After the centuries-long American Indian and early Spanish explorer eras, the earliest “pioneer” settlers to come to what would become our village, the Sturdivants, Barnotts, Potters, Sears, Woods, and Hunts are thought to be our first inhabitants. These early homesteaders were instrumental in founding our area, which they christened Biscayne in the early 1870’s.
William H. Gleason and William H. Hunt moved from an area now known to us as downtown Miami, moving the Miami Post office with them and renaming it the Biscayne Post Office. Since the Dade County government was often where Gleason was Biscayne was the titular county seat. However within ten years, most of the early inhabitants were gone and the post office closed in 1888.
Activity renewed in 1892 when the first road in Dade County, from Lantana to Lemon City, was built, and it went through Biscayne, and a post office returned. The earliest types of commerce here included a starch mill, tomato packing plant, saw mill, a pineapple plantation, and a grapefruit grove. Later a railroad depot and school were built. Then in the 1920’s the area was re-christened Miami Shores. There is a historical landmark located at NE 96th Street and the bay.
The two earliest significant landowners were Major Hugh Gordon who held land bordering the bay, and T.V. Moore whose holdings were in what would today be our business district. In 1922 Lee T. Cooper purchased Moore’s lands, renaming it Bay View Estates. Then in 1924, the Shoreland Corporation entered the picture, buying up all the acreage and renaming it Miami Shores, “America’s Mediterranean”.
Hugh M. Anderson was Shoreland’s President, and the company had grand plans for an Italian inspired development with inland waterways! By 1926 it was reported that fifty homes were under construction. The beautiful home constructed for Mr. Anderson is on the southwest corner of NE 4th Avenue and NE 94th Street. However on September 18, 1926, a devastating hurricane tore through our fledgling village, and this as well as other factors resulted in Shoreland’s bankruptcy the following year.
In 1928, a new corporation controlled by Bessemer Properties and the Phipps family of New York took over the holdings, and led by Roy H. Hawkins, moved forward with development. In 1931, Hawkins applied for a charter, and on January 2, 1932, the Florida state legislature and village council made us an official municipality. Frank O. Pruitt became our first mayor.
Growth was sporadic in the thirties because of the Great Depression, and ground to a virtual halt during World War II. However construction exploded thereafter, and an engaging mix of residential architectural styles developed.
Miami Shores became largely complete by the sixties, and important community institutions were constructed during the heyday that marked this decade and the seventies. Almost all important community structures were completed in this post war period, including Village Hall, the Country Club, the Community Center, and Brockway Library. By 1968 population had reached 9,000.
By the 1980’s, commercial development on Biscayne Boulevard and in Aventura would affect our downtown business district, and it was truly only recently that twenty five years of challenging times seemed to end for our downtown, with the reconstruction of NE 2nd Avenue and a renewed desire amongst community leaders to bring “Village Place” back to life.
Today, Miami Shores has over 10,000 people, and is a modern residential community first and foremost, with well maintained homes and lawns, an active civic life, and a responsive local government and safety program. Today our village calls itself the “Village Beautiful”. The community came together about a decade ago to construct Doctors Charter School, and both it and Miami Shores Elementary School are both “A” schools.
To learn more on our wonderful and colorful past, you are urged to visit, by appointment, the Miami Shores Archives at Brockway Memorial Library.
The Chamber is indebted to Elizabeth Esper at the Library, local historian Seth Bramson, and local raconteurs Robert Davis, Sid Reese, and several others, for much of the narrative above. Any errors are the responsibility of the Chamber.