The Tequesta Indians - 500 B.C. to A.D. 1763
When crossing Brickell Bridge from Downtown Miami into the Brickell area you’re greeted by the statue of a proud Tequesta indian family (pictured above). The Tequesta Indians were one of the first inhabitants of the areas surrounding Biscayne Bay. Brickell Point, located at the mouth of the Miami River, was a strategic location at which the Tequesta Indians developed a major village. The village, called “Tequesta,” was located on both sides of the river and supported a large community. Proximity to the Everglades, Biscayne Bay, and offshore reefs gave Tequesta Indians access to a bounty of plants and animals for food and raw materials for the production of tools and crafts.
During the 1500s, Europeans began arriving in Florida. At first, the Tequesta did not welcome these new visitors. But before long, the Europeans won their friendship by bringing gifts of colored cloth, knives, and rum.
Estimates place the Tequesta population anywhere from 800-10,000, but they started to die out as a result of settlement battles, slavery, and disease. By the 1800s, the Tequesta tribe had only a few survivors.
In 1998, interest in the Tequesta was revived when property developer Michael Baumann purchased a site located on 401 Brickell Ave. After razing the apartment complex that stood there a routine archeological survey of the site revealed a perfect circle of 24 holes or basins cut into the limestone bedrock. An examination of the earth removed showed a large number of artifacts ranging from shell-tools and stone axe-heads to human teeth and charcoal from fires. This area came to be known as the Miami Circle and is thought to be the location of the major Tequesta Indian village mentioned above. (As a reference point, the Icon Brickell luxury condominium is located adjacent to the Miami Circle)
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The Historical Museum of Southern Florida signed a 44-year lease of the site in March 2008 and plans to offer tours beginning in Spring 2009.
William and Mary Brickell
In 1870, Mary Brickell along with her husband William, opened a trading post (pictured on left) on the banks of the Miami River. The Brickells would purchase deer skins and alligator hides from the Indians with cash while the Indians would in turn spend this cash on calico, beads and sewing machines, all sold by the Brickells. This heralded the start of development for the area.
In 1908, William Brickell passed away and Mary Brickell developed the land alongside the bay and called it “Millionaire’s Row.” In 1911, she developed Brickell Avenue and in 1912 sold 130 acres of land to James Deering, who later constructed Vizcaya. By January 1922, Mary Brickell began development on an area known as ‘The Roads” and eventually the Brickell family owned all of the coastal land between the Miami River and Coconut Grove. The area became so prestigious that it was soon one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Miami.
Today the mansions that characterized the Brickell area in the past have given way to office buildings, luxury hotels and condominiums. However, one thing has remained the same throughout, that is Mary Brickell’s vision of the area being the center of commerce for Greater Miami.
In 1896, the “Father of Miami”, Henry Flagler began dredging a 9-foot deep channel dug from the mouth of the Miami River. With the soil that was removed from the dredging project two small islands were created.
Fast-forward to 1943 and Edward N. Claughton Sr., a real estate investor, purchased the two newly formed islands and the bay bottom land. He combined the two islands to form a 44 acre triangle-shaped island.
In the late 1970’s Swire Pacific Ltd saw the potential for this tract of land and purchased it from Edward N. Claughton. After 38 years and over $800 million invested Brickell Key has evolved into one of the world’s most renowned mixed-use urban island communities.
Modern Day Brickell = Luxury + Urban + Living
Brickell is the epicenter for the urban renaissance that Miami is currently undergoing and city living is what’s drawing Miami’s young upscale professionals, empty nesters and wealthy South Americans to the area.
The Miami financial district, is essentially the Brickell neighborhood’s entertainment center. What was once a ghost town after dark a couple of years ago is now jumping with hot and trendy lounges such as Segafredo Brickell, Badrutt’s Place, and Blue Martini Lounge. While restaurants the likes of Oceannaire Seafood Room, Morton’s Steakhouse, Perricone’s, and Novecento offer Brickell residents a choice world-class cuisine virtually a couple of steps from their residences. Brickell Key also offers some nice choices for nighttime entertainment such as Cavas Winebar and the happy hour at Mandarin Oriental’s white sand beach.
