Luxury living in Key Biscayne is the norm today but early pioneers had to rough it on this barrier island that lies between the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay.
HistoryMiami honors this history in its new exhibit, Key Biscayne: Island of Shifting Sands, which opened in March and runs through June 10, 2012. The exhibit focuses on cultural history from the time of European discovery to the turning point when the island was no longer a remote frontier.
Pictures, artifacts and maps trace Key Biscayne’s history from a variety of perspectives — travelers, passers-by, landowners, scientists, artists, soldiers and more.
A section of the exhibit focuses on images of life at Cape Florida around 1900. Cape Florida is the southernmost tip of the island, today’s Bill Baggs State Park, where locals can enjoy the beach, picnic pavilions, bicycle paths, hiking trails and kayak adventures in the waterways.
After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the park bounced back resiliently with native flora. It’s one of very few places in Miami-Dade to de-stress and enjoy a natural, old Florida vacation in one’s own backyard. Native sea grape trees provide shade and sea oats grow on the dunes, all just a stone’s throw away from condominiums.
Many of the Cape Florida images in the exhibit, which have never before been available for public viewing, come from albums belonging to the Davis family, landowners on Key Biscayne for almost one hundred years.
Curator Joan Gill Blank describes her enthusiasm about the exhibit: “I’m especially delighted to be able to bring alive a slice of history previously unvisited (1890-1913),” she said in a statement. “Including photographs and art discovered in trunks and attics of the Davis family of Cape Florida, that expands our understanding of pioneering island life and gives us invaluable visual understanding of the island’s role in the evolution of the Bay area and beyond.”
As the oldest known structure in South Florida, the lighthouse at Cape Florida is one of Miami’s most important historic sites. Established in 1825 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, the lighthouse was the sight of a violent battle during the Seminole Wars yet still stands strong as a symbol of maritime history on the island.
– Maria de los Angeles is a freelance wordsmith based in Miami.