Florida history

Arthur Rothstein / Arthur Rothstein Archive

Arthur Rothstein was a young man in the 1930s. He originally wanted to be a doctor. But it was the Depression and he went to work for the Farm Security Administration, documenting American workers and the conditions they faced.

In 1938, that assignment took him to Key West. The city suffered more than most in the Depression, declaring bankruptcy and essentially handing itself over to the state. The state, in turn, brought in a New Deal administrator who decided the island should remake itself as a tourist mecca.

The John F. Kennedy Bunker, located on Peanut Island in Palm Beach County, was hastily constructed in the early 1960s to protect President Kennedy and his staff in the event of a nuclear strike. A local team of architects, preservationists and fundraisers are on a mission to save this historic site.

Photos: Old South In Tallahassee, Before Political Standoffs

May 29, 2015
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/275723

A special session for the Florida State Legislature starts Monday in Tallahassee. And that's a good a time as any to revisit the history of the 200,000-city, which used to be just a town of the Old South.

Mark Silva, former Tallahassee bureau chief for the Miami Herald, wrote about the capital's past in a National Geographic story

DeWolfe and Wood Collection / Monroe County Public Library

 In the '60s, '70s and '80s, waves of Cuban immigrants crossed the Florida Straits, seeking political freedom and economic opportunity. Soon they were starting their own businesses and winning political office, infusing Cuban culture into the DNA of a South Florida city.

The city was Key West. And this was the 1860s, '70s and '80s.

New Mission for Keys' Reef Lights: Historical Guideposts

Nov 26, 2014
Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Service

The reef lights along the Florida Keys are still owned by the U.S. Coast Guard -- but a nonprofit group hopes to take over their care and make them a 100-mile long museum of maritime history.

The Florida Keys Reef Lights Foundation is raising money to apply to the Coast Guard for ownership of five lights stretching from Carysfort Reef off Key Largo to Sand Key off Key West. The others are Alligator Reef off Islamorada, Sombrero Reef off Marathon and American Shoal off the Lower Keys.

1930
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/24482

The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables wasn't always a hotel. 

It was built in 1926 by a young developer named George Merrick, who's known as the founder of Coral Gables. 

The hotel became a place to host glamorous fashion shows, galas, golf tournaments and water shows in what was then the largest pool in the world.

At a loud party on the 13th floor of the hotel, a gangster named Thomas "Fatty" Walsh was shot and killed by another gangster. That murder yielded a lot of ghost rumors over the years.

Julia Duba

Ted Smallwood built his store out of Dade County Pine on the edge of Chokoloskee, facing the Everglades' Ten Thousand Islands. He called it Ted Smallwood's Store.

In 1917, it was the hub of the community. It was the post office, a farming ground, a place to repair boats and trade goods. Smallwood's wife, Mamie, even taught grade school out of the store. Now the future of the store depends on one road and its legal battle to keep it open. 

See How Tourism Changed The Florida Keys

Aug 7, 2014
Monroe County Public Library/Scott DeWolfe collection

A new exhibit explores Key West as South Florida's oldest outpost. 

Florida Keys or Bust! A History of Tourism runs until Oct. 1 at the Custom House Museum.

The mission of the Coral Gables Museum is multifaceted, with a focus on community as well as art.  Caroline Breder-Watts recently spoke with Executive Director Christine Rupp.

Hear the interview here:

HistoryMiami

 

Before American soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, troops were preparing for D-Day on the beaches of South Florida.

They were doing jumping jacks on the sand in Miami Beach.

In the sky were big, green military planes.

That’s because before Florida was prime real estate for waterfront mansions and tourism, it was the perfect place to train soldiers.

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