I was born and raised in Miami, Florida and have seen a lot of changes. Some for the good, most for the bad. I thought it would be cool to have a site where people could post their memories of places, people, etc. of different things they remember used to be in Miami.
Linda Geary of the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy works on the removal of soil at the site of the MetSquare dig to expose the foundation of the historical Tequesta Indian structures that stood there.
Archaeologists who for months have been uncovering mounting evidence of an ancient and extensive Native American village in the middle of downtown Miami have concluded it’s likely one of the most significant prehistoric sites in the United States.The archaeologists, under the direction of veteran South Florida archaeologist Bob Carr, have so far painstakingly dug up eight large circles comprised of uniformly carved holes in the native limestone that they believe to be foundation holes for Tequesta Indian dwellings dating as far back as 2,000 years.
They have also discovered linear, parallel arrangements of hundreds of such postholes stretching across the site that Carr hypothesizes mark the foundation for other structures, possibly boardwalks connecting the dwellings. The village site borders a rocky outcropping that his team has concluded was the original natural shoreline at the confluence of Biscayne Bay and the Miami River, a spot long ago occluded by fill.
“What’s unusual and unique about the site is that it’s this huge chunk of land where a major part of this ancient Tequesta village site is preserved,’’ Carr said in an interview. “It’s one of the earliest urban plans in eastern North America. You can actually see this extraordinary configuration of these buildings and structures.’’
The finds, which have not been widely publicized, have placed public officials and a big downtown developer in a major quandary. The Tequesta village site covers roughly half of a long-vacant, two-acre city block on the north side of the river where the developer, MDM Development Group, plans to build movie theaters, restaurants and a 34-story hotel. The project would cover most of the block, including the full archaeological site.
The city of Miami granted MDM zoning and development approvals for the Met Square project, though not a final building permit, before the full scope of the archaeological finds was known or understood. The site has also yielded thousands of Tequesta artifacts, including bone and shell tools, as well as newly uncovered remnants of industrialist Henry Flagler’s 1897 Royal Palm Hotel, which gave rise to the city of Miami.
State of Florida and Miami-Dade County historic-preservation officials are pressing the city to revisit the Met Square plans to consider possible alternatives that would salvage a portion of or even the full archaeological site. That could require a major, costly redesign of the Met Square project.
MDM, which already has leases, agreements and timetables for the theaters, restaurants and hotel, says it could be out a substantial amount of money if that happens. The developer has offered to carve out the limestone holding one or two of the larger circles on the site and display those in a planned public plaza. In recent weeks, MDM officials have discussed doing more in meetings with city and county planners and preservation officials, but have made no promises or commitments.
“We will do our utmost,’’ MDM director Ian Swanson said Monday in an interview at the site. “There is no easy answer to this at all.’’
While recognizing the site’s importance, Swanson said there are still “ambiguities’’ over precisely what it was. He said the store of artifacts taken from the site and stored at the HistoryMiami museum will provide specialists and historians years’ worth of study and analysis.
Carr, who works for MDM, which by law must pay for the archaeological survey, said he has also recommended to his client that as much as possible of the site be preserved in place.
“If you have a necklace filled with pearls, what makes it valuable is its entirety, not four or five pearls,’’ Carr said.
Preservationists note that MDM took a chance when it purchased the property a decade ago because it knew the site was inside a designated archaeological zone. Though the site was covered by an asphalt parking lot for 70 years, Carr and other archaeologists long suspected it was once part of a Tequesta village given previous finds of burial grounds and middens in the immediate vicinity.
The dilemma echoes the battle to save the Miami Circle, a set of postholes discovered by Carr in 1998 on the south bank of the river, opposite the recently uncovered Tequesta village site. Archaeologists concluded the circle marked the site of Tequesta council house or ceremonial structure dating back as far as 2,000 years.
After an international uproar, and facing a suit by preservationists, a developer who planned a condo on the site sold the property to the state for $27 million. It has since been turned into a park, though the circle was buried as a protective measure because the state lacked money to exhibit it properly.