Like to bike, run, windsurf, kiteboard, fish or just lounge around? Rickenbacker Causeway and the beautiful beaches of Biscayne Bay are your own backyard when you live in the Brickell area. Crandon Park and the natural beauty of Key Biscayne are also just minutes away. See my Brickell Running Route blog post to get an idea of where the causeway is relative to the center of Brickell.
Brickell is just minutes away and centrally located from Miami’s cultural centers such as the Miami City Ballet, New World Symphony, Florida Grand Opera, Miami Art Museum
Sports enthusiasts can watch The Heat play at the American Airlines arena just a short drive away in downtown Miami while the Dolphins and Marlins are just 20 Minutes north at Pro Player Stadium.
With a station in the heart of Brickell the Metro-Rail gives the Brickell resident access to all of Miami while the Metro-Mover’s numerous stops throughout Brickell and downtown Miami offers the Brickell resident free and convenient transportation throughout the Brickell and downtown Miami area. For University of Miami students living in the area, getting to school is just a couple of Metro-Rail stations away. (With today’s astronomic gas prices you can see why being at a major hub of Miami’s public transportation system can be a major benefit) Miami International Airport is just 15 minutes away via the expressway and the world’s busiest cruise port is located 5 minutes away in downtown Miami.
The Condo Glut
Although Brickell in 2008 is going through the “growing pains” of a major real estate market correction, the current situation is not without precedence. In the 1980’s a real estate boom in the area was fueled in part by the free flow of drug money. The subsequent bust period was due to a major crackdown in the wild-west-like drug trade of the 80s. That cut the drug money supply significantly. Failing Latin American economies and a worsening of the U.S. debt crisis were also contributors to the bust. As is the case now, Brickell ended up with a surplus of empty luxury apartments.
As the Miami Herald reported earlier this year, those who are familiar with the bust that occured in the 80’s are optimistic about a relatively quick turn around for the current situation:
”I moved to the area in 1989,” says Miami historian Arva Moore Parks, who picked up a 1938 colonial-style house on South Miami Avenue for $237,500, according to property records. “It was a depressed area. I couldn’t have bought a house like that in Coral Gables. There were several new buildings up in the neighborhood, but none of the lights were on. It was a lot like it is now. But eventually, those units all got absorbed. And they will be again.”
Bernardo Fort-Brescia, founder of the internationally famed Arquitectonica, the architectural firm that has put the biggest stamp on Brickell, is optimistic about a quick turnaround.
‘What happened during that bust in the 1980s is that within three years, the market was coming back, and people were saying, `We should have bought when it collapsed,’ ” says Fort-Brescia, whose firm designed the iconic Atlantis, Imperial and Palace condo towers on Brickell Avenue that went up in the early 1980s and, this go-round, Icon Brickell, 500 Brickell and Latitude on the River, among other projects.
As the trend to leave the suburbs and return to the urban core continues across the country, Fort-Brescia says, Brickell will be the segment of Miami’s building boom most likely to right itself first.
”Brickell Avenue itself is becoming very much like our Madison Avenue,” he says. “The infrastructure is there. Every day, there are more restaurants, more shops, more of what people look for in city life.”
Jorge Perez, head of The Related Group, the biggest high-rise condo builder in Florida, built several residential towers in the Brickell area in the early 1990s. Now, with more than 4,000 new condo units at Icon Brickell, 500 Brickell, The Plaza and 50 Biscayne, Perez shrugs about developers who may be losing their shirts.
”What’s important is not whether Jorge Perez goes broke, or X developer goes broke. . . . People will live in these buildings either way. What you see now is nothing compared to what it’s going to be,” says Perez, who has joined a Wall Street firm to create an investor fund that would pick up troubled new properties at bargain-basement prices, including those built by his company.
”You have to remember that when the bust came to Brickell in the 1980s, there wasn’t an urban trend, and it still turned around quickly,” he says. “Nobody really wanted to be in downtown Miami then. There were no restaurants, no performing arts center, no American Airlines Arena. Now, this is the cool place to be.”