By Jane Feehan
Florida tent cities have served as lodging for refugees, survivors of storms, and criminals in the past but they also once housed tourists who wanted to vacation on or close to the beach or who couldn’t find a hotel room. Hotels were scarce in early 20th century South Florida but locals wanted tourists’ business and encouraged them to stay in tent camps in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and other ocean side communities. Below is a news story from the Miami Metropolis, Feb. 7, 1920 that provides a description of one vacation tent camp:
Comfortable Tent City Is Installed at Beach
Miami Beach boasts a “tent city” second to none. This “city” is located on the oceanfront between Smith’s Casino* and the government reservation. There are 20 tents or more, all well floored and comfortable.
Between 40 and 50 persons – men, women and children – compose this happy little community, where ceremony and etiquette has been abandoned and all live as one great, big family, enjoying life in all its fullness. All these people are tourists and all amply able to afford the luxuries of hotel life, but they prefer to spend their vacation in a tent by the seashore.
Last Saturday night these people chartered one of the ferry boats and enjoyed a moonlight ride to Cape Florida and return. Light refreshments were served and music indulged in.
Such were the days before zoning.
* Smith's Casino was a popular beach side pool in the 1920s that sat on the south end of Biscayne Avenue.
Tags: early Florida tourism, early tourism in Miami, Florida tourism in the 1900s,