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6 Marvelous Moments in
Miami History

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bbetween the always-warm weather and the abundance of tropical colors, there are plenty of reasons to call Miami “The Magic City.” The real inspiration behind the nickname, however, is the fact that this global metropolis sprung up from a backwater town of one thousand in the blink of a century.

Typically our Haute History column covers millennia of cultural intrigue, but rest assured we found no shortage of inspiring anecdotes in the story of Miami. Leave it to a great American city to remind us of just how much can happen in one hundred years and change. Keep reading to find out!

It Starts With a Visionary

hh-ladyA woman entrepreneur, in fact. In 1890, Julia Tuttle used a small inheritance to purchase 640 acres of land on the Miami River. Her husband had died four years earlier, and she had been caring for her family by running a boarding house in Cleveland. When her parents passed, she went straight to Biscayne Bay and built her home there, soon deciding to lead the movement in creating a new city on that very land. Her first brilliant move? She struck a deal with railroad titan Henry Flagler, persuading him to extend his tracks all the way to Miami in exchange for a plot of land on which to build a hotel. As hundreds of workers moved into the lush woodland, a city was born, with Ms. Tuttle going down in history as the Mother of Miami.

It Starts With a Visionary

hh-lady
A woman entrepreneur, in fact. In 1890, Julia Tuttle used a small inheritance to purchase 640 acres of land on the the Miami River. Her husband had died four years earlier, and she had been caring for her family by running a boarding house in Cleveland. When her parents passed, she went straight to Biscayne Bay and built her home there, soon deciding to lead the movement in creating a new city on that very land. Her first brilliant move? She struck a deal with railroad titan Henry Flagler, persuading him to extend his tracks all the way to Miami in exchange for a plot of land on which to build a hotel. As hundreds of workers moved into the lush woodland, a city was born, with Ms. Tuttle going down in history as the Mother of Miami.

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If You Build it, They Will Come

Between 1900 and 1920, Miami’s population went from just under two thousand to over thirty thousand people! Construction boomed as the city expanded, annexing more and more of the surrounding land to hh-1house the new influx of settlers. Meanwhile a Millionaire’s Row of elegant European revival homes appeared on Brickell Avenue, where wealthy business owners came to escape the harsh Boston or New York City winters. Where gorgeous estates like the Villa Regina once stood, today you’ll find condominium complexes because this is, after all, the heart of the metropolis!

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The Beachfront Boom

Soon after the bridge to Miami Beach was completed in 1915, the island town experienced a major hh-2real estate boom and by 1917, it had become a resort playground for the elite from Miami to Chicago. In the 1920s, many millionaires built homes there while grand hotels arrived to cater to the tourists. Despite the impact of the 1926 hurricane and the Great Depression, Miami Beach remained a popular destination and continued to grow. It was in the 1930s in fact, that South Beach’s iconic Art Deco hotels, municipal buildings and other structures went up.

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Fast Times at the
Fontainebleau

When the Fontainebleau Hotel opened in 1954, there was nothing else in Miami Beach that could match its grandeur and opulence. It was an A-list hit and quickly became the legendary haunt of the era’s biggest stars, most notably Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. Sinatra performed at the Fontainebleau’s hh-3LaRonde Supper Club many times in the late 50s, and even stayed there often on vacation, during which he was known to hold court at the lobby bar until all hours. Soon enough, many similar resorts popped up along Collins Avenue, but following several renovations and updates the Fontainebleau is still a fabulous option—plus, you can still see world-class musicians perform in its nightclubs.

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Little Havana Lays Roots

Miami would not be what it is without its Latino residents—who today make up 70% of the city’s population. Spanish-speaking immigrants had been arriving in Miami since the early 1900s, but hh-4starting in 1959 there was a lasting increase. That was the year Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, prompting hundreds of thousands to leave their jobs, businesses and landholdings behind and start over in Miami. Mixing with immigrants from all over Latin America, the Cuban-American community has been thriving in Miami for generations now and has contributed so much to the city. To see for yourself, visit the beloved neighborhood of Little Havana, where coffee, art, music and nightlife are among Miami’s best.

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Basel on the Beach

These days, a lot of the people we follow on Instagram can be seen in Miami around early December—for Art Basel. The renowned international art fair shows in Hong Kong and Basel, Switzerland, before touching down every year in the Wynwood Arts District. Since Basel’s arrival in Miami in hh-52002, happening in tandem with the introduction of the Second Saturdays Art Walk, this previously industrial Downtown neighborhood has become one of the world’s most vibrant arts and culture centers, with over 70 galleries, plus plenty of retailers, antique shops and creative businesses that call Wynwood home.

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