Julia Tuttle

Portrait of Julia D. Tuttle – Miami, Florida. Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

Mother of Miami

  • Julia DeForest Tuttle (originally Julia DeForest Sturtevant)
  • Born January 22, 1849 in Cleveland, Ohio
  • Originally visited Miami in 1875 and moved sometime after 1886 following the death of her husband.

  • Tuttle purchased approximately 600 acres on the north side of the Miami River. The land was previously owned by Richard Fitzpatrick, an early settler of the area, who grew a variety of tropical fruit, sugarcane, and maize. Located on what is known as present day downtown Miami, it was also the former site of Fort Dallas.
  • The freezes that set off a chain of events:

Two sequential freezes led all roads to Miami. The first freeze, in December 1894, and the second, on February 7, 1895, hit the entire state of Florida with the exception of Miami. It not only hurt the citrus but also the tomato and pineapple crops. To get an idea of the extent of the freeze damage, the year before the freeze, Florida groves had estimated yields of 5,550,376 boxes; the year after the big freeze, only 150,000 boxes were shipped. Julia Tuttle immediately sent a package of orange blossoms to Henry Flagler to show proof of the unharmed crops down south. Tuttle’s grove survived and flourished, and her oranges were the only ones to be sold in the market that year. But Florida rebounded after the freezes, and the orange is now the state fruit. After the freezes, Tuttle offered Flagler an offer he couldn’t refuse. “Bring your railroad to Miami,” she said, “and I will give you half my land.” William Brickell offered Flagler some of his land as well. Flagler agreed, and the Florida East Coast Railroad chugged into Miami on April 15, 1896.

  • She was not allowed to vote in Miami’s incorporation assembly.
  • Tuttle’s only request for the incorporation of Miami was that it be a dry city.
  • She died on September 14, 1898, in Miami, leaving behind a large amount of debt. Her family sold off the rest of her land to pay it off.
  • Legacy:
    • The Julia Tuttle Causeway opened on December 12, 1959.
    • A bronze statue of Tuttle was unveiled at Bayfront Park for Miami’s 114th birthday anniversary on July 28,  2010.
– Featured image caption and credit: Historical marker for the Julia D. Tuttle homesite. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.
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