Saturday, November 27, 2010

Florida History: Before Miami, Fort Dallas

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 By Jane Feehan

First built as a plantation on the mouth of the Miami River in 1844, Fort Dallas served as an outpost from 1849 and 1855 during the Seminole Wars. It was named after Commodore Alexander James Dallas (1791-1844), then in command of U.S Naval forces sent to chase down pirates in the West Indies.

The area attracted settlers, traders, and ornithologists long before Ohioan Julia Tuttle decided to call it home in 1892. She built a house near Fort Dallas as Henry M. Flagler extended his railroad south from St. Augustine to Palm Beach.

One-time partner of Standard Oil’s John D. Rockefeller, Flagler was enticed, as the tale goes, by Tuttle and her bouquet of orange blossoms to bring the railway to Fort Dallas after a bitter freeze in 1894 decimated orange trees from Palm Beach north.

A deal was made and the Florida East Coast Railway (so named in 1898) reached the Fort Dallas platform in 1896. The City of Miami, whose name could have been Flagler had he not suggested its original American Indian name, was incorporated three months later.

 Flagler then built the Royal Palm Hotel on Biscayne Bay, Miami’s center piece, in less than two years. The city captured America’s attention when 7,000 U.S. soldiers were deployed there in 1898 after the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana, the fuse setting off the Spanish American War.

Some of Fort Dallas remains, in Lummas Park, making it one of the oldest structures in the area.
Standiford, Les. Last Train to Paradise. New York: Crown Publishers (2002).
Douglas, Marjory Stoneman. The Everglades, River of Grass. Miami: Banyan Books (1978)

Tags: Florida history, Miami history, historical researcher, film researcher

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