Southeast Florida heritage and history has been shaped by many cultures and characters.  Thousands of years ago, the Tequesta tribe of Indians lived on Biscayne Bay in what are now Miami-Dade County and south Broward County.

Southeast Florida History

A few of the original Tequesta Indians were in Southeast Florida including some populations along the Florida Keys. Most of these ancient tribes disappeared by the middle of the 1700's. After that, Bahamians were among the earliest settlers in Southeast Florida. Many of them became the first citizens of what is now Coconut Grove in Miami.  The Indians and Bahamians contributed to what is now Southeast Florida heritage.

If the north Florida regions are also known as Florabama and Florgia, then Southeast Florida could be called lower New York or northern Havana or Floracuba.  Modern immigrants from the New England states and Latin and Central America give the region its diverse flavor. You can enjoy a New York Pizza, an Argentinian steak, and a Jamaican beef patty and never leave your friendly neighborhood shopping center.  This makes Southeast Florida heritage among the most diverse in the country.

Without the Standard Oil Company, Southeast Florida heritage and history would be entirely different. Henry Morrison Flagler was John D. Rockefeller's partner in that giant firm. Flagler sold out to Rockefeller and moved to Florida in 1885. He was rich, but like Colonel Sanders he wasn't the kind of man who considered retirement.

First Train To Key West 1912Henry Flagler First Train To Key West 1912

His first Florida venture was to build the giant 540 room Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine. This magnificent building is now the home of Flagler College. The hotel opened in 1888 and was a huge success. Flagler saw the potential in developing the entire Florida coast south of St. Augustine. He went to work creating what he would refer to as the "American Riviera".

The development of Southeast Florida began in earnest when Flagler began to push his Florida East Coast Railway to the south from St. Augustine. His railroad created Florida history town by town as it marched south. Each town has its share of Southeast Florida heritage brought to it by Henry Flagler.

Before the railroad pushed southward, Southeast Florida was as remote as any place in the United States. Transportation between the coastal communities was by shallow draft boats and paddle wheel steamers. Flagler's destination was Palm Beach. That's where he planned to end his railroad.

When the railroad made it to Palm Beach in 1894, he built the 1100 room Royal Poinciana Hotel and a couple of years later the Breakers Hotel. The Royal Poinciana was the largest hotel in Florida history at the time.  At the same time, he developed West Palm Beach as a community where the hotel workers could live.

Flagler might have been content to stop the railroad in West Palm Beach. He didn't have a high opinion of Florida south of Palm Beach. An unusual weather event made him change his mind.  In 1894 and 1895 the Palm Beach area suffered severe freezes. The area down south that now includes Miami did not get the freeze. Julia Tuttle owned a trading post on the Miami River. The town of Miami didn't even exist yet.

Tuttle had been trying to convince Flagler to run the railroad south to her area. An old Florida history book says that Julia sent Henry an orange blossom to show him that Miami did not suffer a freeze.  Whether the story is true or not, something convinced Mr. Flagler to extend his railroad to Miami. And the rest is Southeast Florida heritage and history.

Later, when he was in his eighties, he pushed on across the Florida Keys and terminated his venture in Key West. Development followed the railroad, and Southeast Florida history was transformed.

Palm Beach became the playground of the rich and famous. Fort Lauderdale and Miami expanded west and created some of the first large planned communities. Miami grew from Julia Tuttle's trading post at the mouth of the Miami River to become the virtual business center for Latin America.

Northerners from New England followed US-1 down the east coast of Florida. Many fell in love with the palm studded coast and decided to stay.  During World War Two, Miami Beach hotels were converted to military barracks. Many of the soldiers and sailors who trained in Miami Beach came back to paradise after the war ended.

Fidel Castro and his communist revolution succeeded in Cuba, and huge waves of Cuban refugees escaped to Miami in the early 1960's. They transformed Miami into a great Latin City.  Castro's loss is Miami's gain.  The Latin flair is evident today in the music, festivals and cuisine that are Miami's trademarks.

