Florida City History: Documents Reveal South Dade's Growth

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Posted: Sunday, August 17, 2014 5:59 pm

  Editor’s Note: This is part 1 of a 3-part article on the status and growth of South Dade in a report donated to the FloridaPioneerMuseum.

  In September of 1953 the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Miami issued a report to the “Redlands Chamber of Commerce” entitled “The Future Development of the Homestead-Redlands Area.”

  The late George Cooper Sr.’s copy of the report was donated to the FloridaPioneerMuseum by his daughter Barbara Cooper Hanck, giving us a look back 60 years in depth at our economic reality and projections for the future.

  Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States,Daniel T. McCarty was Governor of Florida, our senators were Spessard Holland and George Smathers, Preston B. “Bunny” Bird was our County Commissioner, Walter Weiss was Mayor of Homestead, William Geronimo was Mayor of Florida City,and Colonel Raymond L. Newton U.S. Army retired was President of the Redland District Chamber of Commerce (his term ended and he was replaced in October of 1953 by Irvin Barnett). 

  The construction of SouthDadeHigh School was nearing completion as a replacement for Homestead High and Redland High.

  The big news was the reopening of the old Homestead Army Air Base as an Air Force’s Strategic Air Command medium jet bomber base.

Ninety new B47 nuclear capable medium bombers arrived in 1955 from the factory as well as 15 KC97 tankers.

EvergladesNational Park had been opened in late 1947 and the Keys were becoming a resort area.

  According to Homestead building inspector Irving J. Lyon 1952 construction numbers broke all records with a total of $1,604,508 in construction for 1952.

  418 building permits were issued in 1952 and 233 in 1951. 

The report stated that the rapid expansion of population and economic activity of Greater Miami had created wide interest in the “Homestead-Redlands” area as a future outlet of suburban development.“Now predominantly devoted to farming, the day may not be far when larger parts of the area will be drawn into the urban pattern.”

The Homestead-Redland areawas defined as lying at the southern end of DadeCounty with the City of Homestead as its urban center and anchor point.

  The area was further defined as a six mile circle from the center of Homestead which included FloridaCity which was not recognized in the report title.

  The area was bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, Lucille Drive to the south, the DadeCounty line to the west, and Hainlin Mill Drive to the north.

  This area was said tohaveabout 60 square miles of high lying land.

The area was favored by a large area of high lying land stretching north and west of the City of Homestead towards Perrine, land that had been extensively used for growing subtropical and tropical fruits.

  The land to east of U.S. Highway 1 was composed of low lying marl soils little used until recently when it supported a flourishing winter vegetable growing industry.

  Little residential development had taken place there, a great contrast to today.

US Highway 1 had not yet been expanded to four lanes but widening was already in the planning stages.

  The Florida East Coast Railway line was used for freight only so infrastructure was pretty basic and little changed for the last fifty years.

There was an urban cluster of population around the City of Homestead and sparsely settled subdivisions in a three mile circle around the City.

  The remaining area was rural in character but urbanization was slowly pushing into the three mile circle.

  The whole six mile circle including the City of Homestead and FloridaCity was estimated to have 17,300 residents and 5,760 dwelling units or about 2.9% of the county population.

  Homestead’s population was estimated at 5,700 and 2,075 dwelling units and the inner three mile circle 14,900 and 4,580 dwelling units. 

  FloridaCity’s 1953 population was estimated at 1,900 with 536 dwelling units, Princeton’s, 1,900 with 670 dwelling units and Goulds’, 1,500 with 510 dwelling units including Redland. 

  Homestead’s population in 1930 was 2,319, in 1940, 3,154 and in 1950, 4,573. 

  FloridaCity’s population in 1930 was 541, in 1940, 1,090 and in 1950, 1,800.

  The growth rate for the area had more than trebled between 1930 and 1953.

  The gradual urbanization of southern DadeCounty was the outstanding element in estimating future growth of our area in 1953, even more important than the reopening of the Air Base, the expanding EvergladesNational Park visitation, and the growth of the Keys as a tourist destination.

  Bob Jensen is Vice President for Community Liason at 1st National Bank of South Florida, president of the FloridaPioneerMuseum, and a retired Navy Commander.

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