As we come together to celebrate America’s 239th birthday, it is a perfect occasion to reflect on Miami’s much younger history. The city of Miami Beach just celebrated its centennial in March of this year and the city of Miami will be celebrating its 119th birthday later this July.
The oldest single family home in Miami, still in it’s original location, belonged to one of Miami’s first settlers Alfred Munroe. Mr. Munroe first traveled to the Miami area in 1880 for vacation. When his wife was diagnosed with tuberculosis and her doctor suggested that a radical climate change might be the only thing that could save her, Alfred moved his family from New York to Miami in what is now Coconut Grove. He purchased 40 acres of land along the shores of Biscayne Bay for $400 and a sailboat named “Kingfish” valued at $400.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Munroe succumbed to the disease and did not live long after their move to Miami. However, Alfred became a very influential person in the area and opened a thriving yacht design business, eventually being bestowed with the title Commodore of the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club.
What most people do not know about Alfred Munroe is that he was one of Miami’s first photographers and one of the only sources documenting Miami life in the late 19th century. Hundreds of his photographs, depicting “country lifestyle” photos of an area, which is today covered with some of Miami’s finest estates and high-rises, are archived at HistoryMiami Museum on 101 Flagler St. They can also be seen online at: http://www.historymiami.org/research-miami/photo-essays/collections/alfred-munroe-collection/
In 1974, the Florida Park Service was able to acquire 5 of the original 40 acres of Alfred Munroe’s land with his original home still standing. Today, this land is maintained by the Florida Park Service and the Barnacle Society (the name Mr. Munroe dubbed his house) and is open to the public.
As Miami’s real estate prices continue to surge it is hard to imagine buying 40 acres of Biscayne Bay front property for $400. In 2013, the Terra Group purchased bay front property in Coconut Grove for $55 million to develop the luxury residential towers, The Grove at Grand Bay. For more information on this project, which is slated for completion later this year, click on the following link: http://www.thebenmeirteam.com/building/grove-at-grandbay
Although, Coconut Grove may no longer be a bargain there is still plenty of opportunity for development and expansion in our young metropolitan. The Alfred Munroe’s of today are looking towards the Mimo District, Little Haiti, and Little River as the next hot areas for development. Today, when we celebrate America’s birthday, Miamians should lift a glass to the monumental achievements our city has made in such a short time. Happy Fourth of July!