Miami is located on the Atlantic coast in SE Florida and is the county seat of Miami-Dade County, the most populous county in Florida. Miami is a major center and a leader in finance, commerce, culture, media, entertainment, the arts, and international trade. In 2010, Miami was classified as an Alpha-World City in the World Cities Study Group's inventory. In 2008, Forbes magazine ranked Miami "America's Cleanest City". Downtown Miami and South Florida are home to the largest concentration of international banks in the United States, and is home to many large companies both nationally and internationally. The Port of Miami is known as the "Cruise Capital of the World," and has been the number one cruise passenger port in the world for more than 25 years.
The area now known as Miami, was inhabited for more than a 1000 years by the Tequestas. The region consisted of pine and hardwood forests and was the home to deer, bear and wild fowl. The first inhabitants settled on the banks of the Miami River. The main villages were on the northern banks of the river.
In 1513, Juan Ponce de Leon was the first European man to see the Miami area when he sailed into Biscayne Bay. He wrote in his journal that he reached Chequescha, which was Miami's first recorded name. Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and his men made the first recorded landing when they came to the Tequesta settlement in 1566 while looking for Avilés' missing son, who had been shipwrecked a year earlier. Spanish soldiers led by Father Francisco Villareal built a Jesuit mission at the mouth of the Miami River a year later. By 1570, the Jesuits decided to look for more willing subjects outside of Florida. After the Spaniards left, the Tequesta Indians were left to fend for themselves from European-introduced diseases like smallpox. Wars with other tribes greatly weakened their population, and they were easily defeated by the Creek Indians. The Spaniards sent another mission to Biscayne Bay in 1743, where they built a fort and church. The missionary priests proposed a permanent settlement; however, the proposal was rejected as impractical and the mission was withdrawn before the end of the year.
In 1766, Samuel Touchett received a land grant from the British gov't of 20,000 acres in the Miami area. The grant was surveyed by Bernard Romans in 1772. A condition for making the grant permanent was that at least one white settler had to live on the grant for every 100 acres of land. While Touchett wanted to place a plantation on the grant, he was having financial problems and never developed it. The first permanent white settlers in the Miami area arrived around 1800.
People came from the Bahamas and the Keys to South Florida to hunt for treasure from the ships that ran aground on the treacherous Great Florida reef. Some accepted Spanish land offers along the Miami River. At about the same time, the Seminole Indians arrived along with a group of runaway slaves. In 1825, the Cape Florida Lighthouse was built on nearby Key Biscayne to warn passing ships of the dangerous reefs. The lighthouse was burned by Seminoles in 1836 and was not repaired until 1846. In 1830, Richard Fitzpatrick bought land on the Miami River from Bahamian James Egan. He built a plantation with slave labor, where he cultivated sugarcane, bananas, maize, and tropical fruit. In January 1836, shortly after the beginning of the Second Seminole War, Fitzpatrick removed his slaves and closed his plantation. In 1836, Fort Dallas was built on Fitzpatrick's plantation on the north bank of the river. After the Second Seminole War ended in 1842, Fitzpatrick's nephew, William English, re-established the plantation in Miami. He charted the "Village of Miami" on the south bank of the Miami River and sold several plots of land. When English died in California in 1852, his plantation ended. In 1844, Miami became the county seat, and six years later a census reported that there were ninety-six residents living in the area. Later settlements within Miami's city limits were Lemon City (present day Little Haiti) and Coconut Grove. Settlements outside the city limits were Biscayne (in present day Miami Shores) and Cutler (in present day Palmetto Bay). Many of the settlers were homesteaders, attracted to the area by offers of 160 acresof free land by the US federal government.
