España 2020 Ineffable Miami: Palmetto Bay by Marissa Rodriguez

photo by Mahanoor Abbas/CC by 4.0

Biography

My name is Marissa Rodriguez, and I am currently a junior at Florida International University pursuing a degree in psychology, with a minor in business. I am a photographer, and my goal is to one day be able to pursue photography full-time and inspire people with my work. I was born and raised in Miami, I am a world traveler at heart and love learning about all types of different cultures.

Geography

map of Palmetto Bay by U.S. Census Bureau (CC by 1.0)

Palmetto Bay is situated between Biscayne Bay and US1, and with the many marinas and boat ramps available, it is a perfect place for fisherman and boaters to launch their boats and go out to sea.

According to the City of Palmetto Bay, Palmetto Bay became its own incorporated village in 2002. It is currently home to 24,000 residents and is governed by a five-member Village council and operated by council-manager government. The public schools in Palmetto Bay are some of the highest ranked schools in the county, and they include Howard Drive, Coral Reef & Perrine Elementary, Southwood Middle and Palmetto Senior High.

History

Palmetto Bay is a suburban incorporated village in Miami-Dade County, Florida, West of Biscayne Bay. Cultures that have lived here include the Tequesta, Seminoles, Paleo-Indians, Anglo-Americans and Afro-Bahamians. The evidence left behind by these cultures recounts the human housing evolution along the Miami Rock Ridge, which went from stone house dwellings in the beginning to later mansions in the Mediterranean-Revival style. At the Old Cutler Fossil site in 1985, archaeologists found human skeletal charred animal remains. Out of all the current archaeological excavations in the Eastern United States, this one is considered one of the most important.

The Tequesta roamed the area around 4,000 years ago, hunting and fishing. Since they had no immunity to the diseases that Ponce de Leon and the Europeans introduced when they arrived, they were completely gone by the end of the 1700s, due to disease.

In 1838, during the second Seminole war, Dr. Henry Perrine was awarded a large parcel of land from the government. This land spanned 36 acres and today, encompasses the areas of Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay, and The Falls. Visits to Cuba and Mexico inspired Dr. Perrine’s plans to establish an agricultural colony with those same plants he saw while travelling.

It was while serving as a U.S. Consul in Yucatan, Mexico, where he studied the tropical plants that he wanted to incorporate. Dr. Perrine did not live to see these plans unfold, because in 1840, he was killed in an Indian attack while staying on Indian Key, but his wife and kids managed to escape. It wasn’t until 35 years later in 1875, where his son Henry Perrine Jr. came to reclaim the family land and draw settlers to establish farming. The settlers that came following Dr. Perrine’s death had no interest in continuing his vision of plant introduction, so they went on their way, building farming enterprises, ignoring Henry and his siblings’ claim to the land. In 1897, this dispute was resolved, and the valuable farmland could be settled and sold.

Free twenty-acre tracts were offered to those who could build a home, clear one acre, and grow one tropical crop. In 1876, Henry Perrine Jr. moved onto the property with his two children, Carleton and Harry.

Dr. William Cutler arrived in 1883 and acquired 600 acres. Located at the intersection of SW 168 Street and Old Cutler Road, the town of Cutler grew quickly. Fruit groves and vegetable farms arose when drainage canals were created which assured the cultivation of crops. With plans to extend it through South Dade to Key West, Henry Flagler brought his railroad to Miami. The Town of Cutler was bypassed several miles to the west by the railroad route chosen by Flagler, and this dealt a mortal blow to the development.

