A visit to Cauley Square Historic Railroad Village is a transporting experience
By: Shayne Benowitz
Learn about the surprising history of Miami’s pioneer homesteaders of Goulds, Perrine and Richmond Heights.
South Dade holds a fascinating place in Florida’s history. It’s a tale of pioneer homesteaders developing the land for agriculture, transportation and other entrepreneurial pursuits at the turn of the century. East of the Everglades, it was untamed territory ripe for farming and cultivation. Settlers arrived to claim their plot of land and start businesses that would be passed down generation to generation. Today, South Dade is composed of many areas with their own unique history and identity. Here, we share the history of South Dade’s Goulds, Perrine and Richmond Heights.
Goulds was developed by homesteaders in 1900 and grew alongside Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway, which ran through South Dade to the Florida Keys. In 1903, a railroad depot was built near what’s now SW 216th Street and the community was named for the depot operator, Lyman Gould, who cut trees to make way for railroad ties.
Another important name to the development of Goulds is William Cauley. He owned 10 acres of land near the railroad and built a two-story warehouse, packinghouse and office for shipping his agriculture. His land developed into a small village housing both Cauley’s and the railroad’s employees. Restaurants and saloons also cropped up on the land and the area earned a reputation for being a rowdy frontier town.
The Miami hurricane of 1926 had devastating effects across South Dade, including Goulds. Cauley Square and other parts of the community fell into disrepair. Throughout the century, it was rebuilt and today, it’s a part of South Dade’s agricultural district with highlights like Burr’s Berry Farm and The Little Farm. Cauley Square was also restored and today it’s a historic railroad village with restaurants, antique shops and art galleries.
Named for Dr. Henry Perrine, the United States Consul for Campeche, Mexico, Perrine straddles the former Florida East Coast Railway in South Dade. In 1839, the United States Congress granted Dr. Perrine a township of land and he used it to cultivate tropical plants from other countries. However, he met his untimely demise in 1840 during a battle of the Second Seminole War in Indian Key.
His son Henry Jr. was left with the plot of land in South Dade, but soon other homesteaders began to encroach on his territory. It was eventually divided between the Perrines, the homesteaders and two different railroad companies. The community became a railroad camp during the construction of the Florida East Coast Railway with a school opening in 1909. Today, the area is divided between East and West Perrine on either side of the former railroad tracks.
The story of Richmond Heights dates back to World War II when the United States Navy purchased land in southwestern Dade County to build a station. Previously owned by the Richmond Tinder Company, a major supplier of Dade County Pine, the base was named Naval Air Station Richmond. During the war, the station housed blimps that protected ships in the Florida Straits and the Caribbean Basin that were hunting German U-boats. In 1945, the base was destroyed by a hurricane and subsequent fire.
After the war, Captain Frank C. Martin purchased the land adjacent to the former base and founded Richmond Heights. While Martin, himself, was a white man, he conceived a community for African American veterans returning from the war in response to the difficulty in finding quality affordable housing during the Jim Crow era. Martin developed parks, churches and an elementary school, which today still bear his name.
Sadly, Martin lost his life in a car accident near Lake Placid in Central Florida in 1951 at age 42. His friend, the builder EJ Pollock of Hialeah, picked up where he left off developing the area. Today, Richmond Heights is a thriving African American community with a rich and proud history.
Stay in Touch: Sign up for the Miami Insider enews to receive news, events and special offers.
Share the Love: We'd love to see your photos! Share them with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and don’t forget to use the hashtag: #FoundInMiami.