Key Biscayne
Key Biscayne is an island located in Miami-Dade County
Miami-Dade County, Florida
Miami-Dade County is a county located in the southeastern part of the state of Florida. As of 2010 U.S. Census, the county had a population of 2,496,435, making it the most populous county in Florida and the eighth-most populous county in the United States...

, Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, between the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 and Biscayne Bay
Biscayne Bay
Biscayne Bay is a lagoon that is approximately 35 miles long and up to 8 miles wide located on the Atlantic coast of South Florida, United States. It is usually divided for purposes of discussion and analysis into three parts: North Bay, Central Bay, and South Bay. Its area is...

. It is the southernmost of the barrier islands
Bar (landform)
A shoal, sandbar , or gravelbar is a somewhat linear landform within or extending into a body of water, typically composed of sand, silt or small pebbles. A spit or sandspit is a type of shoal...

 along the Atlantic
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 coast of Florida, and lies south of Miami Beach
Miami Beach, Florida
Miami Beach is a coastal resort city in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States, incorporated on March 26, 1915. The municipality is located on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay, the latter which separates the Beach from Miami city proper...

 and southeast of Miami
Miami, Florida
Miami is a city located on the Atlantic coast in southeastern Florida and the county seat of Miami-Dade County, the most populous county in Florida and the eighth-most populous county in the United States with a population of 2,500,625...

. The Key is connected to Miami via the Rickenbacker Causeway
Rickenbacker Causeway
The Rickenbacker Causeway connects Miami, Florida, United States to the barrier islands of Virginia Key and Key Biscayne across Biscayne Bay.-Background:...

, originally built in 1947.

The northern portion of Key Biscayne is home to Crandon Park
Crandon Park
Crandon Park is a urban park in metropolitan Miami, occupying the northern part of Key Biscayne. It is connected to mainland Miami via the Rickenbacker Causeway.-History:...

, a county
Miami-Dade County, Florida
Miami-Dade County is a county located in the southeastern part of the state of Florida. As of 2010 U.S. Census, the county had a population of 2,496,435, making it the most populous county in Florida and the eighth-most populous county in the United States...

 park. The middle section of the island consists of the incorporated Village of Key Biscayne
Key Biscayne, Florida
Key Biscayne is a village in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States on the island of Key Biscayne. The population was 10,507 at the 2000 census. As of 2004, the population estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau is 10,324....

. The southern part of the island is in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park occupies approximately the southern third of the island of Key Biscayne, at coordinates . The park is home to the Cape Florida Light, the oldest standing structure in Greater Miami...

, and is adjacent to Biscayne National Park
Biscayne National Park
Biscayne National Park is a U.S. National Park located in southern Florida, due east of Homestead. The park preserves Biscayne Bay, one of the top scuba diving areas in the United States. Ninety-five percent of the park is water. In addition, the shore of the bay is the location of an extensive...

, one of the two national parks in Miami-Dade County.


Key Biscayne, although named a "key", is not geologically
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

 part of the Florida Keys
Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are a coral archipelago in southeast United States. They begin at the southeastern tip of the Florida peninsula, about south of Miami, and extend in a gentle arc south-southwest and then westward to Key West, the westernmost of the inhabited islands, and on to the uninhabited Dry...

, but is a barrier island
Bar (landform)
A shoal, sandbar , or gravelbar is a somewhat linear landform within or extending into a body of water, typically composed of sand, silt or small pebbles. A spit or sandspit is a type of shoal...

 composed of sand eroded from the Appalachian Mountains
Appalachian Mountains
The Appalachian Mountains #Whether the stressed vowel is or ,#Whether the "ch" is pronounced as a fricative or an affricate , and#Whether the final vowel is the monophthong or the diphthong .), often called the Appalachians, are a system of mountains in eastern North America. The Appalachians...

, carried down to the coast by rivers and then moved down the coast from the north by coastal currents. There is no hard bedrock close to the surface of the island, only layers of weak shelly sandstone
Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized minerals or rock grains.Most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar because these are the most common minerals in the Earth's crust. Like sand, sandstone may be any colour, but the most common colours are tan, brown, yellow,...

to depths of 100 feet (30 m) or more. The coastal transport of sand southward ends at Key Biscayne. In the 1850s Louis Agassiz
Louis Agassiz
Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz was a Swiss paleontologist, glaciologist, geologist and a prominent innovator in the study of the Earth's natural history. He grew up in Switzerland and became a professor of natural history at University of Neuchâtel...

 noted that [s]outh of Cape Florida no more silicacious sand is to be seen. (The beaches in the Florida Keys consist primarily of finely pulverized shells.) Geologist
A geologist is a scientist who studies the solid and liquid matter that constitutes the Earth as well as the processes and history that has shaped it. Geologists usually engage in studying geology. Geologists, studying more of an applied science than a theoretical one, must approach Geology using...

s believe that the island emerged around 2000 BCE
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

, soon after the sea level stopped rising, as the sand built up to form new barrier islands on the southern Florida coast.

Key Biscayne is elongated in the north-south direction, tapering to a point at each end. It is approximately five miles (eight kilometers) long and one to two miles (one-and-a-half to three km) wide. The northern end of the island is separated from another barrier island, Virginia Key
Virginia Key
Virginia Key is a barrier island in Miami, Florida, United States in Biscayne Bay, south of Brickell and north of Key Biscayne. It accessible from the mainland via the Rickenbacker Causeway....

, by Bear Cut. The southern end of the island is Cape Florida. The Cape Florida Channel separates the island from the Safety Valve, an expanse of shallow flats cut by tidal channels that extends southward about nine miles (fourteen-and-a-half km) to the Ragged Keys
Ragged Keys
Ragged Keys are small islands north of the upper Florida Keys.They are located in Biscayne Bay, just north of Sands Key.Earlier names for these islands were "Knox Island", "Laurence Island", "Los Paradisos", "Mascaras", "Mucaras", "Mucasas", "Pollock Island" and "Soldiers Island".Bernard Romans,...

, at the northern end of the Florida Keys. Only Soldier Key
Soldier Key
Soldier Key is an island in Biscayne National Park in Miami-Dade County, Florida. It is located between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, about three miles north of the Ragged Keys, five miles south of Cape Florida on Key Biscayne, seven-and-a-half miles east of the mainland and three miles west...