Ten years later, much of the land in dormant Cutler was bought by Charles Deering to build his estate. He was the chairman of the International Harvester Company, and they revolutionized methods of harvesting grain. Charles and his half-brother James Deering, who later built Vizcaya, were spending winters in Miami. Just like earlier settlers had been attracted to the ridge of Biscayne Bay for its natural beauty, Charles chose to assemble 360 acres on which he built his Moorish style mansion on the ridge overlooking the bay. Near the water, he planted rows of Royal Palms while retaining the lush, subtropical hammock, formerly the Indian Hunting Grounds. Until his death in 1927, Charles Deering lived amongst his great art collection and beautiful natural surroundings. It was then when the Deering family met the Connetts, who later designed and built Thalatta Estate. It is known today that the families were friends, and back before there was no C-100 canal dissecting the two properties, the families visited each other often. Until the house and its gardens was purchased by Florida and Miami-Dade County in 1985 for $24 million, the family continued to spend winters at the estate. Today, as the last surviving structure of the historic town of Cutler, the Richmond Inn at the Estate remains one of the best examples in Miami of early Florida frame-vernacular architecture and the National Register of Historic Places has it listed. Deering Estate’s grounds are environmentally protected lands and a historical preserve.

Stereograph of the view of Deering Estate from the Bay, taken May 27th, 1926/ Obtained via Library of Congress CCo by 1.0.

In August of 1992, Hurricane Andrew severely damaged Palmetto Bay and surrounding areas of South Miami-Dade. In Palmetto Bay, many homes and businesses were destroyed. People were left without water or power for days. This was when people decided they wanted full control of their public services.

In November 1995, Miami-Dade County was petitioned by the Alliance of Palmetto South Homeowners to incorporate Palmetto Bay. Years later, after being denied and deferred, they finally allowed citizens that would live within the boundaries of the municipality to vote on whether they want it incorporated. The Village was incorporated in September 2002 and became the 33rd municipality of Miami-Dade County (City of Palmetto Bay).

Demographics

According to the United States Census Bureau, the population of Palmetto Bay is twenty four thousand five hundred eighty nine (24,589) people. This population is comprised of 52% females and 48% males, and is ethnically is composed of 45% Hispanic and Latino, 42% White, 5% Asian, 5% African American, 2.7% of two or more races, and .2% Hawaiian and Pacific Islander people. According to Data USA, the median household income is $107,612 and the median age is 40.8.

The Palmetto Bay resident I chose to interview is Melissa Rodriguez, my aunt, who works at Baptist Hospital.

Marissa: I know you have two young daughters, what do you like most about Palmetto Bay?

Melissa: I like that Palmetto Bay is family oriented and there’s a lot of parks.

Marissa: Is there anything you would change?

Melissa: I wouldn’t change anything because we are happy here, no complaints.

Marissa: What are some things you and your family like to do in the area?

Melissa: We like to go to the park, ride bike, or go for a golf cart ride.

Landmarks

The Gold Coast Railroad Museum

With trains and railroads being such a big part of the history of Miami, it is no surprise that there is a railroad museum dedicated to reflecting that part of history which was so important. The Gold Coast Railroad Museum houses over 40 historic railway cars and is dedicated to preserving, exhibiting and operating historic equipment. It was founded in 1957 and was built on the former Naval Air Station Richmond, which was the second largest World War II airship base in the United States. The NASR was an ideal place to build a railroad museum due to its three miles of tracks (Gold Coast Railroad Museum).

Photo by Bailly media (CC by 4.0)

According to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, The GCRM became one of the three official Florida State Railroad Museums in 1984. It operates as a non-profit and is devoted to instilling the rich history of trains and the railroad industry in each of their guests.

At the museum, there are a lot of things for visitors to enjoy, like twelve rail cars that can be viewed from the exterior, and ten (10) of them are open for the public to go inside them. Accompanying this is many pieces of railroad equipment and historical artifacts for people to see. In one room towards the back, they have a model display room and it includes Thomas play tables for little kids to go play in. In the plaza, they have picnic tables where people can go and eat their lunch, in addition to a sandbox for kids (Gold Coast Railroad Museum).

On the weekends, they offer train rides and on the first Saturday of the month, they offer free admission as well. The museum is located just adjacent to Zoo Miami, and they offer a discount towards admission for zoo members with proof of membership. They also can host private events (like weddings).