In the Great Freeze of 1894, the crops of the Miami area were the only ones in Florida that survived. Julia Tuttle, a local landowner (considered the founder of Miami), convinced Henry Flagler, a railroad tycoon, to expand his Florida East Coast Railway to Miami. With the railroad under construction, activity in Miami began to pick up. In 1895, men from throughout Florida flocked to Miami to be available for work on the promised hotel and city. They lived mostly in tents and huts in the wilderness, which had no streets and few cleared paths. These men were primarily victims of the freeze, which had left both money and work scarce. On February 1, 1896, Tuttle fulfilled the first part of her agreement with Flagler by signing two deeds to transfer land for his hotel and the 100 acres of land near the hotel site to him. The titles to the Brickell and Tuttle properties were based on early Spanish land grants and had to be determined to be clear of conflict before the marketing of the Miami lots began. On March 3, Flagler hired John Sewell from West Palm Beach to begin work on the town. On April 7, 1896, the railroad tracks finally reached Miami, and the first train arrived on April 13. Flagler was on board. The train returned to St. Augustine later that night. The first regularly scheduled train arrived on the night of April 15. The first week of train service provided only for freight trains, and passenger service did not begin until a week later, on April 22.
On July 28, 1896, "The City of Miami" was officially incorporated as a city with a population of just over 300. John B. Reilly, who headed Flagler's Fort Dallas land company, was the first elected mayor.
Miami's growth up to World War II was astronomical. (In 1900, pop:1,681. In 1910, pop:5,471. In 1920, pop:29,549.) As thousands of people moved to the area in the early 20th century, the need for more land quickly became apparent. Up until then, the Florida Everglades extended to just three miles west of Biscayne Bay. Beginning in 1906, canals were made to remove some of the water from those lands. Miami Beach was developed in 1913 when a two-mile wooden bridge built by John Collins was completed. During the early 1920s, the authorities of Miami allowed gambling and were very lax in regulating Prohibition, so thousands of people migrated from the northern United States to the Miami region. This caused the first Florida construction boom and many high-rise buildings were built: some early developments were razed to construct larger buildings. The population of Miami doubled from 1920 to 1923. The nearby areas of Lemon City, Coconut Grove and Allapattah were annexed in the fall of 1925, creating the Greater Miami area.
This speculation boom started to falter because of building construction delays. The transport system was constantly overloaded with bulky building materials. On January 10, 1926 the Prinz Valdemar, an old Danish warship on its way to becoming a floating hotel, ran aground and blocked Miami Harbor for nearly a month. Already overloaded, the three major railway companies soon declared an embargo on all incoming goods except food. The cost of living had skyrocketed and finding an affordable place to live was nearly impossible. This economic bubble was already collapsing when the Great Miami Hurricane (Category 4) in 1926 ended what was left of the boom. According to the Red Cross, there were 373 fatalities. Between 25,000 and 50,000 people were left homeless in the Miami area. The Great Depression followed, in which more than 16,000 people in Miami became unemployed. A Civilian Conservation Corps camp was opened in the area.
On February 15, 1933, an assassination attempt was made on then President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt by Giuseppe Zangara, an Italian anarchist, while Roosevelt was giving a speech in Miami's Bayfront Park. Mayor Anton Cermak of Chicago, who was shaking hands with Roosevelt, was shot and died two weeks later. Four other people were wounded, but Roosevelt was not harmed. Zangara was tried for Cermak's murder and was executed by the electric chair on March 20, 1933 in Raiford, Florida.
