Paul George is renowned as one of the great historians of Miami, where he is a professor of history at Miami-Dade College and the official Historian of the Historical Association of Southern Florida. We asked Dr. George to talk about the history of Pinecrest.

 

Q1. When was Pinecrest first settled?

Pinecrest got sort of a slow start, with settlers in the first part of the 20th century. They were mainly farmers. The railroad made it to the area in 1902 [with a depot at U.S.1/Dixie Highway where the Palmetto connects], and the railroad made farming possible.

 

Q2. What sort of farmers were they?

They started as general sorts of farmers, small farmers who came to Homestead. They evolved into produce farmers, with avocado, mango and lime groves starting in the 1920s.

 

Q3. How wild was it then?

There were Florida panthers, wild turkeys, lots of deer, and the water was filled with fish. The early settlers relied on hunting, which was widespread. Early maps refer to the Cutler area as the Big Indian Hunting Ground and Coconut Grove as the Little Indian Hunting Ground. You could find stores in what is today the Charles Deering Estate that sold shotguns and ordinance you could use for hunting. 

 

Q4. So there had been Indians?

We have documentation of Indians south of Pinecrest in the Deering estate area that did trading. Wherever there was high ground with water near by, there were Native American encampments.

 

Q5. What came next?

The lifeblood of Miami-Dade has always been tourism, because we are in a sub tropical area that has unique flora and fauna. So what came next were attractions like Orchid Jungle [1925], Monkey Jungle [1932], the Rare Bird Farm [early 1930s] and Serpentarium [1940s]. Because it was non-urbanized, Pinecrest really lent itself to these attractions, which you could reach by train or car on U.S.1. You put them here because of open land and transportation. 

 

Q6. When did Pinecrest become a suburb?

The real jump occurred after WWII with the explosive growth of Miami-Dade and suburbia. The [county] population quadrupled between the war and 1960s [to 1 million] and the Pinecrest area started out as a middle class suburb.

 

Q7. What about the Pinecrest of today?

In the ’60s, ’70s and thereafter, more and more affluent people discovered Pinecrest. Developers loved it, because the groves translated into nice tracks of land where they could put up [large homes]. And the village made the right move to incorporate, so they could make their own decisions.