Deering Estate

Partial view of the Boat Basin at Deering Estate. / Photo by Marissa Rodriguez (Cc by 4.0)

Deering Estate is a 1920’s era estate which belonged to Charles Deering, an environmentalist, philanthropist, Chicago Industrialist, art collector, early preservationist, and first Chairman of the International Harvester Company. The estate’s boat basin overlooks Biscayne Bay and is lined with rows of palm trees. At the basin, manatees and other marine life can be seen. The estate also houses an extensive wine cellar, where Charles kept his elaborate wine collection. In addition to the Main House, The property has The Richmond Cottage, which used to be an inn in its early days.

In addition to the Estate, the property features an extensive nature path where Tequesta tribe shell tools could be found, which can give visitors a small glimpse into what life was like all those years ago. On the property is a large tree that serves as a Tequesta burial mound, where buried tribe members still remain.

Thalatta Estate

Photo by Thalatta Estate (CC by 1.0)

Thalatta Estate is a historic gem that preserves the glamour and sophistication of the aristocracy of South Florida two centuries ago. Today, the grounds serve as a venue for outdoor weddings, as well as a location for other events and programs. When guests arrive to the stunning two-story Mediterranean style estate, they are greeted by a coral walled entrance in addition to a beautiful Banyan tree and a quaint Carriage House. The main house is built in the style of the 1920’s, has original Cuban tile floors, a fireplace and upstairs lounging quarters has to the east, a view of Key Biscayne and the expansive estate grounds. Touches that add to the magic and beauty of this venue for weddings is a covered terrace, grand staircase to the second floor of the Main House, reflection pool, an outdoor dining terrace, waterside promenade, lush tropical landscaping, and the wedding ceremony site (Thalatta Estate).

The vintage residence was designed and built by the Connett family and encompasses more than four acres of unobstructed water views of Biscayne National Park, where you can find herons, marine iguanas, pelicans, and other plants and wildlife common to south Miami-Dade that call the mangroves home.

Green Spaces

Palmetto Bay is known as the “Village of Parks”, and it is clear to see why. The Village has many parks all featuring open spaces to play sports, walk, run, exercise and explore. The Village features many green spaces, in addition to canals and Biscayne Bay.

Palmetto Bay Park

Photo by City of Palmetto Bay (CC by 1.0)

This park is a 25-acre facility and is right off US1 and includes many amenities, such as expansive greenspace, basketball courts, a six-field state-of-the-art softball complex and the largest boundless playgrounds in South Florida (a fully accessible playground for both younger and older kids). A two-story concession building with an observation deck is the focal point of the park. An air-conditioned recreation room can host indoor activities. Surrounding the property is a pathway with lots of trees, perfect for walking, jogging, and riding bicycle. This park also has two covered pavilions for gatherings and parties.

Coral Reef Park

Coral Reef Park - Bridge Over Water
Photo by City of Palmetto Bay (CC by 1.0)

This park spans more than 50 acres and includes the peaceful canal and green spaces. Here, you can play, walk, read, and have a picnic. People gather here for beach volleyball, an exercise trail, baseball (in one of their three fields), tennis lessons from professionals at the Coral Reef Park Tennis Center, and the indigenous wildlife that come to the area. The park has indoor exercise lessons, a gazebo that can be rented, and free movie nights.

Ludovici Park

Ludovici Park Aerial
Photo by City of Palmetto Bay (CC by 1.0)

Ludovici Park is a perfect venue for music and reading a library book because of its charm and the proximity of both of these locations. This park features a shaded gazebo, meandering walkways, and perfectly manicured gardens. The main feature of this park is the library, and it has an outdoor area for children’s activities, lectures, and workshops, in addition to concerts at the amphitheater.

Transportation

According to Data USA, the most common way people get around in Palmetto Bay is driving alone, with 76.4% of people doing it. The next most common way is carpooling, which 14% of the population does. The least common way is working at home, which 5.29% of the population does. Other less common modes of transit are walking, riding bicycle or motorcycle, and using public transit. The average number of cars per household is two, followed by three.

