Kendall Then And Now

History on the Path Through Kendall, Miami

An Interesting Part of Kendall

Decades ago, before there was Metrorail paralleling US 1 south of downtown Miami, there was the Florida East Coast Railway. Henry Flagler had constructed the railroad down to Miami by 1896. In those days, before the widespread use of automobiles, road travel was primitive at best. The arrival of Flagler’s railroad made Miami’s rapid growth possible.

The First “Kendall” Rail Road Stop on Record

Flagler was not content to stop at Miami, so he began constructing
an extension of the railway all the way to Key West. By 1905 the FECR had reached Homestead. (The railroad would reach Key West in 1912.) There were a number of stops along the way. A few were important, most were not. One of the stops was at Kendall, where the station was located about where 94th street and US 1 is today. It must have not been a particularly important stop because an examination of period maps shows that Kendall is listed on some, but not others. The station is long gone.

Photo Credit: William Lollis

Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and the Discontinuation of the Railroad to the Keys

The main activity in the immediate area seems to have been agriculture and fruit cultivation. After the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, much of the Keys portion of the FECR tracks were destroyed. They were never rebuilt. FECR continued to run freight trains down to Homestead until the late 1970s. They were one of the early railroads to discontinue passenger service, in order to concentrate on the more profitable freight
business.

Civil Engineering From Downtown to Kendall

As better roads were built, even the freight business down to Homestead, mostly hauling winter produce, began to decline. Eventually, FECR sold the right-of-way to Miami-Dade County in order to build an elevated mass-transit system right over the old FECR tracks from downtown to Dadeland. The old tracks were removed. For a while, some evidence of the old tracks remained at a few street intersections that crossed US 1, but even all of those seem to have been paved over now.

Photo Credit: William Lollis

Mysterious – Short Old Dixie Highway Stretch

However, there is a small section squeezed between US1 and the Metrorail tracks, between south of Kendall Drive and just north of where the Palmetto Expressway merges with US 1. It is a narrow area filled with various commercial enterprises from an adult entertainment bar, restaurants, banks, and so on.

The oldest buildings there seem to date from the early 1950s. Slowly the older buildings have given way to newer and much taller ones. The latest victim is where Poe’s Rentals once stood now lies an empty field, presumably awaiting new construction.

Photo Credits: William Lollis

Mysteriously, there is a short section of road labeled Old Dixie Highway sandwiched between US1 and the current Metro Busway, which stretches from 98th Street north to South Datran Boulevard. Still, enough of the old buildings remain to give one some sense of what that little part of Kendall must have been like fifty or sixty years ago. But not when Flagler’s railroad first reached there. All those buildings are gone, except one, which will be explained later.

The 9800 Stripmall Shopping Block

What is really interesting is a small business section centered around the intersection of SW 98th Street and 77th avenue, one block west of US 1. It is clearly not geared to drive-by traffic on US 1, as much of it is not visible to cars passing by on the highway.

It is also a mix of office buildings and retail establishments, such as restaurants, professional services, even a medicinal cannabis store. This little area has a laid back, relaxed vibe.

The oldest house in the Kendall area of Miami-Dade County

And the one original building? Sometime between 1917 and 1920, David Brantly Dice built a house next to his general store, located at 9840 SW 77th Avenue. After passing through several hands over the years, it was finally restored and moved to nearby Continental Park, where it is now a Miami-Dade County Historically Designated property. However, it isn’t just sitting there. The Dice House is available to hold small gatherings and hosts daily and weekly activities. Call 305-274-9666 to find out more.

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