, approximately 200 yards (200 m) by 100 yards wide (100 m), lies between Key Biscayne and the Ragged Keys. The Cape Florida Channel (ten to eleven feet [three to three-and-a-half meters] deep in 1849) and Bear Cut (four feet [a little more than one meter] deep in 1849) are the deepest natural channels
Channel (geography)
In physical geography, a channel is the physical confine of a river, slough or ocean strait consisting of a bed and banks.A channel is also the natural or human-made deeper course through a reef, sand bar, bay, or any shallow body of water...

 into Biscayne Bay, and provided the only access for ocean-going vessels to Biscayne Bay until artificial channels were dredged starting early in the 20th century. In 1849 the island had a fine sandy beach on the east side, and mangrove
Mangroves are various kinds of trees up to medium height and shrubs that grow in saline coastal sediment habitats in the tropics and subtropics – mainly between latitudes N and S...

s and lagoon
A lagoon is a body of shallow sea water or brackish water separated from the sea by some form of barrier. The EU's habitat directive defines lagoons as "expanses of shallow coastal salt water, of varying salinity or water volume, wholly or partially separated from the sea by sand banks or shingle,...

s on the west side. The average elevation of the island is less than five feet (1.5 m) above sea level
Sea level
Mean sea level is a measure of the average height of the ocean's surface ; used as a standard in reckoning land elevation...


Key Biscayne is located at 25°41′25"N 80°9′54"W (25.690329, -80.165118).

Early history

The first known inhabitants of Key Biscayne were Tequesta
The Tequesta Native American tribe, at the time of first European contact, occupied an area along the southeastern Atlantic coast of Florida...

s. Shells, bones and artifact
Artifact (archaeology)
An artifact or artefact is "something made or given shape by man, such as a tool or a work of art, esp an object of archaeological interest"...

s found on the island indicate extensive use of it by the Tequesta, and there are indications of a large community on the island between 1,500 and 2,000 years ago. In 1992 Hurricane Andrew
Hurricane Andrew
Hurricane Andrew was the third Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in the United States, after the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and Hurricane Camille in 1969. Andrew was the first named storm and only major hurricane of the otherwise inactive 1992 Atlantic hurricane season...

 scoured much of the vegetation from the southern end of Key Biscayne. An archaeological
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

 survey of the exposed ground found evidence of extensive habitation, indicating that Key Biscayne once held the largest known Tequesta community.

Juan Ponce de León
Juan Ponce de León
Juan Ponce de León was a Spanish explorer. He became the first Governor of Puerto Rico by appointment of the Spanish crown. He led the first European expedition to Florida, which he named...

 charted Key Biscayne on his first mission to the New World in 1513. He christened the island Santa Marta and claimed it for the Spanish Crown. He reported that he found a fresh water spring on the island. Ponce de León called the bay behind the island (Biscayne Bay) Chequescha, a variant form of Tequesta.

The next Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an known to have visited the Key Biscayne area was Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés was a Spanish admiral and explorer, best remembered for founding St. Augustine, Florida in 1565. This was the first successful Spanish foothold in La Florida and remained the most significant city in the region for several hundred years. St...

In 1565 his ship took refuge from a storm in Biscayne Bay. Relations were established with the Tequesta, and in 1567 a mission was established on the mainland across the bay from Key Biscayne. The mission was abandoned three years later, in 1570. A second mission was established on the mainland in 1743, but was withdrawn a few months later.

Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda
Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda
Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda was a Spanish shipwreck survivor who lived among the Indians of Florida for 17 years...

 related that a sailor from the Bay of Biscay
Bay of Biscay
The Bay of Biscay is a gulf of the northeast Atlantic Ocean located south of the Celtic Sea. It lies along the western coast of France from Brest south to the Spanish border, and the northern coast of Spain west to Cape Ortegal, and is named in English after the province of Biscay, in the Spanish...

 called the Viscayno or Biscayno had lived on the lower east coast of Florida for a while after being shipwrecked, and a 17th-century map shows a Cayo de Biscainhos, the probable origin of Key Biscayne.

The first known European settlers on Key Biscayne were Pedro Fornells and his family and household. Fornells and his wife Mariana were Minorca
Min Orca or Menorca is one of the Balearic Islands located in the Mediterranean Sea belonging to Spain. It takes its name from being smaller than the nearby island of Majorca....

n survivors of the New Smyrna colony in northern Florida. Pedro and Mariana had joined other Minorcans in seeking refuge at St. Augustine
St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine is a city in the northeast section of Florida and the county seat of St. Johns County, Florida, United States. Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorer and admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, it is the oldest continuously occupied European-established city and port in the continental United...

 after leaving New Smyrna, and stayed in the city after the Spanish regained Florida in 1783. Fornells received a Royal Grant for 175 acres (about 71 hectares) on the southern end of Key Biscayne in 1805. The grant required Fornells to live on the island and establish cultivation within six months. He moved his household to the island, but after six months the family returned to St. Augustine, leaving only a caretaker named Vincent on the island.

Territorial years

Florida became a U.S. territory in 1821. In 1824 Mary Ann Channer Davis, who had moved to St. Augustine with her husband in 1821, bought the Fornells claim to Key Biscayne from one of the Fornells' heirs for US$
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

100. Mary and her husband William Davis, a deputy U.S. Marshal
United States Marshals Service
The United States Marshals Service is a United States federal law enforcement agency within the United States Department of Justice . The office of U.S. Marshal is the oldest federal law enforcement office in the United States; it was created by the Judiciary Act of 1789...

, probably were aware of plans to build a lighthouse
A lighthouse is a tower, building, or other type of structure designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses or, in older times, from a fire, and used as an aid to navigation for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways....

 on the Florida coast somewhere between St. Augustine and Key West
Key West, Florida
Key West is a city in Monroe County, Florida, United States. The city encompasses the island of Key West, the part of Stock Island north of U.S. 1 , Sigsbee Park , Fleming Key , and Sunset Key...

, and knew that Key Biscayne was a likely location for it. Mary and William sold three acres (about one-and-a-quarter hectares) of their newly acquired land at the southern tip of the island (Cape Florida) to the U.S. government for US$225. The federal government built the Cape Florida lighthouse
Cape Florida Light
The Cape Florida Light is a lighthouse on Cape Florida at the south end of Key Biscayne in Miami-Dade County, Florida. It was built in 1825 and operated, with interruptions, until 1878, when it was replaced by the Fowey Rocks lighthouse. The lighthouse was put back into use in 1978...

 on that land in 1825.

