Islandia: South Florida’s Own Little Atlantis

Thu, Mar 1, 2012

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BY SAMMY MACK

Governor Farris Bryant and his cabinet members listen to Dade County engineer Reginald Waters in a meeting at the Capitol office. Chart behind Walters shows the proposed improvement Dade County has in mind for the offshore city of Islandia and the submerged land in the area. (1961, Courtesy of Florida State Archives)

Fifty years ago, developers dreamed of turning a collection of isolated islands in the middle of Biscayne Bay into a resort destination. Next week, the dream of Islandia may die.   It is extremely likely that the Miami-Dade County Commission will strip Islandia’s status as a city. In essence, they’ll vote Islandia out of existence.

The city of Islandia is on Elliot Key. It was never populated by more than a hundred people.  Now the only people who live in Islandia are park rangers.

Park ranger Gary Bremen stands next to Spite Highway in Islandia. (Photo by Sammy Mack.)

It’s a familiar South Florida story–developers seeking to make money in a tropical paradise versus environmentalists who want to preserve a tropical paradise. The first mayor, Luther Brooks, imagined a fancy resort town like Miami Beach.  He wanted to build a causeway out to Islandia because it was not accessible from the Overseas Highway.  He and the other developers were foiled in their plans, but they still managed to leave their mark on the island, which is now part of Biscayne National Park.

We sent Under the Sun producer Sammy Mack to visit Islandia one last time before it disappears into the Bay. She told the story using three things: a book by a gentleman explorer, a vacuum cleaner and a stack of heavy bureaucratic paperwork.

Listen to the story on the player above.

The music you heard in this piece is the song “More Music”  by Miami band Elastic Bond. Their latest album is Frecuencia Natural.

Environmentalist Lloyd Miller stands in front of a sign that shows a picture of himself at Biscayne National Park. (Photo by Sammy Mack.)
A sign at Biscayne National Park shows a photo of younger Lloyd Miller shaking President Lyndon B. Johnson’s hand. (Photo by Sammy Mack.)


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