of the Halcyon Hotel, long thought of as a monument to its designer,
the dead Stanford White. William Jennings Bryan was receiving
$100,000 a year to deliver his sales lectures for "Miami's Master
Suburb," Coral Gables.
It was a year for innovations. Hollywood had its phosphores-
cent golf ball course. The Postmaster General asked for bids on
the first air mail from Miami and word came that Henry Ford was
considering the operation of an air line to the city with his new
Meanwhile buyers and speculators continued to pour into the
city. The real estate market was a bedlam as salesmen literally
"sold each other." During 1925 Miami issued 7,500 real estate
licenses. The Seaboard Air Line Railway was unable to buy a right-
of-way into Miami until $1,500,000 in cash and land, the result of
a monster mass meeting of interested parties called by the Chamber
of Commerce, was given the railroad.
Toward the close of the year the Federal Reserve banks stiffened
Miami in the Making
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their rediscount rates; the freight embargo continued, many financial
houses began curtailing their loans. Some operators found themselves
obligated for large income tax returns on profits which were still on
paper which the banks now refused to handle.
By spring 1926 the boom was definitely over, despite the pro-
motion efforts that featured Mary Garden in a grand opera presenta-
tion held in a tent. But signs of prosperity and progress were still
everywhere in evidence. Hundreds of structures were completed
and 21 millions of dollars in new building work was under way. The
million dollar senior high school and the Southern Baking Company's
million dollar plant were both about completed. A paving company
was laying 2 million dollars' worth of new streets for the expanding
In September real estate men were still hopeful. The Tamiami
Trail across the State was being rushed to completion. Two huge
dredges were already in the bay preparing to work on a new channel
and harbor. Everywhere were signs of continued activity. Miami
citizens were only vaguely interested when, on September 17, a hurri-
cane was reported off Turk's Island and headed for the mainland.
A gale hit the city that afternoon. As darkness closed in the
storm was over Nassau and, rushing westward, it struck the Florida
coast soon after midnight, closing in on city after city with a force
and fury no newcomer believed possible.
The first onslaughts demolished the power lines and plunged the
city in darkness. The gale whipped weather-recording instruments
from their moorings, scattered lumber piles like so much kindling,
and tore at concrete-block buildings. For nearly eight hours the
wind and rain poured over the city. Day broke and citizens saw
vacant lots where their neighbors' houses had been. Fallen trees,
limbs, bits of lumber and other debris^ littered the streets; all shrub-
bery was blasted and stripped of its leaves.
Abruptly the wind and rain stopped. The barometer stood at
27.75 inches, the lowest ever recorded in the city. People were not
then acquainted with the character of tropical hurricanes. They did
not know that the "core" or "eye" of the storm, then passing over,
was a sharply edged disc of dead calm, or that the concave form of
this disc armed with teeth of typhonic winds was racing toward them.
They left their home to view the wreckage, to salvage their scattered
belongings, or to see how friends or relatives had survived the storm.
Then without warning the hurricane struck again. The wind
that blew from the north in the van of the advancing storm was now,
on the eastern side of the gigantic storm disc, blowing from the
south. Debris that had settled in spots sheltered from the north wind
62 M I A M I A N D D A D E COUNTY
was picked up and rained like bullets upon unfortunate travelers.
Buildings, strained and weakened from the first attack, especially the
hurriedly and cheaply constructed affairs thrown up in the height of
the boom, collapsed like matchwood. The wind tore them in pieces
and hurled the parts against other buildings to create still more
damage. One man reported seeing 32x4 driven, like a stake,
through a 1 2-inch oak tree. The downtown streets were covered
with broken glass, brick, mortar, and cement blocks.
Late in the afternoon the storm passed. People again crept
from their shelters to view the havoc. There was no power, lights.
telegraph, telephone, or other means of communication, and no water.
Sunday morning a makeshift radio station was set up where the
439-foot steel towers of the Tropical Radio station had blown down.
A message was relayed to the outer world through a passing ship.
Headlines on newspapers throughout the Nation screamed of the death
and disaster that had swept South Florida in the greatest catastrophe
since the San Francisco earthquake.