During the early 1820s an estimated 300 Black Seminoles
Black Seminoles
The Black Seminoles is a term used by modern historians for the descendants of free blacks and some runaway slaves , mostly Gullahs who escaped from coastal South Carolina and Georgia rice plantations into the Spanish Florida wilderness beginning as early as the late 17th century...

 found passage from Key Biscayne to Andros Island
Andros, Bahamas
Andros Island is an archipelago within the archipelago-nation of the Bahamas, the largest of the 26 inhabited Bahamian Islands. Geo-politically considered a single island, Andros has an area greater than all the other 700 Bahamian islands combined...

 in the Bahamas on seagoing canoes and Bahamian boats. In 1820 one traveler reported seeing 60 "Indians", 60 "runaway slaves", and 27 boats of Bahamian wreckers
Wrecking (shipwreck)
Wrecking is the practice of taking valuables from a shipwreck which has foundered near or close to shore. Often an unregulated activity of opportunity in coastal communities, wrecking has been subjected to increasing regulation and evolved into what is now known as marine salvage...

 preparing to leave Cape Florida. Although Key Biscayne was less suitable as a departure point after the lighthouse was built, the Bahamas remained a haven for escaping slaves. In a notorious case in 1844, Jonathan Walker was caught "within sight of Cape Florida" with seven runaway slaves on his boat. His punishment included having his hand branded with the initials SS (for slave stealer). John Greenleaf Whittier
John Greenleaf Whittier
John Greenleaf Whittier was an influential American Quaker poet and ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. He is usually listed as one of the Fireside Poets...

's poem The Branded Hand was inspired by this incident.

The first U.S. citizens to take up permanent residence on Key Biscayne were Captain
Captain (nautical)
A sea captain is a licensed mariner in ultimate command of the vessel. The captain is responsible for its safe and efficient operation, including cargo operations, navigation, crew management and ensuring that the vessel complies with local and international laws, as well as company and flag...

 John Dubose, his wife Margaret and their five children in 1825, when Dubose became the first keeper
Lighthouse keeper
A lighthouse keeper is the person responsible for tending and caring for a lighthouse, particularly the light and lens in the days when oil lamps and clockwork mechanisms were used. Keepers were needed to trim the wicks, replenish fuel, wind clockworks and perform maintenance tasks such as cleaning...

 for the new Cape Florida Light, a post he held until the lighthouse was burned in 1836. The family was also accompanied by two former slaves of Margaret's brother. The Dubose household grew during that time and was reported in 1833 to consist of eleven whites and several negroes. During his tenure as lighthouse keeper, Dubose received hundreds of plants and seeds from Dr. Henry Perrine
Henry Perrine
Henry Perrine was a physician, horticulturist, United States Consul in Campeche, Campeche, Mexico, and an enthusiast for introducing tropical plants into cultivation in the United States....

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

Consul (representative)
The political title Consul is used for the official representatives of the government of one state in the territory of another, normally acting to assist and protect the citizens of the consul's own country, and to facilitate trade and friendship between the peoples of the two countries...

 in Campeche
Campeche, Campeche
San Francisco de Campeche is the capital city of the Mexican state of Campeche, located at,...

, Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, which he planted on the island. In 1835 a major hurricane struck the island, damaging the lighthouse and the keeper's house, and putting the island under three feet of water, which killed almost all the plants that Dr. Perrine had sent from Mexico.

War with the Seminoles

In 1836, during the Second Seminole War
Seminole Wars
The Seminole Wars, also known as the Florida Wars, were three conflicts in Florida between the Seminole — the collective name given to the amalgamation of various groups of native Americans and Black people who settled in Florida in the early 18th century — and the United States Army...

, Seminole
The Seminole are a Native American people originally of Florida, who now reside primarily in that state and Oklahoma. The Seminole nation emerged in a process of ethnogenesis out of groups of Native Americans, most significantly Creeks from what is now Georgia and Alabama, who settled in Florida in...

s attacked and burned the Cape Florida lighthouse, severely wounding the assistant lighthouse keeper in charge, and killing his black assistant. The lighthouse was not repaired and put back into commission until 1847.

A military post was established on Key Biscayne in March 1838. Its first commander was Lt. Col.
Lieutenant Colonel (United States)
In the United States Army, United States Air Force, and United States Marine Corps, a lieutenant colonel is a field grade military officer rank just above the rank of major and just below the rank of colonel. It is equivalent to the naval rank of commander in the other uniformed services.The pay...

 James Bankhead, and it is variously reported that the fort was initially known as Fort Dallas or Fort Bankhead, but it was eventually renamed Fort Russell for Captain Samuel L. Russell, who was killed when the Seminoles ambushed two boats on the Miami River
Miami River (Florida)
The Miami River is a river in the United States state of Florida that drains out of the Everglades and runs through the Downtown and the city of Miami. The long river flows from the terminus of the Miami Canal at Miami International Airport to Biscayne Bay...

 in February 1839. In the summer of 1839 there were 143 soldiers and sailors stationed at Fort Russell. Some of the Seminoles captured during the war were held at Fort Russell until they could be placed on ships to take them to western lands.

A hospital was established at Fort Russell to care for U.S. Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

, Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 and Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 personnel. In the month of August, 1840, the Army surgeon at the hospital treated 103 patients, including 23 for fever and 26 for dysentery
Dysentery is an inflammatory disorder of the intestine, especially of the colon, that results in severe diarrhea containing mucus and/or blood in the faeces with fever and abdominal pain. If left untreated, dysentery can be fatal.There are differences between dysentery and normal bloody diarrhoea...

. Dysentery was the leading cause of death, followed by malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

, tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

, gunshot wounds and alcoholism
Alcoholism is a broad term for problems with alcohol, and is generally used to mean compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages, usually to the detriment of the drinker's health, personal relationships, and social standing...