The city’s historic preservation board, which has legal authority over archaeological sites, is scheduled to receive a monthly update on the newest finds — including the discovery of an eighth circle in the past several days — at its regular meeting Tuesday. The board is also expected to set a special meeting within the next two weeks to debate what to do about the Tequesta site.
Preservationists and city board members say there is strong and growing support for measures to save and create a major exhibit around at least some of the archaeological site. State officials say it would likely earn National Historic Landmark status, like the Statue of Liberty and Miami’s Freedom Tower. Some local officials and preservationists believe it might also qualify for designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Making the site even more significant, they say, is the fact that Carr’s team has also uncovered artifacts and other elements from two later historic structures sandwiched over the Tequesta village at the site — a well and artifacts from Fort Dallas, a mid-19th Century military fortification used during two of the Seminole Indian wars, and brick column bases and other traces of Flagler’s hotel, which prompted the founding of the city of Miami.
“It’s extremely important,’’ said city preservation board member Gerald Marston of the site. “If they gave it a name, it’s the birthplace of Miami.’’
Early finds on the site had been previously announced, including a circle Carr discovered in 2005 and dubbed the Royal Palm Circle after the Flagler Hotel. But the rest of the ensemble was discovered only in the past six months.
It was not until Miami-Dade’s county archaeologist, Jeff Ransom, got wind of the recent finds in the fall that word began getting out, however. Carr acknowledges he had not notified the county and city of major finds as required, an oversight he said he has corrected.
Met Square is the fourth phase of MDM’s massive Met Miami development, which takes up four adjacent city blocks. Two other phases, a condo and a tower housing a Marriot Marquis hotel and offices, have been completed.
Carr found the remains of scores of Tequesta people in a burial ground under the third phase, a Whole Foods with a parking garage and residential tower, now under construction. The remains were reburied in an undisclosed location following Florida law.
Have you seen this CompUSA across from Dadeland Mall?
Do you know what used to be there, a very long time ago?
...Yes, I know, The Dadeland Twin movie theater (with the Gold Triangle behind it)...but I mean even further back than that...
No clue? Would you believe that on this spot was an old CCC work camp that was turned into a POW camp for captured German soldiers during the war?
Yup. It's true. I remember my Dad telling me he would see soldiers taking POWs to the rockpit at Fuch's Park to bathe.
Sadly, there is very little I could find about this little known bit of Kendall history. There were two major camps for German POWs in Florida. One was Camp Blanding and the other Camp Johnston. The Kendall camp came under Camp Blanding.
From http://www.polk-fl.net/staff/teachers/tah/documents/floridaflavor/lessons/e-5.pdf: One relatively unknown fact about Florida in the World War II era is that our state was home to over 10,000 German prisoners of war. These men were often referred to as “guests” of Uncle Sam. Having been captured while serving on U-boats off the Atlantic Coast, with the Afrika Corps in Tunisia, with the paratroops in Italy, or with the labor battalions in France, these POWs were among the 378,000 Germans held as prisoners in 45 of the then 48 states.
The German prisoners were treated VERY well...they were fed well, taught lessons in Democracy, could practice their religion, play sports, etc. If only we had been treated as well by the Germans.
There was even a POW camp in ritzy Bal Harbour (before it was ritzy!). The Bal Harbour Shops are where the camp used to be and the barracks were later turned into apartments! Crazy stuff...
This story was first published in The Miami Herald on Jan.19, 2007 to mark the 30th anniversary of the historic event.
Forecaster Ray Biedinger looked at the screen of his trusty weather radar in the wee hours of Jan. 19, 1977, and knew what he had to do.
The bitter cold front barreling south across the state during his midnight shift at the old National Weather Service office then in Coral Gables left him no choice but to hold his breath and issue one of Miami's most unusual forecasts:
"Cold with rain showers and the possibility of snow, " Biedinger wrote.
"If you notice, I didn't put snow first,” he said.
But he got it right.
Thirty-five ago today, snowflakes briefly dusted palm trees, windshields and people from Miami to West Palm Beach — a freak but brief winter wonderland and the only South Florida snowfall on record in the 20th century.