The people in the Florida Keys march to their own drummer. Maybe that's because it was a series of isolated islands until Henry Flagler changed it all. Flagler's Florida Overseas Railroad road had been an engineering marvel. The railroad tied the Keys to the mainland for the first time when it was completed in 1912.

Flagler did not live long enough to see his masterpiece completely destroyed by the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. After the hurricane, the old railroad bridges and track beds became US-1, known in the Keys as the Overseas Highway.  Key West still remained, literally, the end of the road.

Early natives of the Florida Keys were originally descended from the Loyalist pioneers of the Bahamas. Many of the family names in Key West and Monroe County are the same as the ones in Abaco, Bahamas.

Before the railroad, keys residents made their livings fishing and "wrecking". Wrecking involved salvaging ships and materials that grounded on the rocky waters around the Keys.

The natives of the lower Keys were always known as conchs, named after the mollusk that was abundant in the waters of Florida and The Bahamas. That's pronounced "konk", like a konk in the head. Not "conch" like a fat man's paunch.

The Conchs tried to secede from the United States in 1982. They did not succeed in seceding. Many Conchs in recent years have migrated north to Ocala, Gainesville and other rural Florida areas.

There are many back roads in Southeast Florida that are worth traveling. Although most of them are in urban areas, some of them haven't changed much in the past century.

Southeast Florida Heritage Sites

Here is a list of 259 Southeast Florida heritage sites listed by county. The County Seat is also listed.  Here's a neat trick for you:  highlight any of the sites below, then right click and it will take you to the site's webpage on the internet.

BROWARD: Fort Lauderdale

  1. African American Research Library and Cultural Center
  2. Bonnet House
  3. Bryan Building
  4. Cap's Place
  5. Croissant Park Administration Building
  6. Dania Beach Main Street, Inc.
  7. Deerfield Beach Elementary School
  8. Flamingo Gardens
  9. Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum
  10. Graves Museum of Archaeology and Natural History
  11. Hollywood Boulevard Historic Business District
  12. Hollywood Woman's Club
  13. Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
  14. International Game Fish Association Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum
  15. International Swimming Hall of Fame
  16. James D. and Alice Butler House Museum
  17. John U. Lloyd State Park
  18. Link Trainer Building
  19. North New River Canal Lock #1
  20. Nyberg-Swanson House
  21. Oakland Park Elementary School
  22. Old Davie School Historical Museum
  23. Old Deerfield School Museum
  24. Old Dillard High School
  25. Old Fort Lauderdale Museum of History
  26. Pioneer House
  27. Plantation Historical Museum
  28. Pompano Beach Historical Society Museum
  29. Sample McDougald House
  30. Seminole Okalee Indian Village and Museum
  31. South Florida Railway Museum
  32. SS Copenhagen
  33. Stranahan House

MARTIN: Stuart

  1. Court House Cultural Center
  2. Elliot Museum
  3. Historic House of Refuge
  4. Jonathon Dickinson State Park
  5. Lyric Theatre
  6. Maritime and Yachting Museum of the Treasure Coast
  7. Savannas Preserve State Park
  8. St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park
  9. Stuart Heritage Museum
  10. Stuart Main Street