Before count of the dead or estimate of damage could be made,
donations for relief began to pour in to the Red Cross and cooperat-
ing agencies. The Red Cross received more than 3 million dollars.
William R. Hearst sent a special train with one hundred doctors,
nurses, and engineers into the storm area. The late President Machado
sent a gunboat from Havana with a detail of doctors. The National
Guard moved in but there was remarkably little looting and no need
for martial law.
In Dade County 113 known dead were recovered and 854 were
treated in hospitals. In Miami two thousand homes were destroyed
and three thousand damaged. Damage along the water front was
particularly severe as warehouses and piers were leveled. The two
big dredges about to commence work on the harbor-deepening pro-
gram, were on the bottom of the bay. Nearly 140 boats at anchor
in the harbor and in the Miami River were aground.
Nearby towns fared no better. At Fort Lauderdale twelve
hundred homes were destroyed, and thirty-six hundred were damaged.
At Hollywood one thousand homes were gone and two thousand
were in need of repairs. Miami Beach suffered most from damaged
gardens and from 2 to 4 feet of sand the storm left lying in the
streets. Coral Gables suffered least of all.
Recovery was rapid as citizens' committees took charge of resto-
ration with "dictatorial" powers in districts allotted them in accord-
ance with plans developed by Governor John W. Martin and Mayor
E. C. Romfh. In ten days the National Guard was disbanded and
the citizens' committees surrendered the powers that had been con-
ferred upon them. The city, declared a press statement, had returned
The season that followed was one of bitterness and disappoint-
ment. Tourists were definitely afraid of south Florida and many
stayed away. Those who did come saw the scars that remained. The
set-back was a terrific shock. For years mention of the word "boom"
was taboo. City publicity pamphlets and Chamber of Commerce
bulletins, for almost a decade, were hard pressed for cheery and pro-
pitious material. Building construction diminished rapidly while the
permanent population, based on school enrollment figures, somehow
continued to grow. Taxes became increasingly difficult to collect but
the city officials were reluctant to admit a collapse in realty values
or make adjustments in assessments.
The assessed valuation of property declined from a high of
$389,648,391 in 1926 to $317,675,298 in 1928. These figures
dropped to $167,519,892 in 1929, and sank to $97,871,000 in 1934.
Miami, however, had one asset that no man-made institution nor
blunder could destroy: its climate had not changed. Moreover, the
foundation of a great city was already well laid. Dwindling property
values had neither chilled Miami winters nor had the hurricane leveled
its well-constructed buildings.
Under the leadership of the older residents, the city pulled itself
together. It continued to spend large amounts for advertising. There
was a steady trickle of business and some progress. Even in 1932
building permits totaled $1,067,427, and by 1934 they increased to
$2,896,471. Tourist travel continued to mount.
Much credit may be ascribed to enterprises, started long before
and completed during this period. During 1928 and 1929 inter-
ocean mail and passenger air service was extended to Latin-American
countries. The new Tamiami Trail tapped other tourist cities on
the West Coast. The Greater Miami Airport Association was estab-
lished at the time as was the All American Air Meet which now brings
approximately one thousand planes to the city each year.
In 1931 horse-racing was resumed as Hialeah and Tropical Parks
were opened to the public. Chapman Field, which had served as an
army base during the World War, was reopened. The growing Pan
American Airways opened lines that touched the capitals and principal
cities of South America making Miami that year second only to New
York as an American port of entry.
Some of the long distressed property began to change hands on
a still depressed market; by 1935 there was a decided upward swing
in real estate sales and men began satisfying city tax liens with city
bonds then selling at approximately 50 per cent of face value. Tax
64 MIAMI AND D A D E COUNTY
sharks set up offices, bought tax certificates, and foreclosed on prop-
erty which they sacrificed on a steadily rising market.
On; Labor Day a hurricane swept Florida keys killing between
three and four hundred veterans and civilians, most of whom were
employed in the construction of the Overseas Highway. About one
hundred bodies in plain, unpainted wooden boxes, were brought to
Miami for burial when health officials banned further importation.