Shivering South Floridians, young and old, looked up into the sky in total amazement as flakes landed on their faces.
In those early-morning hours, snowflakes fell as far south as Homestead and daytime temperatures for the region dipped into the low 30s. But by 9:30 a.m., South Florida's big snow show was over, melted by the sun's rays.
The headline on The Miami News that afternoon screamed: "Snow in Miami!" The next day The Miami Herald's read: "The Day It Snowed in Miami."
The rare event remains a special memory for those who witnessed it. Hurricanes come and go, but snow in Miami? That's once in a lifetime.
"I remember it like it was yesterday, " said Matt Levinson, of Weston. He was 5 at the time and living in Southwest Miami-Dade.
"I remember standing on the front lawn of my house and as the snow was falling, I tried picking it up, but it melted as soon as it hit the ground, " said Levinson, now 35, who works in public relations.
Across town that morning, Leon Strickland of North Miami was at a rock-pit work site.
"At first, I didn't know what was falling from the sky, it was so light, " said Strickland, now 65 and retired. "You had to be wearing a navy blue jacket to really see clearly it was snow. But I'm here to tell you, it snowed that day."
His 10-year-old son saw it, too. Norm Strickland was in class with 600 other students at North Miami Elementary when the principal's voice came over the loudspeaker about 8:40 a.m.
"I remember he said: 'Children, we're going to do this in an orderly manner. We are all going to go outside because it's snowing, ' " said Strickland, 40, a pharmaceutical salesman who now lives in Huntington, W.Va., with this wife and two daughters.
"Well, forget order, " said Norm Strickland. "The principal couldn't have announced there was a nuclear bomb in the building and gotten us kids out of class faster.
"Everybody went crazy, " he said. "Total childhood glee is what I remember."
At Sabal Palm Elementary in North Miami Beach, 10-year-old Susan Schwartz was walking in a hallway when someone yelled, "Snow!"
"We all ran to the sidewalk. I don't remember the teacher even trying to stop us. We were catching the snow in our mouth, but it would melt, " Schwartz, 40, now an educator in the Broward County school system, said of her first snow experience.
Many South Floridians missed the brief snow event. So there were skeptics. Veteran radio disc jockey Rick Shaw tried to set them straight from his Broward County radio booth.
"I was working at WAXY-106. Someone said something about seeing snow coming down, " said the now-retired Shaw. "We ran back to a big window and, my gosh if it wasn't snowing in Fort Lauderdale! Being from St. Louis, I knew what snow looked like. I ran back into the studio and started playing Bing Crosby'sWhite Christmas."
He said listeners who didn't see or feel those fine granules were calling the station and asking why they were playing that song in the middle of January.
"Cause it's snowing outside!" Shaw told them. "It was quite a day."
Ferris Thompson, of South Miami, a district inspector for the Florida Department of Transportation, was driving to Fort Pierce on Interstate 95 that morning.
"I remember the snow flurries hitting my windshield; the farther north I got, the more snow I saw settling on the side of the road, " said Thompson, now 79 and retired.
The couple snapped a photograph that shows Joan sitting in the family car, the windshield half covered with snow. On the dashboard is that day's newspaper.
Back home the next day, Thompson and his wife, Joan, hoped for a repeat. They got up before dawn and went outside in their heavy coats, waiting for snow. It turned out Jan. 20 proved to be an even colder day, as temperatures dipped into the mid 20s, but no snow fell.
Snow fell on an eventful week in Miami-Dade — and the United States.
Newly elected President Jimmy Carter's inauguration was scheduled the following day; Miami-Dade commissioners had passed the controversial county ordinance banning discrimination against gays the day before, setting the stage for a bitter battle between singer Anita Bryant and homosexuals.
And on television, a highly anticipated mini-series was about to air. In Miami, Dorothy Jenkins Fields, 64, founder of the Black Archives and then a school librarian, said the snow is a blur to her. That's because the mini-series Roots, based on Alex Haley's book, was about to premiere.
"Yes, snow in Miami — I remember it but it didn't leave much of an impression on me because I was mesmerized with Roots. The snow came and went, but Roots stuck with me."
