Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Miami in 1904: Nothing that savored of prosperity or future greatness except ...

By Jane Feehan

In June 1897, the Daily Metropolis extolled the virtues of Miami (see prior post at, a tiny settlement incorporated in 1896. The five-star Royal Palm Hotel was listed as one of the town’s assets and, indeed, it was.

Seven years later the same newspaper reported that Miami and its high-profile hotel, which was known to assign an attendant to each guest, made front page news of the Daily National Hotel Reporter. Its editor (unnamed) had made an East Coast trip during the winter season of 1904 to report on its “magnificent hotels;” Henry Flagler’s Royal Palm Hotel was one of them.   

The editor wrote:

 The town of Miami is a revelation. Before the advent of the East Coast Railway, eight years ago, Miami was little more than a wilderness … few inhabitants, no industries and nothing that savored of prosperity or future greatness.

Miami is today one of the prettiest towns in Florida. It has three banks, numerous fine shops, factories, two daily newspapers and a tourist hotel. That hotel, the Royal Palm … is a hotel that appeals to every one who enjoys artistic excellence, home comforts and luxurious appointments. The hotel is under the management of Henry W. Merrill, first manager of the Poinciana in Palm Beach, who was previously connected with the Ormond-on-the-Halifax.

Today the Royal Palm may be too small for the demands that are likely to be made upon it in the future. Visitors are constantly arriving from Nassau, Havana, Key West and Cedar Key and on rail from St. Augustine.

The editor also wrote that he was in Miami when the East Coast Railway [sic] ran its first freight trains on a regular schedule over 22 miles which extended “below Miami. He predicted “that within a few years the output of vegetables—particularly tomatoes— will be of such volume and quality as to astonish the world.”

The Royal Palm Hotel was severely damaged by the 1926 hurricane and was torn down in 1930. Eventually it was paved over with a parking lot near what became the Dupont Plaza Hotel in downtown Miami.

In 2003, in preparation for a $640 million hotel/condo development, a pre-project required historical excavation gave up ceramic fragments and metal pieces that lay more than two feet beneath the earth. It was the remains of the Royal Palm Hotel (see post on other details about the hotel at Further digging yielded even more history: artifacts from a Tequesta settlement 10,000 years old. Development was halted and the Miami Circle, as it is known because of a circle of stones apparently left by the Indians, was declared a National Historic Landmark on January 16, 2009. The city established the site as Miami Circle Park, a green space, in 2011.

Today Miami has nearly 414,000 residents and is considered a gateway to South American markets. It is also a city where slightly more than half its population was born in another country.  

Henry Flagler, as history has proved, had a knack for picking prime real estate …
Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.
Daily Miami Metropolis, April 6, 1904
Sun-Sentinel, April 21, 2004
Florida Memories

Tags: Royal Palm, Miami Circle, Tequesta Indians

Tags: Miami history, Henry Flagler, hotel history in Miami, Royal Palm Hotel, Miami in the early 1900s

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