Relief parties continued to find bodies and down on Matecumbe
the pile of coffins mounted higher and higher under the blazing sun,
and toward the end of the search, identification of remains became
One Sunday afternoon, in the midst of a solemn gathering, a
Protestant minister, a Catholic priest, and a Jewish rabbi, stood before
the long stack of coffins. Together they read the funeral services for
the dead of their faiths. Gasoline was poured over the gigantic pyre,
and a great pillar of black smoke leaped up to darken the afternoon
sun. Matecumbe, well named by the Indians as a "place of weeping,"
had again taken its toll of human lives.
Early in November Miami was visited by another hurricane that
passed over in a few hours. Few people were injured. Most of the
damage was to trees and shrubbery; the streets were cleared in a few
days. Many citizens said the coming tourist season was killed and
that the real estate market would be wrecked for that year; but
Miami, Miami Beach, and Coral Gables enjoyed their best season since
In the four years since 1935, more than 100 million dollars
were spent in building. Vast improvements were made as merchants
installed modernized store fronts. One large industrial firm erected a
1 6-story office structure; and more than ten thousand new residences
Miami's progress was largely determined by its geographical posi-
tion, its resources, and the aggressiveness of its developers. Julia
Tuttle thought Miami might become the center of a great citrus
producing area. The Brickells hoped to make the city the center of
a cigar manufacturing industry. Even Flagler visioned it as a small
winter resort, and was reluctant to install improvements needed by
the expanding population. Since that time various groups have
sought to make Miami an aviation center, a seaport to handle South
American goods, and an American Monte Carlo.
Each of these groups has had some measure of success, and their
combined efforts have overcome many obstacles.
CULTURAL LIFE OF MIAMI
MIAMI'S lusty youth and boisterous sports life are a product
of the crude frontier life it has so recently left behind. The
city's swift rise from a small country town to metropolitan
proportions tends to obscure a concomitant cultural life that man-
ages to flourish in the midst of a continually shifting and hetero-
Most of Miami's citizens were reared in other states and coun-
tries; they have not only a wide diversity of social inheritances but
they come to Miami for many different ends and purposes. Every-
thing is too new and the people are too lately met to have developed
a characteristic form of thought or expression. Many newcomers
found clubs and societies the only outlet for their thoughts and
energies. These organizations multiplied so fast that today approx-
imately 500 of one kind or another exist in the city and from them
a distinctive community spirit is slowly but surely developing.
The first of these, The Housekeeper's Club, organized in 1891
in Coconut Grove, is still in existence. It is chiefly recreational in
It is doubtful if any organization is more deserving of public
recognition than The Miami Woman's Club. Founded in 1900 as the
Married Ladies' Afternoon Club, the members used their weekly dues
of 10 cents to buy books for the use of the circle. In three years they
accumulated nearly 1,000 volumes and, in 1905, opened a public read-
ing room. It became known as the Woman's Club of Miami on May
7, 1906. Henry M. Flagler gave the club a tract of land and they
opened a public library in their own building there in 1913. A year
later the city made an annual appropriation to assist in its main-
The activities of the club provided trees for school yards, tuber-
culosis relief, canning clubs, better baby contests, domestic science
classes, and making hospital supplies for soldiers. It also sponsored
lectures, chautauquas, and concerts.
Having outgrown their quarters, the Flagler estate permitted
them to dispose of their downtown building and erect a larger one at
Northeast Seventeenth Terrace where their library has grown to more
than 40,000 volumes. They maintain scholarships at the University
of Miami, sponsor art exhibits, foster various club programs, and are
66 MIAMI AND D A D E COUNTY
interested in legislative measures for the welfare of women and
children. The name of the organization was changd to The Miami
Woman's Club in 1925.
Another vital group, the Parent-Teacher Association of Dade
County, organized in 1920, includes 51 individual associations with a
total active membership of approximately 11,000. It watches educa-
tional progress and keeps a jealous eye on child welfare. In 1938 it
began the acquisition of a library on vocational subjects for the junior
and senior high schools.
In addition to these, Miami has a number of clubs whose para-
mount interest lies in civic issues. Combined, they are a formidable
group and a moving force in community life.