Colonel Bankhead was replaced by Lieutenant Colonel William S. Harney
William S. Harney
William Selby Harney was a cavalry officer in the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War and the Indian Wars. He was born in what is today part of Nashville, Tennessee but at the time was known as Haysborough....

 in 1839. As the result of two earlier encounters with Seminoles, the first a battle in which Chief Arpeika
Ar-pi-uck-i (Sam Jones)
Ar-pi-uck-i, also known as Sam Jones, was a powerful spiritual alektca and war chief of the Miccosukee, a Seminole-Muscogee Creek tribe of the Southeast United States. Ar-pi-uck-i successfully defied the U.S...

 eluded capture, and a second in which Harney escaped in only his shirt and drawers from an early morning attack (the Harney Massacre) on his camp led by Chief Chakaika, Harney instituted an intensive training program in swamp and jungle warfare for his men. After Chakaika led the raid on Indian Key
Indian Key State Historic Site
Indian Key State Historic Site is an island within the Florida State Park system located just a few hundred yards southeast of U.S. 1 within the Florida Keys. The island was briefly inhabited in the middle of the 19th century, but is now an uninhabited ghost town...

 in August 1840, Harney set out into the Everglades
The Everglades are subtropical wetlands in the southern portion of the U.S. state of Florida, comprising the southern half of a large watershed. The system begins near Orlando with the Kissimmee River, which discharges into the vast but shallow Lake Okeechobee...

 after Chakaika, and killed him in his own camp. The war quieted down after that, with active pursuit of the Seminoles ending in 1842, although some of the Seminoles remained hidden in the Everglades.

While the war against the Seminoles was proceeding, Mary and William Davis made plans to develop a town on Key Biscayne. They had a plan for the town printed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Philadelphia County, with which it is coterminous. The city is located in the Northeastern United States along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. It is the fifth-most-populous city in the United States,...

. The island was touted as an ideal destination "for the recovery of the health". When Indian Key had been named the seat
County seat
A county seat is an administrative center, or seat of government, for a county or civil parish. The term is primarily used in the United States....

 for the newly created Dade County
Miami-Dade County, Florida
Miami-Dade County is a county located in the southeastern part of the state of Florida. As of 2010 U.S. Census, the county had a population of 2,496,435, making it the most populous county in Florida and the eighth-most populous county in the United States...

 in 1836, there had been a provision for the county court to meet on Key Biscayne once a year. In late 1839 the United States Postmaster General
United States Postmaster General
The United States Postmaster General is the Chief Executive Officer of the United States Postal Service. The office, in one form or another, is older than both the United States Constitution and the United States Declaration of Independence...

 approved a post office
Post office
A post office is a facility forming part of a postal system for the posting, receipt, sorting, handling, transmission or delivery of mail.Post offices offer mail-related services such as post office boxes, postage and packaging supplies...

 for Key Biscayne. The first two lots of the new town were sold to Lt. Col. Harney for a total of US$1,000. There is no evidence, however, that the post office ever opened, and in 1842 the Postmaster General noted that the appointed postmaster had not completed any of the requirements for opening the post office. There were no further sales of town lots after Harney's purchase.

A complication in the Davises' plans arose when Venancio Sanchez of St. Augustine purchased for US$400 a half share in the old Fornells grant from another surviving heir, who lived in Havana
Havana is the capital city, province, major port, and leading commercial centre of Cuba. The city proper has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, and it spans a total of — making it the largest city in the Caribbean region, and the most populous...

. A feud quickly developed between Sanchez and the Davises, with Sanchez demanding a division of the property, and the Davises refusing to acknowledge that Sanchez had any claim to the island. The Davises had hoped that a restored lighthouse would be the centerpiece of their town, but all attempts to repair the lighthouse failed while the war was on. Shortly after the end of the war, the Davises gave up on Key Biscayne and moved to Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, where their older son, Edmund J. Davis
Edmund J. Davis
Edmund Jackson Davis was an American lawyer, soldier, and politician. He was a Southern Unionist and served as a Union general in the American Civil War, besides serving one term as the 14th Governor of Texas.-Early years:...

, eventually became governor.

Surveys and lighthouses

The large number of ship wrecks along the southeast coast of Florida from Key Biscayne to the Dry Tortugas
Dry Tortugas
The Dry Tortugas are a small group of islands, located at the end of the Florida Keys, USA, about west of Key West, and west of the Marquesas Keys, the closest islands. Still further west is the Tortugas Bank, which is completely submerged. The first Europeans to discover the islands were the...

 was a cause for concern. Between the late 1840s and the late 1850s more than 500 ships were wrecked on the Florida Reef. The Assistant United States Coast Surveyor reported that in the period from 1845 through 1849 almost one million (United States) dollars worth of vessels and cargos were lost on the reef. In 1849 the United States Board of Engineers conducted a preliminary survey of the coast of Florida. In a report written by Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

, the Board recommended that Key Biscayne be made a military reservation, and the United States Secretary of War
United States Secretary of War
The Secretary of War was a member of the United States President's Cabinet, beginning with George Washington's administration. A similar position, called either "Secretary at War" or "Secretary of War," was appointed to serve the Congress of the Confederation under the Articles of Confederation...

 so ordered in March 1849. Later in 1849 the United States Army Corps of Topographical Engineers
United States Army Corps of Engineers
The United States Army Corps of Engineers is a federal agency and a major Army command made up of some 38,000 civilian and military personnel, making it the world's largest public engineering, design and construction management agency...

 set up a camp with an astronomical
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

Magnetism is a property of materials that respond at an atomic or subatomic level to an applied magnetic field. Ferromagnetism is the strongest and most familiar type of magnetism. It is responsible for the behavior of permanent magnets, which produce their own persistent magnetic fields, as well...

 station to serve as a datum base for a survey
See Also: Public Land Survey SystemSurveying or land surveying is the technique, profession, and science of accurately determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional position of points and the distances and angles between them...

 of the Florida Keys and the Great Florida Reef.
The triangulation
In trigonometry and geometry, triangulation is the process of determining the location of a point by measuring angles to it from known points at either end of a fixed baseline, rather than measuring distances to the point directly...

 survey was conducted by the U.S. Coast Survey
U.S. National Geodetic Survey
National Geodetic Survey, formerly called the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey , is a United States federal agency that defines and manages a national coordinate system, providing the foundation for transportation and communication; mapping and charting; and a large number of applications of science...

 with men detailed from the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy. There were approximately forty men based at Cape Florida working on the survey when Alexander Dallas Bache
Alexander Dallas Bache
Alexander Dallas Bache was an American physicist, scientist and surveyor who erected coastal fortifications and conducted a detailed survey mapping of the United States coastline.-Biography:...

, Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey, went to Key Biscayne in 1855 to take personal charge of the survey. The survey eventually included Key Biscayne, Biscayne Bay, the Florida Keys from south of Key Biscayne to the Marquesas Keys
Marquesas Keys
The Marquesas Keys form an uninhabited island group about 30 miles west of Key West, 4 miles in diameter, and inhabited by mangrove. They are an unincorporated area of Monroe County, Florida and belong to the Lower Keys Census County Division. They are protected as part of the Key West National...

, and Florida Bay
Florida Bay
Florida Bay is the bay located between the southern end of the Florida mainland and the Florida Keys. Its area is variously stated to be , or , or . Nearly all of Florida Bay is included in Everglades National Park. The southern edge, along the Florida Keys is in the Florida Keys National Marine...

 from the Keys to Cape Sable
Cape Sable
Cape Sable, Florida is the southernmost point of the US mainland and mainland Florida. It is located in southwestern Florida, in Monroe County, and is part of the Everglades National Park. The cape is a peninsula issuing from the southeastern part of the Florida mainland, running west and curving...

. The survey base marker at Cape Florida eventually ended up under water as the south end of the island eroded away, although it could still be seen at low tide as late as 1913. In 1988 the Cape Florida base marker was recovered from under water and installed near the Cape Florida lighthouse. The north base marker for Key Biscayne was discovered in 1970 as workers were clearing land. It was at first mistaken as a gravestone for someone named A. D. Bache.

To learn more about the Great Florida Reef that paralleled the Florida Keys and was so dangerous to shipping, Alexander Bache invited Louis Agassiz
Louis Agassiz
Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz was a Swiss paleontologist, glaciologist, geologist and a prominent innovator in the study of the Earth's natural history. He grew up in Switzerland and became a professor of natural history at University of Neuchâtel...

 to study the reef. The U.S. Coast Survey sent Agassiz to Key Biscayne in 1851. He wrote a detailed report for Bache on the reefs stretching from Key Biscayne to the Marquesas Keys.

In 1846, US Congress appropriated $23,000 to rebuild the Cape Florida lighthouse and work was completed in 1847. In 1861, Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 militants sabotaged the lighthouse so that it could not guide Union
Union (American Civil War)
During the American Civil War, the Union was a name used to refer to the federal government of the United States, which was supported by the twenty free states and five border slave states. It was opposed by 11 southern slave states that had declared a secession to join together to form the...

 sailors during the blockade of Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

. The lighthouse was repaired and re-lit again in 1866. In 1878 the Cape Florida Light was replaced by the Fowey Rocks Light
Fowey Rocks Light
Fowey Rocks Light is located seven miles southeast of Cape Florida on Key Biscayne. The lighthouse was completed in 1878, replacing the Cape Florida lighthouse. It was automated on May 7, 1974 and is still in operation today. The structure is cast iron, with a screw-pile foundation, a platform and...

, seven miles (11 km) southeast of Cape Florida. From 1888 to 1893, the Cape Florida lighthouse was leased by the United States Secretary of the Treasury
United States Secretary of the Treasury
The Secretary of the Treasury of the United States is the head of the United States Department of the Treasury, which is concerned with financial and monetary matters, and, until 2003, also with some issues of national security and defense. This position in the Federal Government of the United...

 for a total of US$1.00 (20 cents per annum) to the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club for use as its headquarters. It was listed as the southernmost yacht club in the United States, and the tallest in the world. After the lease expired, the yacht club moved to Coconut Grove
Coconut Grove, Florida
Coconut Grove is the oldest continuously inhabited neighborhood of Miami, Florida in Miami-Dade County, United States. The neighborhood is roughly bound by North Prospect Drive to the south, LeJeune Road to the west, South Dixie Highway and Rickenbacker Causeway to the north, and Biscayne Bay to...

, where it still exists.

In 1898, in response to the growing tension with Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 over Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 that resulted in the Spanish-American War
Spanish-American War
The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence...

, the Cape Florida lighthouse was briefly made U.S. Signal Station Number Four, one of 36 along the U.S. East Coast
East Coast of the United States
The East Coast of the United States, also known as the Eastern Seaboard, refers to the easternmost coastal states in the United States, which touch the Atlantic Ocean and stretch up to Canada. The term includes the U.S...

 and Gulf Coast
Gulf Coast of the United States
The Gulf Coast of the United States, sometimes referred to as the Gulf South, South Coast, or 3rd Coast, comprises the coasts of American states that are on the Gulf of Mexico, which includes Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida and are known as the Gulf States...

 from Maine
Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

 to Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

. The Signal Stations were established to provide an early warning of any approach of the Spanish fleet.


Key Biscayne and coconut
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...

s have had a strong connection. The earliest possible mention of coconuts on Key Biscayne is a Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 account from 1568, although the reference may be to cocoplums
Chrysobalanus icaco
Chrysobalanus icaco, the cocoplum, Paradise Plum and icaco , is found near sea beaches and inland throughout the tropical Americas and the Caribbean, including Cuba, southern Florida, and the Bahamas. The inland subspecies is Chrysobalanus icaco pellocarpus.-Description:Chrysobalanus icaco is a...

 rather than coconuts. It is recorded that mature coconut trees were on Cape Florida by the 1830s, likely grown from coconuts sent from Mexico by Henry Perrine to the first lighthouse keeper, John Dubose.

