Brickell - The Back Story

Shiny. Hip. Modern. Its own private island. What more could you ask for in a Miami enclave? Welcome to Brickell. Years ago you had to be more specific; Brickell Avenue. Now the place is so hot you just say meet me at Brickell.

But how did it get this way? Brickell could easily be defined as the great nucleus of all of South Florida and Miami’s epicenter before there was a Miami. In short, it all starts with a raised elevated grouping of hardwood trees known as the Hunting Grounds on old maps.

But it wasn’t till a contractual snafu that slipped into a feud of the highest order that the Brickell area begins to define itself as a major player in the birth of Miami.

Long, long ago a family of Brickell’s led by William and more importantly his wife Mary settled here when there was nothing but a few million mosquitoes and half a dozen families.

Of course, this is the version the history books give you about the white pioneer version of things - Just a half-dozen families. In reality, there were hundreds and thousands of native Americans inhabiting the region for thousands of years.

At the base of what was known back then as Brickell Point, today known as Miami Circle Park you have remains of Paleolithic man and beasts that roamed a colder, savanah like environment way before the tropics came in and took over. Whooly mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, and humans huddled next to sink hole like depressions where water collected to live in caves and hunt and gather.

 

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Then came the Tequestas and the Caloosas who briefly met the Spanish and triggered the first but certainly not the last turf war. The Spanish won and briefly they began to inhabit the area inevitably passing on Florida to the British, French and eventually to a young country called America. By then everybody needed space and it was decreed that Florida was a tad bit more useless than Georgia, so they pushed the Creek Indians down into Florida and they would eventually make it all the way down to the Everglades and be known as the mighty Seminole.

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Which is where the Brickell’s come in. Their remote trading post, located in what is todays Brickell Park, housed a post office and early town hall before there was even a town hall. It was also where the Seminoles would pole their canoes up the Miami River and to the Brickell dock. There they constituted the first commerce and in realty the Brickell safe became the first bank in a now international banking mecca.

The train would come to Miami by 1896 and the Brickell’s were a part of that too. Along with a lady named Julia, they all help co-found the city by luring Henry Flagler and his wealth from West Palm to Miami. Helping them at the right time was back to back freezes that cemented Miami as the only truly frost-proof zone in the United States.

Only Flagler never built the bridge he promised the Brickell’s before his railroad reached Miami which is why the city boomed north of the River. Making matters worth, he dredged the Miami River and channel out to the ocean and dumped the dregs right in front of the Brickell home cutting off their view.

That mountain of dirt was flattened and became an Island, later renamed Claughton Island today known as Brickell Key. Known as one of the fanciest enclaves it joins multi-million dollar condos and luxury hotels that in some cases wrap around 4 city blocks like the newly built Brickell City Center, a marvel that even the Brickell’s can surely look down, chuckle and say; “We got the last laugh, didn’t we!”

 

 

Cesar Becerra 

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28 Aug 2017


By Cesar Becerra