Miami is the cradle of the Florida Association of Music Clubs,
organized in 1917. Among them are the Miami Music Club, sponsor-
ing civic music concerts and the Tuesday Morning Club, a self-sup-
porting organization of limited membership but with wide social con-
nections. Mana Zucca, who began her career at the age of four in
Berlin's famous Bechstein Hall, is the founder of a club bearing her
own name and has for its purpose the encouragement of local talent.
The Cardinal Club is unusual in that its membership is limited to
music lovers of 70 years or more.
The University of Miami Symphony Orchestra was long under
the direction of the late Dr. Arnold Volpe, pupil of Leopold Auer of
the Imperial Conservatory at St. Petersburg. Guest artists appearing
with the orchestra include Mischa Elman, Abram Chassins, Josef
Hoffman, and the Westminster Choir. Other university musical or-
ganizations are the symphony band, the Aeolian Chorus, and a string
Among the bands, orchestras, choral organizations, and other
musical groups, Miami has its American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps
and a Junior Chamber of Commerce Drum and Bugle Corps. Both
groups have been under the direction of Caesar La Monica who, for
more than ten years, has also directed the open-air band concerts at
The Miami WPA Music Project provides instruction for under-
privileged children and its orchestra gives three programs each week.
Two are sponsored by the City of Miami and one by City of Miami
Miami's musical history would be incomplete without some men-
tion of the Seminoles. Little has been written into music depicting
their courageous, persevering life or their folklore. Efforts have been
made to secure and preserve the songs of the Seminole but very little
has actually been accomplished. Minnie Moore Willson obtained some
CULTURAL LIFE OF MIAMI 67
of their songs after long years of studying the Indians near her home
in Kissimmee, Florida, and Frances Densmore obtained a number of
phonograph recordings during her work for the Smithsonian Institu-
Mrs. Minnie March began teaching music the same year that the
railroad reached Miami. Even before that Kirk Munroe, writer of
boys' stories, had settled with his wife, daughter of Amelia Barr, in
Coconut Grove. From his pen we have his historical work, The
Flamingo Feather (1887), The Coral Ship (1893); Through Swamp
and Glade (1913).
Even earlier in time of arrival was Ralph Middleton Munroe
whose life is so intimately connected with the early history of the
Grove. Collaborating with Vincent Gilpin, he wrote The Commo-
dore's Story (1930), an autobiography portraying the romantic be-
ginning of the Grove and the people who made it the interesting place
it is today.
Charles Torrey Simpson who made his home in the Little River
section of Miami was a naturalist and the author of a number of books
dealing with the south Florida peninsula.
Dr. John C. Gifford wrote an historical study of the Seminoles
entitled Billy Bowie gs and the Seminole War (1925), and The Re-
habilitation of the Florida Keys (1934) and other essays, all studies of
local natural life. ,
Isidor Cohen, John Sewell, and Tracy Hollingsworth, at different
times, have each written a book dealing with the life and history of
Dade County and Miami.
Natalie Grimes Lawrence is noted for her one-act plays, Galapay-
gos and Hurricane (1931), both of which have been produced on the
Vivian Yeiser Laramore, poet laureate of Florida, published her
collection of Poems Inspired by Florida in 1932. She is also compiler
of Florida Poets, in several volumes.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas, short-story writer, published her O.
Henry memorial prize story, "He-Man," in 1927. One of her more
recent stories, based on the hurricane which swept the keys in 1935,
is "September Remember."
Other authors and lecturers who have made their winter homes
in Dade County are Damon Runyon, Hervey Allen, Padraic Colum
and his wife, Mary Colum, Eunice Tietjens, George Kibbe Turner,
Bonnie Busch, and the late Floyd Gibbons.
The National League of American Penwomen, with local head-
quarters at Miami Beach, includes a membership roster of many ad-
68 MIAMI AND D A D E COUNTY
Miami's theatrical history contains no names of glorious memory.
When the city became large enough to support a theater the legitimate
stage was already giving way before mechanized entertainment. The
few feeble attempts to establish a legitimate theater in Miami came to
naught and today, except for a few locally sponsored plays, vaudeville
or revue, the motion picture theater holds the field.