In the 1880s Ezra Asher Osborn and Elnathan T. Field of New Jersey started an enterprise to develop the Florida coast from Key Biscayne to Jupiter
Jupiter, Florida
Jupiter is a town located in Palm Beach County, Florida. As of the 2000 census, the town had a total population of 39,328. The estimate population for 2009 is 50,606. As of 2006, the population had grown to 50,028, according to the University of Florida, Bureau of Economic and Business Research....

 by clearing native vegetation, leveling Indian mounds and beach dune
In physical geography, a dune is a hill of sand built by wind. Dunes occur in different forms and sizes, formed by interaction with the wind. Most kinds of dunes are longer on the windward side where the sand is pushed up the dune and have a shorter "slip face" in the lee of the wind...

s, and planting coconuts. Osborn and Field imported 300,000 unhusked coconuts from the Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

, of which 76,000 were planted on Key Biscayne. Unfortunately for the planters, most of the shoots from the coconuts on Key Biscayne were eaten by rats and marsh rabbit
Marsh Rabbit
The marsh rabbit is a small cottontail rabbit found in marshes and swamps of coastal regions of the Eastern and Southern United States. It is a strong swimmer and found only near regions of water...

s (Sylvilagus palustris). As a result of their efforts, in 1885 Osborn and Field were allowed to purchase Key Biscayne and other oceanfront land from the Florida Internal Improvement
Internal improvements
Internal improvements is the term used historically in the United States for public works from the end of the American Revolution through much of the 19th century, mainly for the creation of a transportation infrastructure: roads, turnpikes, canals, harbors and navigation improvements...

 Fund for 70 cents an acre.

Mary Ann Davis, who had bought the Fornells grant on Key Biscayne in 1821, died in Galveston, Texas
Galveston, Texas
Galveston is a coastal city located on Galveston Island in the U.S. state of Texas. , the city had a total population of 47,743 within an area of...

 in 1885. Her son Waters Smith Davis began taking steps to assert the family title to the island. In 1887 he purchased the rights of the other Davis heirs and received a new deed in his name. He could not get a clear title, however. Venancio Sanchez still claimed a half share of the Fornells Grant, two of the town lots had been sold to William Harney around 1840, and Osborne and Field had their deed from the Florida Internal Improvement Fund. Davis received quitclaims
Quitclaim deed
A quitclaim deed is a legal instrument by which the owner of a piece of real property, called the grantor, transfers his interest to a recipient, called the grantee. The owner/grantor terminates his right and claim to the property, thereby allowing claim to transfer to the...

 from Osborn and Field, and on the Harney lots, but was unable to settle with Sanchez. He finally received a patent from the United States government for his land in 1898. In 1903 Davis bought the abandoned Cape Florida lighthouse from the United States Treasury for US$400.

Davis started a pineapple
Pineapple is the common name for a tropical plant and its edible fruit, which is actually a multiple fruit consisting of coalesced berries. It was given the name pineapple due to its resemblance to a pine cone. The pineapple is by far the most economically important plant in the Bromeliaceae...

 plantation on Key Biscayne; six acres (two-and-a-half hectares) had been cleared and planted in pineapples in 1893–94. Davis also directed his caretaker to plant one-half to one acre (two-tenths to four-tenths of a hectare) of banana
Banana is the common name for herbaceous plants of the genus Musa and for the fruit they produce. Bananas come in a variety of sizes and colors when ripe, including yellow, purple, and red....

s. By 1898, a great variety of tropical fruit trees had been planted on the island. Davis also had a large dwelling built for his use. It was a two-story cottage with five bedrooms and verandas on three sides, raised ten feet above the ground on pilings to protect against storm surges.

In the late 1890s Davis hired Ralph Munroe
Ralph Munroe
Ralph Middleton Munroe was an American yacht designer and early resident of Coconut Grove in south Florida. His home, now The Barnacle Historic State Park, is the oldest house in Miami-Dade County still standing in its original location.-Early life:Munroe was born to Thomas and Ellen Middleton...

 to oversee his Key Biscayne property. Munroe had begun visiting Biscayne Bay in 1877. He soon built a home, the Barnacle
The Barnacle Historic State Park
The Barnacle Historic State Park is a Florida State Park in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, Florida at 3485 Main Highway.Built in 1891, it is the oldest house in its original location in Miami-Dade County. The Barnacle was the home of Ralph Middleton Munroe, one of Coconut Grove’s...

, on land on the mainland in Coconut Grove that he bought from John Frow, keeper of the Cape Florida Light and Fowey Rocks Light. Munroe engaged in wrecking
Wrecking (shipwreck)
Wrecking is the practice of taking valuables from a shipwreck which has foundered near or close to shore. Often an unregulated activity of opportunity in coastal communities, wrecking has been subjected to increasing regulation and evolved into what is now known as marine salvage...

 in the waters around Key Biscayne, built sailboats, worked as a pilot for the Cape Florida Channel and opened a pineapple cannery, to which Davis sent his pineapples. Before mail service to the Miami area improved, Munroe would camp out on Key Biscayne every Tuesday evening so that he could sail out to the edge of the Gulf Stream
Gulf Stream
The Gulf Stream, together with its northern extension towards Europe, the North Atlantic Drift, is a powerful, warm, and swift Atlantic ocean current that originates at the tip of Florida, and follows the eastern coastlines of the United States and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean...

 early Wednesday morning to retrieve a package of newspapers and magazines dropped for him in waterproof pouches by a passing steamship. Munroe was also one of the founding members of the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club.

In 1896 Henry Morrison Flagler
Henry Morrison Flagler
Henry Morrison Flagler was an American tycoon, real estate promoter, railroad developer and partner of John D. Rockefeller in Standard Oil. He was a key figure in the development of the eastern coast of Florida along the Atlantic Ocean and was founder of what became the Florida East Coast Railway...

 brought the Florida East Coast Railway
Florida East Coast Railway
The Florida East Coast Railway is a Class II railroad operating in the U.S. state of Florida; in the past, it has been a Class I railroad.Built primarily in the last quarter of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century, the FEC was a project of Standard Oil principal Henry Morrison...

 to Miami. Mary Ann and William Davis had dreamed of building a city on Key Biscayne. Now their son Waters was a retired millionaire, and interested only in preserving Key Biscayne as a quiet retreat for his family. For a while Flagler's arrival did disturb their quiet, as Flagler brought in dredges to deepen the Cape Florida Channel and the approaches to the mouth of the Miami River, muddying the formerly clear waters of Biscayne Bay. Soon, however, a shorter route from the ocean to Miami was dredged through the southern end of what is now Miami Beach, at Government Cut
Government Cut
Government Cut is a manmade shipping channel between Miami Beach and Fisher Island, which allows better access to the Port of Miami in Miami, Florida...

, and the Cape Florida Channel was allowed to return to a natural state.

Coconut plantation and would-be resort

In 1902 William John Matheson
William John Matheson
William John Matheson was an American industrialist, born in Wisconsin but educated in Scotland. Having learned, while in Scotland, about recent breakthroughs in the development of aniline dyes, Matheson became an early importer and distributor of such dyes from Germany...