For forecaster Biedinger, the excitement of correctly forecasting snow was quickly forgotten at the weather bureau.
"We were very concerned about the South Dade farmers who were about to get hit by more cold nights, " he said.
The snow and the low temperatures put Florida's citrus and vegetable industry in a death grip. Both were nearly wiped out, and some 150,000 migrant workers lost their jobs in the state — including 80,000 in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. Then-Gov. Reubin Askew declared a state of emergency.
Officially, snow in Miami is not on the weather record books.
"It was an immeasurable amount that fell, so it's written down as “a trace” of snow, " said Biedinger, 66, now retired and living in Titusville.
Only once before, in 1899, had something resembling snow fallen over South Florida. And not this far south, only down to Fort Pierce.
Could snow fall here again?
Yes, say local weather forecasters.
"It would be rare, but the way I see it, it happened once, so it can happen again. If the same weather conditions line up, we could have the same scenario, " said Robert Molleda, a meteorologist and warning coordinator with the National Weather Service in West Miami-Dade.
Miami's snow fall during the Blizzard of 1977 was caused by a combination of two arctic cold fronts — one passed the region on Jan. 16 followed by a second faster-moving one in the middle of the night the day it snowed.
That second front chilled the region and moved so quickly that moisture — usually ahead of such fronts — instead lagged behind, setting the stage for the snow.
The precipitation formed in the clouds did not have enough time to melt before it reached the ground. If it had happened in the middle of the day, there probably would not have been snow, the weather service says today.
Biedinger said he's always considered his accurate prediction "a novelty thing."
"It was a kick to do it one time, maybe the only time in the history of Miami, " Biedinger said.
It also made Biedinger a celebrity in certain circles.
"For the rest of my career, " he said, "I was known in the weather office as the guy who predicted snow in Miami."
Last Modified: Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 2:07 p.m.
Bill Haast figured he had handled more than 3 million poisonous snakes over the years, and he had the hands to prove it.
An eastern diamondback rattlesnake left one hand looking like a claw. A Malayan pit viper mangled an index finger. A cottonmouth bit a finger, which instantly turned black, prompting his wife to snip off the fingertip with garden clippers.
Haast was bitten at least 173 times by poisonous snakes, about 20 times almost fatally. It was all in a day's work for probably the best-known snake handler in the country, a scientist-cum-showman who made enough money from milking toxic goo from slithery serpents to buy a cherry-red Rolls-Royce convertible.
A secret of his success was the immunity he had built up by injecting himself every day for more than 60 years with a mix of venoms from 32 snake species. He suspected the inoculations might have explained his extraordinarily good health, but he was reluctant to make that claim, he said, until he reached 100.
Haast, who was director of the Miami Serpentarium Laboratories, a snake-venom producer near Punta Gorda, Fla., died of natural causes Wednesday at his home in southwest Florida, his wife, Nancy, said. He was 100.
Haast's story was good enough in its day to land him in Walter Winchell's syndicated column, on "The Tonight Show" and, hardly surprising, in Ripley's Believe It or Not attractions. His original Miami Serpentarium, south of Miami on South Dixie Highway, attracted 50,000 tourists a year for four decades.
Outside was a 35-foot-high concrete statue of a giant cobra, forked tongue flicking menacingly. Inside, Haast, the self-proclaimed "Snakeman," entertained paying customers by using his hands to grab snakes below their heads and force their teeth into soft plastic. Venom would then drain into test tubes fastened to the plastic. He did this 100 or so times a day.
The serpentarium was more than just another roadside attraction. The price of a gram of freeze-dried venom from exotic snakes, requiring 100 or more extractions to accumulate, could exceed $5,000. The substance is an essential ingredient in making a serum to treat snakebite victims. It has also shown promise as a medicinal ingredient.
Haast and a Miami doctor treated more than 6,000 people with a snake-venom serum that they and their patients contended was effective against multiple sclerosis and arthritis. After the CBS News program "60 Minutes" did a report on the subject in December 1979, interest in the serum surged. But in 1980 the Food and Drug Administration banned the product as useless after saying that numerous deficiencies had been found in Haast's manufacturing process. Nevertheless, researchers have continued to work on drugs made from venom in the hope of using it to treat cancer, Alzheimer's and other diseases.