I-Bus

The name is a nod to the Ibis, a native bird to the South Florida area that can be seen in the Village parks and neighborhoods. According to the City of Palmetto Bay’s website, it is a shuttle service that was designed to increase the destinations that people can go within the village, and connects with Miami-Dade county bus routes. The buses are quipped with bike racks, wheelchair accessible, air-conditioned and free of charge. I-Bus is eco-friendly and links riders to the bus routes and MetroRail service.

FreeBee On-Demand Service

The FreeBee On-Demand Service is a vehicle system that takes people anywhere around the Village, free of cost. The service can be accessed by the “Ride Freebee” app on a smartphone, or there is a number to call as well. They have two vehicles and take people from Palmetto Bay Park to the Dadeland South Metro-rail station, mornings and evenings Monday through Friday (City of Palmetto Bay).

Restaurants

Caffe Portofino

This restaurant is unique because of its unique blend of Italian and Caribbean cuisine, with some International flavors as well. This unique type of cuisine is reflective of the South Florida diversity, and has something for everyone that reflects the blend of cultures that is our city. They take reservations and have very positive reviews from frequent customers, who say they love the specials, and how the presentation and flavors are “always phenomenal”. They are only open for dinner, closing as late as eleven o’clock. They offer private parties and bimonthly special dinners, and they have a special menu for Miami Spice every year. Their Miami Spice menu is a good opportunity for people who have never gone to this restaurant to go and have some delicious food at the special prices during the Miami Spice time frame.

Alaine’s Osteria

Photo courtesy of Alaine’s Osteria

In Italian, osteria means tavern, and in Italy, it is a common thing to name restaurants in that format. This restaurant’s menu has a lot of items, all with authentic Italian sounding names, like “Insalata ai frutti di mare” (which translates to a seafood salad) and “Scaloppine di vitello piccata”. I love Italian food and know a thing or two about the cuisine and names of dishes, so even if I have never been here, I would believe this place to be authentic, purely based off the name of the restaurant and the menu. They have a wide variety of entrees, from chicken to salmon, lobster, and steak. There is an entire section of the menu dedicated to pasta, and the same applies there: you have something to please everyone on the menu.

Summary

Palmetto Bay is a beautiful city with friendly people and there is never a bad view due to the proximity of Biscayne Bay. All of the places that have water views or access highlight it in natural ways that present the water as a main feature. Palmetto Bay seems like the perfect place to live and is very kid-friendly since it has a lot of wonderful activities the whole family can do together. There are many ways to get around, and many things to do for people of all ages. The restaurants here have food from all different cultures here, like Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean, and more.

Works Cited

 Alaine’s Osteria, http://www.alainesosteria.com/.

“History of Palmetto Bay: Palmetto Bay, FL.” Village of Palmetto Bay Florida, www.palmettobay-fl.gov/681/History-of-Palmetto-Bay.

“HOME.” Gold Coast Railroad Museum, http://www.goldcoastrailroadmuseum.org/.

“How We Became a Village: Palmetto Bay, FL.” Village of Palmetto Bay Florida, https://www.palmettobay-fl.gov/862/How-We-Became-a-Village

“Information.” Homes of Desire, homesofdesire.com/palmetto-bay/

“Local Bus Service & On-Demand Ride Share: Palmetto Bay, FL.” Village of Palmetto Bay Florida, https://www.palmettobay-fl.gov/326/Local-Bus-Service-On-Demand-Ride-Share

“Miami Museums: Miami Historic Landmarks: The Deering Estate.” Deering Estate, 16 Apr. 2020, deeringestate.org/.

“Palmetto Bay Park: Palmetto Bay, FL.” Village of Palmetto Bay Florida, http://www.palmettobay-fl.gov/230/Palmetto-Bay-Park.

“Palmetto Bay, FL.” Data USA, datausa.io/profile/geo/palmetto-bay-fl/#demographics.

“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Palmetto Bay Village, Florida.” Census Bureau QuickFacts, www.census.gov/quickfacts/palmettobayvillageflorida.

“Welcome to Thalatta Estate.” Welcome to Thalatta Estate | Thalatta Estate, http://www.thalattaestate.com/welcome-thalatta-estate

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