A Gateway to Miami
Ever wonder about the Biscayne Park's humble beginnings, its founder, why there are beautiful medians, the log cabin, and more? Read on...
In 1921, when Miami was preparing for the soon to arrive flood of land speculators, the area that was to become Biscayne Park was unincorporated, undeveloped and for the most part, fields of tomatoes belonging to Arthur Mertlow Griffing. Mr. Griffing was originally from Norwich, New York and had settled in Florida in1903 to manage the Little River nursery. He built a large home and established Griffing Tropical Nurseries and Groves in and around a seven acre site that today is the Colonial Shopping Center along Dixie Highway and 125th Street in North Miami. Mr. Griffing was a landscaper for Carl Fisher's Miami Beach projects. By 1917, the horticulturalist changed hats to become a developer.
By the 1920's, Mr. Griffing had acquired and begun developing land along Dixie Highway north of Miami. The nursery was sold and the land subdivided and named Griffing Biscayne Park Estates. Mr. Griffing continued his love of landscaping by carefully planting the area with shrubs and trees so that Biscayne Park Estates resembled a huge botanical garden.
Early in January 1923, Mr. Griffing began advertising in the Miami Daily Metropolis and set up a miniature of the Park on the grounds of the Halcyon Hotel on Flagler Street. Prospective buyers were shuttled from downtown Miami to the new "Gateway to Miami". Mr. Griffing combined his land sales with his nursery promotions by offering a free strawberry shortcake to potential buyers, particularly young families to live in his new development. In addition he produced safe environments for children to play near their homes by creating many cul-de-sacs. The well-landscaped streets, medians and park areas laid out by Mr. Griffing set the stage for the first homes erected in the development which cost between $4,000 and $4,500. The shortcake incentive was later upgraded to a mixed box of grapefruits and oranges.
By a vote of its 113 citizens, the Town of Biscayne Park was incorporated on December 31, 1931, and on June 16th, 1933, a state charter was granted changing the name to the Village of Biscayne Park. The Works Progress Administration built a log cabin, a clear and distinct reference to the Depression as well as to the simplicity of the American frontier days. On February 1, 1933, at the height of the Depression, the Federal Emergency Relief Program provided the labor for the Dade County pine construction. William Green, a resident of the Park, as well as a Councilperson, was a regional administrator for the Federal program and was certainly instrumental in the creation of the Park's singular and distinctive building. The actual expenses incurred were a grand total of $247, met by individual donations of $5 to $20 and gifts from the Card Club that ranged from $10 to $22. In light of today's multiple million dollar projects, these modest sums seem very quaint, but when held in light of the circumstances in which they occurred during the national depression, they reflect generous and caring residents and a community that was conscientious of their town. At a special ceremony on January 24th, 1935, the finished Log Cabin was officially turned over to the Village, and to this day has been the center for the daily operations of the Park. Since its creation in the thirties, it has been the prized symbol of the Village of Biscayne Park.
"Miami's Historic Neighborhoods: A History of Community" edited by Becky Roper Matkov.