Haast himself indisputably saved lives. He flew around the world to donate his antibody-rich blood to 21 different snakebite victims. Venezuela made him an honorary citizen after he went deep into the jungle to give a boy a pint of blood.
The favor was returned in 1989 when, according to The Associated Press, the White House used secret connections to spirit a rare serum out of Iran to treat Haast as he fought to recover from a bite by a Pakistani pit viper. (Different venoms require different antidotes.)
William E. Haast was born on Dec. 30, 1910, in Paterson, N.J. He caught his first garter snake at 7 at a nearby canal. His first serious snake bite came at age 12, when he was bitten by a timber rattlesnake at Boy Scout camp. The same year, a copperhead's bite put him in the hospital for a week. When young Bill brought his first poisonous snake home to the family apartment, his mother left home for three days, he said. She finally agreed to let him keep a snake or two in cages.
''The snake would bite the mouse," he said in an interview with The Miami Herald in 1984. "The mouse would die. I found it intriguing."
He bought his first exotic snake, a diamondback rattler, from a catalog. Noticing that it had come from Florida, he knew then, he said, that Florida was his destiny. After dropping out of school at 16, he joined a roadside snake show that made its way to Florida in the late 1920s.
The snake attraction soon failed during the Depression, so Haast went to work for a bootlegger in the Everglades, where he was pleased to find plenty of snakes. The bootlegger was arrested, and Haast found his way to an airline mechanics school.
Finding a job as a flight engineer with Pan American World Airways, he began traveling around the world. That gave him a chance to use his toolbox to smuggle snakes, including his first cobra.
Haast's dream of a first-class snake farm came true when he opened his Miami serpentarium in 1947. His near-fatal snakebites became legend in the news media, particularly after the total passed 100 in the mid-1960s.
His first wife, Ann, divorced him over his snake obsession. His second, Clarita, and third, Nancy, pitched in enthusiastically.
Besides his wife, the former Nancy Harrell, he is survived by two daughters, three grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
Haast closed the serpentarium in 1984 after a 6-year-old boy fell into his crocodile pit and was fatally mauled. He moved his venom-gathering operation to Utah. Six years later, he returned to Florida and opened the facility in Punta Gorda, where he raised and milked snakes but did not resume his snake show.
For all the time he spent with snakes, Haast harbored no illusions that they liked him.
''You could have a snake for 30 years and the second you leave his cage door cracked, he's gone," he told Outside magazine in 1997. "And they'll never come to you unless you're holding a mouse in your teeth."
Just 3 years ago...
Snake man is master of poison and cure
Bill Haast, 97, is lauded for pioneering work with snake venom
Bill Haast, center, is recognized by members of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Venom Response Unit for his work helping snake-bite victims. He received the key to the city.
CHARLOTTE COUNTY - Bill Haast's 97-year-old fingers, withered by scores of snake bites, are too weak to handle cobras and pit vipers anymore. But he still wakes up each morning to turn snake venom from across the globe into freeze-dried powder for medical laboratories.
Those same hands that for decades eased venom from the world's most poisonous snakes held the key to the city of Miami on Thursday.
The honor, bestowed by Miami's mayor, was delivered to Haast at his home east of Punta Gorda by members of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Venom Response Unit. With 43 types of antivenin, a diverse enough supply to treat 90 percent of all bites, the unit's antivenin bank supplies the U.S. military and hospitals around the nation -- sometimes the world.
"Our unit wouldn't be around if it wasn't for him; he's the inspiration," said Al Cruz, the unit's founder, standing beneath the tall branches of a live oak that Haast had allowed to grow through his screened pool patio. "We're the only fire-based response team in the world."
The emergency services unit celebrated its 10th year recently at the Metro Zoo in Miami. Haast could not make the ceremony, so part of the ceremony came to him.
Haast maintained a similar bank in Miami when he ran the Serpentarium theme park, which closed in 1984. He briefly lived in Utah and returned to Florida to live in Charlotte County 18 years ago.
