History Happened Here

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North Miami Beach

Miami-Dade County

Year Founded: 1926Founded by: Captain William H. FulfordPreviously known as: Fulford, Town of Fulford, City of Fulford, Fulford-by-the-Sea

History

Captain William H. Fulford was attracted to what is now North Miami Beach during his Coast Guard patrol along the Atlantic side of the peninsula during the Spanish-American War. In 1881 he explored Big Snake Creek (later renamed the Oleta River) and found this area amid lowlands, marshes, and mangroves, a retreat from the fury of the Atlantic.

When Henry Flagler extended the Florida East Coast Railway from West Palm Beach to Miami in 1896, he placed depots at numerous spots along the route, and small towns quickly developed around those stops. Many of the settlers to the area were homesteaders who were attracted to the area by offers of 160 acres of free land by the federal government. In 1897, utilizing the Homestead Act, Captain Fulford acquired a 160-acre land patent from President Grover Cleveland.

During the 1890′s settlers established farms along the east side of the Oleta River. That area was originally named Ojus in 1897 by Albert Fitch, a farmer who wanted to grow pineapples in the rich soil. The word Ojus is a Seminole word for “plenty” or “lots of”, and when Fitch was in the area, Ojus grew plenty of peas, beans, sugar cane, and tomatoes.

The distance between Fulford and Ojus was only a mile or so, but it was great enough in those days of poorly paved roads and difficult travel conditions to generate separate communities. In the early 1900′s rock mining in the area began and it was discovered that the rock coming out of Ojus had qualities that made it ideal for road building. Rock mining continued around the area, creating many lakes such as Maule Lake and the lakes in the Sky Lake neighborhood.

In 1912 Lafe Allen, a former newspaper owner, came to Florida. He and an associate purchased Captain Fulford’s original grant plus additional property with the idea of developing and selling lots. Eventually, they purchased 557 acres of land. In 1917, Mr. Allen made plans for a “perfect city” calling for 80-foot wide residential streets and 100 and 125-foot wide business thoroughfares. North Miami Beach’s street layout is as the pioneer pictured it in 1917 with wide avenues named Fulford Boulevard (now known as NE 172nd Street) and Flagler Boulevard (now known as NE 19th Avenue). The Fulford-by-the-Sea Company began selling lots in 1922. During the Florida land boom of the 1920′s, lots were sometimes sold eight times before ever being recorded.

The years of 1924-1926 saw rapid developments when Merle C. Tebbetts, president of the Florida Cities Finance Company, took over development. A Chamber of Commerce was formed to disseminate information and produced the Fulford By-the-Sea News, a monthly newspaper providing development news for the area. A group of administrative buildings were located in Central Park, on the area occupied by today’s city hall building.

One of south Florida’s first radio stations, WGBU, a 500-watt station, began broadcasting in 1925 from its 150-foot tower also located in Central Park. A power plant generating 125 kilowatts was built on Flagler Boulevard opposite Central Park.

One of the largest fountains in South Florida was built at the entrance to Fulford By-The-Sea. It was planned to be one of five fountains to be built at each of the main entrances to the area. This fountain is listed today as a Dade Historical Site, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today it is known as the Fulford Monument, the prominent feature of today’s city logo.

There were a great many people from all over the United States with money to invest in the great Florida Land Boom of the mid-1920′s. They flocked to South Florida in hopes of getting rich buying and selling real estate, sending home tales of riches made when orange groves and swamp lands were subdivided, sold, and developed.

In 1925, Carl Fisher (who built the Indianapolis Speedway in 1909) was developing Miami Beach and envisioned this area as the winter auto racing capital of the world. He built the world’s fastest 1-1/4 mile “boardtrack” (a wooden, oval race track). The outstanding features of the track were the 50 degree banked turns. Turns banked this steep required a speed of at least 110 miles per hour to keep the race car from sliding down into the infield. The turns at today’s Daytona International Speedway are banked at only 32 degrees. In 1926, the Fulford-Miami Speedway held its first and only racing event attracting a crowd of 20,000 spectators, some of whom paid up to $15 for a box seat. It was located at the northern end of Flagler Boulevard (NE 19th Avenue) in today’s Sky Lake neighborhood before being demolished in the hurricane of 1926.

The city, which had been unincorporated at the time of the great hurricane in 1926, sustained devastating damage. The speedway and radio station were blown down and demolished. The hurricane essentially ended the South Florida real estate boom, and it did not flourish again until after World War II. In an effort to obtain funds and assistance to alleviate their losses and suffering, the local residents banded together as the Town of Fulford and in 1927 incorporated as the City of Fulford. See collection of Images from 1926 Hurricane.

In 1931, the state legislature authorized a new charter for the city. Beachfront property was annexed and the name of the municipality was changed from Fulford to North Miami Beach to reflect the 1931 boundaries and to take advantage of the nationwide advertising associated with the Miami Beach area in an effort to capitalize on that city’s growing fame. At that time there were about three miles of beach property from Sunny Isles south that were in the incorporated area, so it was a legitimate name.

In 1958, a new charter was voted on making the city a council/manager form of government which still prevails today.

In 1938, the United States census denoted 2,129 citizens and in 1955 there were 10,000. Today, the city has grown to just over 41,000 residents.

Story of City's Founding

Captain William H. Fulford was attracted to what is now North Miami Beach during his Coast Guard patrol along the Atlantic side of the peninsula during the Spanish-American War. In 1881 he explored Big Snake Creek (later renamed the Oleta River) and found this area amid lowlands, marshes, and mangroves, a retreat from the fury of the Atlantic. When Henry Flagler extended the Florida East Coast Railway from West Palm Beach to Miami in 1896, he placed depots at numerous spots along the route, and small towns quickly developed around those stops. Many of the settlers to the area were homesteaders who were attracted to the area by offers of 160 acres of free land by the federal government. In 1897, utilizing the Homestead Act, Captain Fulford acquired a 160-acre land patent from President Grover Cleveland.

Little Known Facts

Historical Sites

Name: Ancient Spanish Monastery
Location: 16711 West Dixie Highway, North Miami Beach, FL 33162
Historical Significance: Originally built in Spain in 1141, the monastery was purchased in 1925 by William Randolph Hearst and the structures were dismantled stone by stone, packed in wooden crates, and shipped to the United States. It was reassembled at its site of 16711 West Dixie Highway in the early 1950's and has become a popular location for weddings.

Name: Fulford Fountain
Location: NE 172nd Street & NE 23rd Avenue
Historical Significance: The Fulford-by-the-Sea Fountain is a Classical Revival Style street object located at the intersection of NE 172nd Street and NE 23rd Avenue in what is now North Miami Beach. It was built to mark one of the entrances to Fulford-by-the-Sea, a subdivision that was opened in Dade County in 1925. The Fountain it built primarily of cast stone and concrete, and has a dome covered with mosaic tile. Each elevation is embellished with dentil cornices and pediments, and cast stone unicorns are located at each corner of the roof. In the center of the fountain is an operational decorative fountain. The fountain is now known as the Fulford Fountain. The fountain was officially listed in the National Register of historic Places on November 29, 2010 by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior.

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