  1. Alamo Building Museum
  2. Alfred I. Dupont Building
  3. Anderson's Corner
  4. Anhinga Trail
  5. Arch Creek Historic and Archaeological Site
  6. Atlantic Gas Station Building
  7. Bay of Pigs Museum
  8. Bay Shore Historic District
  9. Beth Jacob Social Hall and Congregation
  10. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
  11. Biscayne National Park
  12. Black Archives -- Overtown
  13. Black Archives, History and Research Foundation of South Florida
  14. Black Heritage Museum
  15. Boca Chita Key Historic District
  16. Brickell Mausoleum
  17. Brickell Point Site
  18. Cape Florida Lighthouse
  19. Capital Building
  20. Central Baptist Church
  21. City Hall
  22. City National Bank Building
  23. City of Miami Cemetery
  24. Congress Building
  25. Consolidated Bank Building
  26. Coral Castle
  27. Coral Gables City Hall
  28. Coral Gables Congregational Church
  29. Coral Gables Elementary School
  30. Coral Gables Merrick House
  31. Coral Gables Police and Fire Station
  32. Coral Gables Woman's Club
  33. Cuban Museum of Arts and Culture
  34. Dade Commonwealth Building
  35. Dade County Courthouse
  36. Dade Federal Savings
  37. Dade Heritage Trust Headquarters
  38. David W. Dyer Federal Building and US Courthouse
  39. Deering Estate at Cutler
  40. Douglas Entrance
  41. Entrance to Central Miami
  42. Everglades National Park
  43. Fairchild Tropical Garden
  44. Fire Station No. 2
  45. Fire Station No. 4 Building
  46. First Coconut Grove Schoolhouse
  47. Florida East Coast Railway Locomotive #153
  48. Florida Pioneer Museum
  49. Freedom Tower
  50. Fuchs Bakery
  51. Gesu Church
  52. Glenn H. Curtiss House
  53. Gold Coast Railroad Museum
  54. Greater Bethel AME Church
  55. Greater Homestead/ Florida City Chamber of Commerce
  56. Gusman Center for the Performing Arts
  57. Hahn Building
  58. Half Moon
  59. Halissee Hall
  60. Harry Hurt Building
  61. Hialeah Park Race Track
  62. Hialeah Seaboard Airline Railway Station
  63. Historical Museum of Southern Florida
  64. Holocaust Documentation and Education Center, Inc.
  65. Homestead Main Street
  66. Ingraham Building
  67. International Fine Arts College Historical Costume Museum
  68. J & S Building
  69. Jay I. Kislak Foundation
  70. Lyric Center
  71. MacFarlane Homestead Historic District
  72. Miami Beach Architectural District
  73. Miami City Hall
  74. Miami Edison Middle School
  75. Miami Fire Museum, Inc.
  76. Miami Senior High School
  77. Miami Springs Pharmacy and Museum
  78. Miami Women's Club
  79. Miami-Biltmore Hotel
  80. Mount Zion Baptist Church
  81. Neva King Cooper School
  82. Old Spanish Monastery
  83. Old US Post Office and Courthouse
  84. Oleta River State Park
  85. Opa Locka Bank Building
  86. Opa Locka Railroad Station
  87. Palm Cottage
  88. Performing Arts Center of Greater Miami
  89. Plymouth Congregational Church
  90. Ralph M. Munroe House
  91. S & S Restaurant and Deli
  92. Shark River Slough Archaeological District
  93. Silver Palm Schoolhouse
  94. South River Drive Historic District
  95. Southside Elementary Bilingual School
  96. St. John's Baptist Church
  97. Sweeting Homestead at Elliot Key
  98. The Barnacle Historic State Park
  99. The Kampong: The National Tropical Botanical Garden
  100. The Wolfsonian
  101. Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
  102. US Car #1 - Ferdinand Magellan
  103. Venetian Causeway
  104. Venetian Pool
  105. Vizcaya
  106. Walgreen Drug Store Building
  107. Wings Over Miami Military and Classic Aircraft Museum
  108. Women's Club of Coconut Grove