His contribution to antivenin science is unparalleled and earned him recognition throughout his life.
Early in Haast's career, he slogged the wilds of the Everglades collecting cottonmouths and rattlers. When he had enough, he opened the Serpentarium in Miami in 1946.
Soon, his quest for exotic snakes stretched around the world. He made special trips, bringing back such perilous species as cobras and saw-scaled vipers.
"Any time I saw an unusual snake I brought it back," Haast said, sitting on cushioned patio furniture. Behind him rose an 8-foot concrete cobra statue that once decorated the serpentarium.
Eventually, his collection became one of the most diverse venomous snakes on the planet. Crowds cheered as he collected venom from the snakes in dramatic displays.
Haast routinely injected himself with venom to build up resistance to the ill effects of the inevitable bites. It was an experiment, but having received his first venomous snake bite as a teenager, Haast was used to risks.
"I just have a curious nature," he said.
Horses had developed resistance to the poisons through the same process, and the blood of those horses was used to create life-saving antivenin.
For Haast, the weekly shots paid off, helping him to survive 172 venomous snake bites. His powerful blood also rescued 21 snake-bite victims.
In his heyday, he was flown around the world to hospitals where people bitten by rare snakes would have died without his blood.
His unique contribution to medicine earned him widespread recognition. In 1964, a book was written about him. He later received commendations from President Gerald Ford and Miami Mayor Stephen Clark.
Still recognized as a top authority on venomous snakes, Haast, who moved his snakes to a lab on his sprawling Charlotte County complex in 1990 (he no longer has snakes there), said he answers questions from callers every day.
Some questions, like the one a decade ago from Cruz, the venom unit founder, mean the difference between life and death.
Cruz called Haast after a man was bitten by a Black Mamba, one of the most poisonous snakes of Africa.
Although Haast did not have antivenin for that snake, he knew a collector who did and who provided the 15 vials of antivenin that saved the victim's life.
It was a close call, one that underscored the county's need for an antivenin bank, Cruz said. For inspiration and advice, he leaned on Haast.
"When he closed his doors there was a lapse and there were some fatalities related to exotic snake bites," said Chuck Seigert, of the Miami unit.
Miami is a hotbed for venomous snake bites because it is the entry point for almost any exotic snake, whether it is bound for a collector or a zoo in another state.
Since the county revived the antivenin bank in 1998, it has saved 1,000 snake-bite victims, Seigert said.
On Thursday, members of the rescue unit came to shake Haast's hand. Besides the mayor's key, they gave him a firefighter's helmet bearing the unit's name: Venom 1.
"He's like an icon to people that know him," Cruz said.
Saturday was a free admission day to the old Charles Deering Estate. I hadn't been there in years so we decided to check it out.
Charles Deering's brother, James, built the magnificent Vizcaya further north on Biscayne Bay. This place is not nearly as ornate and extravagant as Vizcaya, but certainly has it's own charm.
Looking out the back door of the house, this is what you see...it sure must've been nice to wake up to that each day!
The house is not really furnished completely like Vizcaya is. It was virtually destroyed by Hurricane Andrew, so I imagine a lot of things were lost. Besides, I believe the place was still owned by the Deering family at that time, so who knows really what original things were still in the house.
Below is the dining room. I love the bookshelves!
This was the only painting hanging on the wall that I knew who the artist was.
The doors look like wood in the picture, but they are copper.
Right next door to the "Stone House" is the "Richmond Cottage". It appears to be used mainly as a place for the "resident artists" to hang their works. No furnishing inside, but it is still cute. I could definitely see myself living in that place!
My favorite room in the cottage.
The grounds of the estate are have yielded some very important archaeological artifacts. The Tequesta used to live there and many tools and fossils have been unearthed there.
Out back is the old carriage house.
All in all, I'd say we had a good day, but it would've been more interesting if we had gotten in on one of the guided tours. If you're ever in Miami and want to see something more than the beach, I recommend taking a drive down Old Cutler Road to the Deering Estate...it's just fun to imagine what it must have been like to live there a hundred years ago.