By the early 1940s, Miami was recovering from the Depression, but then World War II started. Many of the cities in Florida were heavily affected by the war and went into financial ruin, but Miami remained largely unaffected. Early in the war, German U-boats attacked several American ships. Among the American ships was the Portero del Llano, which was attacked by a German submarine and sank within sight of Miami Beach in May 1942. To defend against those U-boats, Miami was placed in two military districts, the Eastern Defense Command and the Seventh Naval District, which was designed to defend against those attacks. In February 1942, the Gulf Sea Frontier was established to help guard the waters around Florida, and by June of that year, more attacks forced military leaders in Washington D.C. to increase the numbers of ships and men of the army group. They also had moved the headquarters from Key West to Miami, to take advantage of its location at the SE corner of the U.S. As the war against the U-boats grew stronger, more military bases sprang up in the Miami area. The U.S. Navy took control of Miami's docks and established air stations at the Opa-locka Airport and in Dinner Key. The Air Force also set up bases in the local airports in the Miami area. Military schools, supply, and communications facilities were established in the area. The Army and Navy came to South Florida and took over hotels for barracks, movie theaters for classrooms, and local beaches and golf courses for training purposes. Eventually, over 500,000 enlisted men and 50,000 officers trained in South Florida. After the end of the war, many servicemen and women returned to Miami, pushing the population up to almost half a million by 1950.
After the 1959 Cuban revolution which brought Fidel Castro to power, many middle class and upper class Cubans moved to Florida en masse with few possessions. The school system struggled to educate the thousands of Spanish-speaking Cuban children. In 1965 alone, 100,000 Cubans packed into the twice daily "freedom flights" from Havana to Miami. Most of the exiles settled into the Riverside neighborhood, which began to take on the new name of "Little Havana". This area emerged as a predominantly Spanish-speaking community, and Spanish speakers elsewhere in the city could conduct most of their daily business in their native tongue. By the end of the 1960s, more than 400,000 Cuban refugees were living in Miami-Dade County.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the Attorney General's authority was used to grant parole, or special permission, to allow Cubans to enter the country. However, parole only allows an individual permission to enter the country, not to stay permanently. In the case of Cubans, the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 resolved this dilemma. The Act provides that the immigration status of any Cuban who arrived since 1959 and has been physically present in the United States for at least a year "may be adjusted by the Attorney General to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence" (green card holder). The individual must be admissible to the United States (i.e., not disqualified on criminal or other grounds). Later, the Mariel Boatlift of 1980 brought 150,000 Cubans to Miami, the largest in civilian history. Unlike the previous exodus of the 1960s, most of the Cuban refugees arriving were poor. During this time, many of the middle class non-Hispanic whites in the community left the city, often referred to as the "white flight." In 1960, Miami was 90% non-Hispanic white; by 1990, it was only about 10% non-Hispanic white. In the 1980s, Miami started to see an increase in immigrants from other nations such as Haiti. As the Haitian population grew, the area known today as Little Haiti emerged, centered on Northeast Second Avenue and 54th Street. In 1985, Xavier Suarez was elected as Mayor of Miami, becoming the first Cuban mayor of a major city. In the 1990s, the presence of Haitians was acknowledged with Haitian Creole language signs in public places and ballots during voting. Another major Cuban exodus occurred in 1994. To prevent it from becoming another Mariel Boatlift, the Clinton Administration announced a significant change in U.S. policy. In a controversial action, the administration announced that Cubans interdicted at sea would not be brought to the United States but instead would be taken by the Coast Guard to U.S. military installations at Guantanamo Bay or to Panama. During an eight-month period beginning in the summer of 1994, over 30,000 Cubans and more than 20,000 Haitians were interdicted and sent to live in camps outside the United States. On September 9, 1994, the United States and Cuba agreed to normalize migration between the two countries. The agreement codified the new U.S. policy of placing Cuban refugees in safe havens outside the United States, while obtaining a commitment from Cuba to discourage Cubans from sailing to America. In addition, the United States committed to admitting a minimum of 20,000 Cuban immigrants per year. That number is in addition to the admission of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.
Hurricane Andrew caused more than $20 billion in damage just south of the Miami-Dade area in 1992.
In May 2010, construction began on a major Port of Miami infrastructure project known as the Port of Miami Tunnel, with a total estimated cost of one billion US dollars. It opened August 2014.
The city of Miami is located
( 646 km )
--- heading 142o (southeast) from Tallahassee.
At the time of the 2000 census, the city of Miami had a population of 362,470 living in 134,198 households. The median age was 37.7 yrs.
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