maps of the upper Keys. Many believe that much of the pirate's oft-sought treasure remains buried somewhere in South Florida waiting for a willing adventurer. (But that's just a story, right?)
32 minutes | Dec 12, 2013
We recently had the opportunity to sit down for a talk with Dr. Scott Kenward. Scott is the author of a series of historical articles on the history of Kendall and the surrounding neighborhoods. He is also a lifelong resident of Pinecrest and an active member of its community. We revisit some of the topics first raised in our Kendall episode and others that we never mentioned: the Rare Bird Farm, Chapman Field, and the interesting characters that first settled the region. For more on the topic, check out Dr. Kenward's series of articles, The Birth of Kendall.
43 minutes | Dec 8, 2013
Episode XIII - Jacob Housman
On Indian Key, just off the Overseas Highway, there lies a fallen tombstone marking the open grave of Jacob Housman. Tremendously powerful and immensely corrupt, Housman built a wrecking empire on that small island in the 1830s. His personal rivalries and political machinations resulted in the creation of Dade County, which he ruled as his personal fiefdom until shortly before his death in 1841. After (literally) finding his fortune on the sharp reefs off the Florida Keys, Jacob would live to see it all burned away in the infamous Indian Key Massacre. Hated by many and loved by few, Housman leaves behind a rather mixed legacy. His deceits were made the stuff of legend after his death but at least one of his creations lives on. In this, our thirteenth episode, we discuss Jacob Housman's rise to power and spectacular fall from (dis)grace.
32 minutes | Oct 23, 2013
Episode XII - Kendall
Long before it became the modern suburb it is today, Kendall consisted of little more than citrus fields, scattered homes, a single market, and a regular poker game. Thanks to promoters such as Henry John Kendall, who sold plots in the area to aspiring farmers and pioneering families, a small community took root. Later, a plethora of roadside attractions drew visitors in by rail and by road, many of which stayed to make a home. Vestiges of that old Kendall remain hidden among the new: memories of bootleggers and even Nazi prisoners-of-war linger on its seemingly innocuous suburban streets. In this episode, we try to expose and explore some of that surprisingly rich history.
22 minutes | Sep 25, 2013
Episode XI - Arch Creek
In this episode, we discuss Arch Creek and its eponymous bridge. The limestone formation spanning that shallow North Miami stream was a focal point for South Florida's earliest residents. Treasure-seekers of all kinds met at this crossroads, one of the area's first tourist attractions. However, urbanization would eventually imperil the bridge's very existence.
23 minutes | Aug 29, 2013
Episode X - Fulford Miami Speedway
In February 1926, Miami hosted the fastest drivers in the world at a novel racetrack in Fulford-By-The-Sea, a new development in what is now North Miami Beach. Spectators packed the hastily constructed and heavily promoted Fulford-Miami Speedway, billed as the "World's Fastest Track", to see cars race at more than 130 MPH over rickety wooden boards. The development, the track, and the race were products of an impossibly optimistic Miami then experiencing an unprecedented land boom. Despite the hype, neither the event nor the boom were to last long. In this episode, we discuss what transpired that day and in the months to follow.
41 minutes | Jul 22, 2013
Episode IX - Miami of the Future (1934)
In 1934, as the United States was mired in the Great Depression, the Miami Times was looking into the future. It published a special section conceived as a mock retrospective from the year 1950, then 16 years in the future. Part prediction and part advocacy, the paper imagined what developments might occur with regard to Miami's infrastructure, economy, and civic life. The result is occasionally prescient but often hilariously misguided. We discuss what its authors' concerns tell us about the Miami of 1934, the Miami of 1950, and perhaps indirectly, the Miami of today.
17 minutes | May 29, 2013
Episode VIII - Miami Jai Alai
We track the rise and fall of jai alai, a sport that was born in the Basque highlands but found a home in Florida. Miami eventually became the premier venue for the sport as thousands of spectators came nightly to gamble on "the fastest game in the world". Much sparser crowds continue to watch the game's best play at Miami Jai-Alai, now augmented and subsidized by the casino next door.
22 minutes | May 23, 2013
Episode VII - Cutler Fossil Site
Our seventh episode is 12,000 years in the making. Hidden within a dense hammock north of the Deering Estate, a sinkhole transports us to South Florida's ancient past. The Cutler Fossil Site, discovered in 1979, holds clues about Miami's Ice Age past, from stone tools to giant extinct predators.
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