SE First Street and Biscayne Blvd in Downtown Miami (1959)

SE First Street & Biscayne Blvd in 1959

Featured: SE First Street & Biscayne Blvd in 1959

The featured photograph is an aerial view of SE First Street and Biscayne Boulevard in downtown Miami looking east in 1959. In the foreground is the Mayflower Restaurant whose motto was “Whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the donut, and not upon the hole.” The restaurant specialized in serving donuts, but catered to diners for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It opened in 1941 and operated from the corner of SE First Street and Biscayne Boulevard until 1964. One Biscayne Tower now sits on the corner formerly occupied by the restaurant.

Dedication of Library on July 28, 1951, in the Miami Daily News

Figure 1: Dedication of Library on July 28, 1951, in the Miami Daily News

Across the street to the east of the restaurant is Bayfront Park. The downtown branch of the public library can be seen to the left in the photograph. The library was dedicated on Miami’s 55th birthday, July 28, 1951, when thousands of Miami residents flocked to the park to celebrate the city’s milestone and official opening of the library. The public library stood at the entrance to Bayfront Park, across from the terminus of Flagler Street at Biscayne Boulevard, until it was razed in October of 1986 during the redesign of the park under the direction of landscape architect Isamu Noguchi.

Off in the distance, one can see the spoil islets referred to as the chain of Dodge islands. These spoil islands were created over time as part of dredging projects to deepen the channel that led to the Port of Miami, which was located in today’s Maurice Ferré Museum Park at the time of the photograph. By the early 1960s, the spoil islands were connected and shaped to create one contiguous land mass to accommodate the move of the port to what we know as Dodge Island today.

It is a mystery as to how the chain of islets got to be named Dodge Island, with varying versions of an urban tale providing an unlikely explanation. As the crux of the story goes, Frank Stearns, who was a director of the city planning board, was giving a tour of Biscayne Bay in 1950 to some friends from Wisconsin when one of them asked the name of the spoil islands seen on the tour. Unable to come up with a name, Stearns decided to name the islands for his friend who asked the question, Ray Dodge.

Government Cut in 1905

Figure 2: Government Cut in 1906

While this makes for a good ‘only in Miami’ story, it is unlikely that it is true. When the Government Cut project created the opening between Miami Beach and Fisher Island in 1905, the dredging that created the abyss also created the first spoil island southwest of the opening. Over time, the various initiatives to deepen the ship channel created additional spoil islands west of the original islet. As early as 1931, newspaper articles referred to these spoil islands as the ‘Dodge Islands’, which would invalidate the story of Frank Stearns naming the islands for his friend which supposedly took place in 1950.

A more realistic answer can stem from the Government Cut project. The supervisor responsible for the digging and dredging of Government Cut was Captain L.L. Dodge. Given that it was the handiwork of his crew that created the first spoil island, it would make sense that the earliest references to ‘Dodge Island’ could have been named for the man responsible for creating the first isle of what would become the chain of ‘Dodge’ islands.

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  • Featured: SE First Street & Biscayne Blvd in 1959. Courtesy of HistoryMiami Museum.
  • Figure 1: Dedication of Library on July 28, 1951, in the Miami Daily News. Courtesy of the Miami News.
  • Figure 2: Government Cut in 1906. Courtesy of Florida State Archives.