, who had made his fortune in the aniline dye business, visited Biscayne Bay on his yacht. He soon built a winter home in Coconut Grove overlooking Biscayne Bay. In 1908 Matheson began buying up the property on Key Biscayne north of the Davis holdings, all the way to Bear Cut, over 1,700 (about 690 hectares) acres. Matheson created a plantation community, employing 42 workers by 1915, and 60 later. There was housing for the workers and their families, packing houses, docks, a school, a big barn, windmills, and 15 miles (24 km) of (unpaved) roads. The plantation had 36,000 coconut trees, and a variety of other tropical fruits. In 1921 Matheson introduced the Malay Dwarf coconut to the United States. This is now the most common variety of coconut found in Florida, after lethal yellowing
Lethal yellowing
thumb|Palm tree dying of lethal yellowingLethal Yellowing is a phytoplasma disease that attacks many species of palms, including some commercially important species such as the Coconut and Date Palm. It is spread by the planthopper Haplaxius crudus which is native to Florida, parts of the...

 killed off most of the Jamaican Tall coconut trees and many other varieties. The Matheson coconut plantation was at least twice as large as any other in the United States. By 1933, the world price for coconut products had dropped to about two-fifths of its 1925 level, and the plantation stopped shipping.

Waters Davis decided to sell his Key Biscayne property in 1913 (he died the following year). He appointed Ralph Munroe to act as his broker. Although William Matheson bid on the property, Munroe arranged a sale, for US$20,000, to James Deering
James Deering
James Deering was an industrialist executive in the family Deering Harvester Company and subsequent International Harvester, a socialite, and an antiquities collector. He is known for his landmark Vizcaya estate, where he was an early 20th century resident on Biscayne Bay in the present day...

, International Harvester
International Harvester
International Harvester Company was a United States agricultural machinery, construction equipment, vehicle, commercial truck, and household and commercial products manufacturer. In 1902, J.P...

 heir and owner of Vizcaya
Villa Vizcaya
Vizcaya, now named the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, is the former villa and estate of businessman James Deering, of the Deering McCormick-International Harvester fortune, on Biscayne Bay in the present day Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, Florida...

 in Miami. In 1914 Deering decided to develop his new land on the island as a tropical resort. He felt that Cape Florida's future lies in making sales for homes. Land was cleared and marshes and mangroves were filled in. Jetties were built on the ocean side in the belief that they would protect the beaches from erosion.

One stipulation that Waters Davis had made in the sale to Deering was that the Cape Florida lighthouse be restored. Deering wrote to the U.S. government seeking specifications and guidelines for the lighthouse. Government officials were taken aback by the request, wondering how a lighthouse could have passed into private hands. It was soon discovered that an Act of Congress and two Executive Orders, in 1847 and 1897, had reserved the island for the lighthouse and for military purposes. Patient legal work eventually convinced the U.S. Congress and President Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

 to agree to recognize Matheson's and Deering's ownership of Key Biscayne.

In 1920 the heirs of Venancio Sanchez filed a lawsuit against James Deering, claiming an undivided half interest in his Cape Florida property. This brought development of the resort on Cape Florida to a halt. After many legal battles, the suit was finally decided in Deering's favor by the United States Supreme Court in 1926. The decision came too late for Deering, however; he had died the previous year.

1920s to 1950s

In February 1926 William Matheson entered into an agreement with D. P. Davis (a land developer, not related to Waters Davis) to develop and re-sell the northern half of Key Biscayne, including all of what is now Crandon Park and about half of the present Village of Key Biscayne. Davis had experience with turning submerged or partially submerged land into prime real estate, having created the Davis Islands
Davis Islands (Florida)
Davis Islands is a Tampa neighborhood and archipelago made of two islands in Hillsborough County, Florida. Its proximity to Downtown Tampa, and its views of the Port of Tampa, make it a popular area to live...

 in Tampa
Tampa, Florida
Tampa is a city in the U.S. state of Florida. It serves as the county seat for Hillsborough County. Tampa is located on the west coast of Florida. The population of Tampa in 2010 was 335,709....

 and Davis Shores near St. Augustine. Later in 1926 the City of Coral Gables
Coral Gables, Florida
Coral Gables is a city in Miami-Dade County, Florida, southwest of Downtown Miami, in the United States. The city is home to the University of Miami....

 incorporated with Key Biscayne included in its boundaries. There were dreams of a bridge to the island, making Key Biscayne the seaside resort for Coral Gables that Miami Beach had become for Miami.

Obstacles to the project soon appeared. In March 1926 the U.S. government auctioned off some lots on Key Biscayne that had been retained when the rest of the island was transferred to the State of Florida. The Mathesons wanted to have clear title to all of their land, and determined to outbid other interested parties for the land. They ended up paying US$58,055 for a total of 6.84 acres (2.77 hectares) of land, a record price per acre for the auction of U.S. government land up to that date. Then, on September 18, 1926, the Great Miami Hurricane
1926 Miami Hurricane
The 1926 Miami hurricane was a Category 4 hurricane that devastated Miami in September 1926. The storm also caused significant damage in the Florida Panhandle, the U.S. state of Alabama, and the Bahamas...

 crossed over Key Biscayne on its way to Miami. Although no lives were lost on the island, most of the buildings on Key Biscayne were destroyed or badly damaged, and many of the plantings were lost, including half of the coconut trees.

The Mathesons rushed to restore their plantation, replanting and buying new equipment to replace what was lost in the hurricane, and soon had 30,000 coconut trees replanted on 900 acres (365 hectares). Unfortunately, D. P. Davis was not able to meet his end of the contract; he declared bankruptcy and then disappeared en route to Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 by ship. The Florida Land Boom was over. There was no bridge built and no land development on Key Biscayne for the next two decades. William Matheson died in 1930, leaving the island to his children. There was a flurry of interest in 1939, when the U.S. Navy approved a proposal to develop Virginia Key as an air base and sea port. There was even talk of putting an air base on the north end of Key Biscayne.

