In 1870 Henry Lum and son Charles arrived by sailboat on the large sandbar off the southeast Florida coast, and were so impressed by the island they landed on that they bought from the federal government, for $.25 an acre, most of the island and property further north.
Lum would later sell the property to fellow New Jerseyites Elnathan Field and Ezra Osborne, who, in turn would sell the land to John S. Collins and his son-in-law, Thomas Pancoast, who were also from New Jersey.
In 1913, Collins and Carl Fisher, who had made his fortune from his invention and later sale of the Presto-o-Lite Corporation and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, embarked on an agriculture venture on the beachfront land. Fisher loaned Collins the money he needed to complete the first bridge from Miami to Miami Beach that same year and the bridge, at the time the longest wooden bridge in the world, would be the catalyst for the 1915 incorporation of Miami Beach.
The great boom of the 1920’s would see enormous growth, while during the Depression, new groups from the northeast would build many small hotels along lower Collins Avenue and Ocean Drive. This building boom helped bring the area out of the Depression and forty years later that area of Miami Beach would become the famous Art Deco District, known the world over as "South Beach" or "SoBe."
During World War II 500,000 Army Air Corps cadets passed through Miami Beach when it became a major training center. [ See here for more information and additional resources on these WWII Miami Beach veterans.] Many of these servicemen returned to make the area their permanent home after the war. By the end of the 1950s, South Florida had doubled its pre-war population.
When Fidel Castro took over Cuba in 1959, the revolution radically changed South Florida as half a million Cubans poured into the area. The 1980s and early 90s brought a massive infusion of investment capital that has produced a reborn Miami Beach. Although it has changed almost beyond recognition (again), Miami Beach has thrived amidst that change and overcome many difficulties as it continues to be an international mecca for travel, business, and permanent residents.
Miami Beach History