History of Miami Beach Part 1: The Establishment

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Services for Real Estate Pros

Miami Beach real estate today has become synonymous with glitz, glamour, and the ultimate chic lifestyle.  However, Miami Beach hasn’t always been so luxurious.  From its days as farmland, to its stint as a dilapidated retirement community, to its current transformation into a cultural and entertainment capital of the world, Miami Beach over the years has seen its share of change.

The history of Miami Beach begins in 1870, when Henry and Charles Lum landed on a beautiful stretch of land and hatched a plan to turn the island into a coconut plantation.  They paid $.25 an acre to the federal government for 165 acres of what is today known as South Beach (so named by Lum’s daughter, Taylor).  For those of you that are keeping track, that’s $41.25 in 1870 for what is today some of the most expensive real estate in the country. The first house on Miami Beach was built in 1886 by Charles Lum, who oversaw the plantation from his own private beach.  Perhaps the Lums were a little too relaxed on the beach because they were ultimately unsuccessful in their venture, and in 1894 the Lums left South Beach.   The land was passed to John Collins who used the land again as farmland.  Collins also discovered fresh water sources on Miami Beach, further increasing the potential of the land.

Two new players entered the scene in 1912 when the Lummus brothers decided to set their sights on Miami Beach.  They were already businessmen in Miami when they bought 400 acres of land on South Beach, from John Collins, with the intention of making their own oceanfront city of quaint single family homes.  

In 1913 John Collins undertook a vast project: building a bridge to connect Miami Beach with the mainland of Miami.  Even with investments from prominent residents, Collins ran out of money and couldn’t finish the bridge.  Enter millionaire entrepreneur and land developer Carl Fisher who had both the motive (developing South Beach) and the money ($50,000) that Collins needed.  Fisher loaned Collins the money and the Collins Bridge was finished by June of that same year.  The Collins Bridge was the longest wooden bridge in the world when it was built.  Later, it would be replaced by the Venetian Causeway.

The foundations were set for Miami Beach, but the development of the city was being unintentionally hindered by visionaries competing with each other.  If the city was going to succeed, Fisher, Collins, and the Lummus brothers would need to reach an understanding.

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Rainer
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