In 1940 William Matheson's heirs donated 808.8 acres (327.3 hectares) of land (including two miles (3.2 km) of beach on the Atlantic Ocean) on the northern end of Key Biscayne to Dade County to be used as a public park (Crandon Park). The county commissioner who negotiated the gift, Charles H. Crandon, had offered for the county to build a causeway to Key Biscayne in exchange for the land donation. Planning for the air and sea complex on Virginia Key was still proceeding, and construction on a causeway to Virginia Key started in 1941. The Attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 and the entry of the United States into World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 stopped all work on the causeway and the development of Virginia Key.

During the war Key Biscayne's tropical ambience was put to use by the film industry
Film industry
The film industry consists of the technological and commercial institutions of filmmaking: i.e. film production companies, film studios, cinematography, film production, screenwriting, pre-production, post production, film festivals, distribution; and actors, film directors and other film crew...

, with the island standing in for the Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 in all of the exterior shots in They Were Expendable
They Were Expendable
They Were Expendable is a 1945 American war film directed by John Ford and starring Robert Montgomery and John Wayne. The film is based on the book by William L. White, relating the story of the exploits of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three, a PT boat unit defending the Philippines against Japanese...

. The final scene in the movie depicts a C-47
C-47 Skytrain
The Douglas C-47 Skytrain or Dakota is a military transport aircraft that was developed from the Douglas DC-3 airliner. It was used extensively by the Allies during World War II and remained in front line operations through the 1950s with a few remaining in operation to this day.-Design and...

 flying past the Cape Florida lighthouse.

After the war Crandon pushed on with the project. He got financier Ed Ball to buy six million (U.S.) dollars worth of bonds financing the construction of the causeway. The causeway was named for Eddie Rickenbacker
Eddie Rickenbacker
Edward Vernon Rickenbacker was an American fighter ace in World War I and Medal of Honor recipient. He was also a race car driver and automotive designer, a government consultant in military matters and a pioneer in air transportation, particularly as the longtime head of Eastern Air Lines.-Early...

, World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 flying ace
Flying ace
A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down several enemy aircraft during aerial combat. The actual number of aerial victories required to officially qualify as an "ace" has varied, but is usually considered to be five or more...

 and founder and president of Miami-based Eastern Air Lines
Eastern Air Lines
Eastern Air Lines was a major United States airline that existed from 1926 to 1991. Before its dissolution it was headquartered at Miami International Airport in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, Florida.-History:...

. Starting in 1951, the Mackle Construction Company offered new homes on the island for US$9,540, with just US$500 down. A U.S. Post Office contract branch was opened, the Community Church started holding services, and the Key Biscayne Elementary School opened in 1952.

Cape Florida becomes a state park

In 1948 José Manuel Áleman, who had fled Cuba in the wake of scandals surrounding his service as education minister in the administration of Ramón Grau San Martín
Ramón Grau
Dr. Ramón Grau San Martín was a Cuban physician and the President of Cuba .-Youth:...

, bought the Cape Florida property from the Deering estate. His offer to donate the lighthouse and ten acres (four hectares) of land around it to the National Park Service
National Park Service
The National Park Service is the U.S. federal agency that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations...

 was not accepted.

In 1950 the Dade County Planning Board announced a plan to build a highway connecting Key Biscayne with the Overseas Highway
Overseas Highway
The Overseas Highway is a highway carrying U.S. Route 1 through the Florida Keys. Large parts of it were built on the former right-of-way of the Overseas Railroad, the Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast Railway. Completed in 1912, the Overseas Railroad was heavily damaged and partially...

 on Key Largo. The project envisioned a series of bridges connecting artificial islands, to be built on the Safety Valve, and existing small keys to Elliott Key
Elliott Key
Elliott Key is the northernmost of the true Florida Keys , and the largest key north of Key Largo. It is located entirely within Biscayne National Park, in Miami-Dade County, Florida, east of Homestead, Florida...

 and on to Key Largo. Áleman was expected to donate the right-of-way for a road running down the middle of the island to the first bridge at Cape Florida. With the prospect of a major highway passing through his property, Áleman rushed to prepare his new property for development by having it completely cleared, leveled and filled in. A seawall
A seawall is a form of coastal defence constructed where the sea, and associated coastal processes, impact directly upon the landforms of the coast. The purpose of a seawall is to protect areas of human habitation, conservation and leisure activities from the action of tides and waves...

 was constructed along all of the western (Biscayne Bay) side of the Cape Florida property.

Áleman died in 1951, and the County soon backed down from the plan. Áleman's widow, Elena Santeiro Garcia, added to her Cape Florida property by buying an ocean-to-bay strip that had been part of the Matheson property. This strip included a canal that had been dug by William Matheson in the 1920s, and which extended from the bay across most of the island. The land north of this canal was developed as part of what is now the Village of Key Biscayne. Garcia sold the Cape Florida property in 1957 for US$9.5 million, but the buyer defaulted and died the next year. Garcia sold the property again, this time for US$13 million. Development started on a model community of luxury homes and resort properties. By 1962 the new developers were in financial trouble, and the property reverted again to Garcia in 1963. Dade County began considering the purchase of 50 acres (202,343 m²) around the Cape Florida lighthouse for a park in 1964. Bill Baggs
Bill Baggs
William Calhoun "Bill" Baggs was editor of The Miami News from 1957 until his death in 1969. Bill Baggs was one of a group of Southern editors who campaigned for civil rights for African-Americans in the 1950s and 1960s...

, editor of The Miami News
The Miami News
The Miami News was the dominant evening newspaper in Miami, Florida for most of the 20th century, its chief concurrent competitor being the morning-edition of The Miami Herald. The paper started publishing in May 1896 as a weekly called The Miami Metropolis. The Metropolis had become a daily paper...

, started campaigning for all of the Cape Florida property to be preserved in a park. U.S. Interior Secretary
United States Secretary of the Interior
The United States Secretary of the Interior is the head of the United States Department of the Interior.The US Department of the Interior should not be confused with the concept of Ministries of the Interior as used in other countries...

 Stewart Udall
Stewart Udall
Stewart Lee Udall was an American politician. After serving three terms as a congressman from Arizona, he served as Secretary of the Interior from 1961 to 1969, under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B...

inspected the property and recommended that it be preserved, although not with Federal funds. In 1966 Bill Baggs brokered a deal between Elena Santeiro Garcia and the state of Florida, in which Florida bought the property for US$8.5 million, of which US$2.3 million came from the U.S. government. This land became Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, which opened January 1, 1967.
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