MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Happy 125th birthday, Miami! The Magic City turned a century and a quarter on July 28th, 2021.
As major cities go, Miami has a history like no other.
Boom and bust, winter homes for the ultra-rich, hurricanes, unsung Bahamians who built the town. Later, the beginnings of a tourist town. There’s the drug money and suddenly Miami is the Wall Street of Latin America.
We have a lot to be thankful for. Especially for the city’s founders. The big names, the dreamers, developers. Names like Flagler, Fisher, Merrick and Brickell, but there is one name that stands above all others.
Julia Tuttle is probably the most important person to thank and that is why she is regarded as the “mother of Miami.”
“She had been here since 1891 and had been scheming and strategizing how to make a great city out of the wilderness,” said Miami historian, Doctor Paul George.
The city’s 125th-year celebration is as much a recognition of all that is Miami, but also a celebration of Julia Tuttle’s foresight that without a railroad early on Miami would have remained a frontier outpost nestled in the mangroves along Biscayne Bay.
“She had a vision, her vision was to come down here, look at the clouds, the water, this place can’t miss. All we need is a connection between here and the outside world,” George said.
Her family owned land on the north side of the Miami River. She moved to Miami permanently and purchased even more acreage. She began a campaign to convince railroad baron Henry Flagler to extend his tracks further down the coast of Florida to Miami.
She got nowhere until 1894 when most of Florida was hit with a devastating freeze.
As the story goes and the Tuttle statue, in Bayfront Park depicts, Tuttle sent Flagler fresh orange blossoms to prove Miami was warm frost free.
“This was proof that the blossoms, the freeze had not hit this far south,” said George
Flagler agreed to bring his railroad in exchange for hundreds of acres of land from Tuttle and William and Mary Brickell.
Mary Brickell was Julia’s equal when it came to business. Some consider Miami’s “other mother.”
Flagler promised to build a large hotel to attract tourists and the first train arrived in what was to become Miami on April 13, 1896.
“What better land than where the river meets the bay and the land that became the city of Miami,” said George.
On July 28, 1896, the city was incorporated. A process Tuttle could not participate in because at the time women did not have the right to vote.
Flagler built his Royal Palm Hotel, but Tuttle also benefited. She constructed what was called the Hotel Miami, a huge wooden structure.
Then suddenly tragedy. Julia Tuttle died on September 1898.
“Physicians have second hand analyzed it as either an aneurysm or brain tumor shocking to most people in the city,” George said.
Just over a year later, on November 12, 1899, Hotel Miami burned to the ground.
In time, Tuttle’s memory faded, but she had planted the seed. Layed the groundwork.
Julia Tuttle is regarded as the only female founder of a major American City.
So, happy 125th birthday, Miami would not exist had it not been for Julia Tuttle and strong women like her. It has been quite the ride.