Theatrical history goes back to 1896 when a local group essayed
the production of minstral shows in an old shack grandiloquently
called "Budge's Opera House." A more suitable structure, "Prout's
Opera House," was later erected near Northeast First Street and
Miami Avenue. The reason for its failure is not recorded but it is
possible that, at the time, Miami was too far from regular booking
circuits to secure good talent.
In 1906 a Mr. Kelly opened a movie theater in the Hatchet
Building on East Flagler Street. Not far away W. F. Miller and C. O.
Richardson opened another, named the "Alcazar." Miller filled the
space beneath the floor of his building with ice and tried to make his
theater comfortable by forcing cool air through it with the aid of
electric fans, Miami's first air-conditioned structure. Miller went out
of business when Kelly succeeded in introducing vaudeville shows,
but competition immediately entered the field as Henry Chase opened
a movie on Northeast First Avenue.
In 1,908 Kelly opened "The Gertie Reynolds," soon afterward
acquired by James McQuade, wealthy Miamian and husband of the
popular actress, Gertie Reynolds, for whom the theater was named.
There, among others, the Pickerts, a traveling family stock troupe,
presented plays for a time but the competition from the movies was
too strong. The Pickerts, on retiring from the stage, returned to
south Florida to make their home on Miami Beach.
With the field cleared the movie theaters entered upon a little
war of their own with one operator giving away pianos and auto-
mobiles. It was an era of experimentation and progress; playhouses
were crude and uncomfortable, camera technique and film reproduc-
tion far from perfect, and the delivery of films made schedules difficult
to maintain. As the city grew and lost its rustic attributes, the
theaters, adopting a new psychology, became more sophisticated in
point of appearance and comfort. Saturday and Sunday, particularly
Sunday night, attendance became so marked that a protest arose from
Miami pulpits. The protest changed to an attack as waiting lines of
movie patrons blocked the sidewalks on Sunday nights. The fight
swelled to a crusade and the churches, for a time, succeeded in closing
the theaters but they were eventually permitted to reopen. Miami's
CULTURAL LIFE OF MIAMI 69
present richly appointed, air-conditioned motion picture theaters with
their luxurious lounges, fortune-telling nooks and coffee patios are a
far cry from the sweat boxes of a quarter century ago.
During the twenties a group of theater lovers founded the Civic
Theater of Greater Miami. Its first president was Henry Salem Hub-
bell and its membership included Ruth Bryan Owen, Willard Hubbell
and wife, Daniel Frohman, Edgar Lee Hay, and Marjory Stoneman
Douglas. The association produced plays until 1934. The Miami
Players present legitimate plays in the city today.
The theater people have their organized group, the Actor's and
Showman's League of Miami, formed in 1935, with headquarters at
the Chess Club, and a membership of more than 300.
Miami's painters and sculptors have their own center in the
Academy of Arts. Many galleries and collections are available to
tourists but a few are not open to the public.
Two of the most popular exhibition points in the Miami area are
the Miami Art Center, and the Coral Gables Art Center of the WPA
Florida Art Project.
The Miami Art League permits both professionals and students
to meet in one group and paint from life models. The Thursday
Sketching Club is open to all artists.
Among Miami artists are: Denman Fink, portraits, murals, illus-
trator, and Henry Salem Hubbell and C. Chandler Ross, portraits;
Gustav Bohland, sculpture; Mrs. Gustav Bohland (Aileen Parnell),
sculptor; Mrs. Spencer Kennard, miniaturist; William Wood, water
color portraiture; Will Grefe, magazine illustrator; Richard Merrick,
etchings; Cora Parker, painter of gardens; Lewis Painter Clephane,
painter; Ralph H. Humes, sculptor; Jean Jacques Pfister, painter; Carl
Campbell, flower painter; Dumain Weaver, painter; Louise Zaring,
painter; Dewing Woodward, founder and president emeritus of the
Blue Dome Fellowship, internationally honored in portraits and murals.
Gustav Bohland, a Bohemian by birth, is not only a sculptor, but
a metal craftsman and a writer. His love for nature brought him to
Mrs. Myrtle Taylor Bradford, who received international recog-
nition for her paintings and poems, is State art chairman of the Florida
Federation of Women's Clubs.
IN THE early eighties, the State superintendent of schools assigned