MONROE: Key West

  1. African Queen
  2. African-Bahamian Museum and Resource Center
  3. Audubon House and Tropical Gardens
  4. Bahia Honda State Park
  5. Bat Tower
  6. Carysfort Lighthouse
  7. Donkey Milk House
  8. Dr. Joseph Y. Porter House
  9. Dry Tortugas National Park
  10. East Martello Gallery and Museum
  11. Ernest Hemingway House
  12. Florida Keys Memorial
  13. Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
  14. Florida Keys Scenic Highway
  15. Fort Jefferson National Monument
  16. Fort Zachary Taylor
  17. Garden Key Lighthouse - Fort Jefferson
  18. George Adderley House
  19. Indian Key Historic State Park
  20. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and Reserve
  21. Key West Historic District
  22. Key West Lighthouse Museum and Keeper's Quarters Museum
  23. Lignumvitae Key Archaeological and Historical District
  24. Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park
  25. Little White House
  26. Loggerhead Key Lighthouse
  27. Long Key State Park
  28. Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society and Museum
  29. Museum of Art and History at the Custom House
  30. Oldest House Museum
  31. Overseas Highway and Railway Bridges
  32. Pigeon Key Historic District
  33. San Carlos Institute
  34. San Jose Shipwreck Site
  35. San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park
  36. Shark River Slough Archaeological District
  37. The Armory
  38. The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail
  39. Turtle Kraals Museum
  40. US Naval Air Station
  41. USCG Cutter Duane
  42. USS Alligator
  43. West Martello Tower and Garden Center
  44. Western Union Schooner
  45. Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

PALM BEACH: West Palm Beach

  1. American National Bank Building
  2. Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens
  3. Black Historical Preservation Society of Palm Beach County
  4. Boca Raton Fire Engine No. 1
  5. Boca Raton Historical Society Museum and Gift Shop
  6. Boca Raton Old City Hall
  7. Boynton Beach Woman's Club
  8. Boynton School
  9. Cason Cottage Museum
  10. Central Park Historic District
  11. Chesterfield Hotel
  12. Children's Museum, Inc.
  13. Clematis Street Historic District
  14. College Park Historic District
  15. Comeau Building
  16. Count de Hoernle Pavilion
  17. Count de Hoernle Pavilion
  18. Count de Hoernle Pavilion
  19. Creations Pop Culture Museum
  20. Delray Beach Cultural Loop
  21. Delray Beach Historical Society
  22. Dixie Court Hotel
  23. DuBois Pioneer Home
  24. El Cid Historic District
  25. Ferndix Building
  26. Flamingo Park Historic Residential District
  27. Florida Power and Light Historical Museum
  28. Grandview Heights Historic District
  29. Guaranty Building
  30. Gulf Stream Hotel
  31. Hatch's Department Store
  32. Henry Morrison Flagler Museum
  33. Historic Old Town Commercial District
  34. John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
  35. Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse
  36. Lake Park City Hall
  37. Little Red Schoolhouse
  38. Loxahatchee River Historical Museum
  39. Milton Myers American Legion Post #65
  40. Molly S. Fraiberg Judaica Collections, S.E. Wimberly Library
  41. Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
  42. Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame
  43. Museum of the City of Lake Worth
  44. Northwest Historic District
  45. Old Lucerne Historic Residential District
  46. Old Northwood Historic District
  47. Old Pahokee High School
  48. Old Palm Beach Daily News Building
  49. Old School Square Cultural Arts Center
  50. Palm Beach Maritime Museum
  51. Palm Beach Mercantile Company
  52. Paramount Theatre Building
  53. Professional Building
  54. Robert and Mary Montgomery Armory Art Center
  55. S.D. Spady Cultural Arts Museum
  56. Sandoway House Nature Center
  57. SD Spady Cultural Arts Museum
  58. Seaboard Coastline Railroad Passenger Station
  59. Sundy House
  60. The Breakers
  61. Via Mizner
  62. Yesteryear Village and Blink Glisson Historical Museum

Go to Google to learn more about any of these Southeast Florida heritage sites.

You can also learn more about Miami history from our website.

Most of the information in our website has been published in a series of Amazon Kindle books for each of Florida's eight geographical regions.

Florida Backroads Travel, a separate Kindle book, covers all of the regions of the state in one volume.

All books can be read on a computer, tablet, Kindle and most smart phones.

Click on the book cover for free previews of these books at

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