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Apr 10th
Fisher Island’s History of Exclusivity PDF Print E-mail
Written by Paul George, BT Contributor   
March 2020

A view of our past from the archives of HistoryMiami

OPix_PictureStory_3-20ur installment last month addressing the rich history of Fisher Island examined its creation and early years. A turning point for the island came with its purchase in 1919 by Carl Fisher, a larger-than-life entrepreneur who was also the preeminent developer of early Miami Beach.

Fisher, pictured here, had great plans for the island, which soon bore his name. Through dredging, he quickly built it out to 100 acres. Additionally, he lobbied hard, but without success, to develop it as a seaport on the edge of deep water. In the late 1920s, Fisher traded a large portion of his island holdings to William K. Vanderbilt II for his yacht, The Eagle.

By the mid-1930s, Vanderbilt had built an elaborate mansion designed by Maurice Fatio, the architect of choice in posh Palm Beach. The sprawling, Mediterranean-style mansion contained nineteen rooms, while the surrounding complex included guest and servants’ cottages, tennis courts, an aviary, swimming pool, hangar for a seaplane, nine-hole golf course, and a beach on the Atlantic Ocean.

Following Vanderbilt’s death in 1944, his estate passed to Ed Moore, president of U.S. Steel. Another portion of Fisher Island hosted a U.S. quarantine station whose personnel lived in small houses near the facility. But Moore’s presence on the island was brief, as Gar Wood, an eccentric inventor of the hydraulic lift and a prominent speed-boat racer, purchased the property in 1950. Wood resided in the mansion till 1971.

In the meantime, investors were excited over the prospects of developing the island into an exclusive community. Their ranks included Florida’s U.S. Sen. George Smathers; Bebe Rebozo; Richard Nixon, a close friend of Rebozo’s and who was, at the time, out of the political arena; and banker Hoke Maroon. But their efforts to purchase and develop the island came to naught. In the 1980s, however, development began, resulting in today’s beautiful Mediterranean-style community of 800 residences spread over 216 acres of land, which claims the wealthiest ZIP code in the United States.

 

Paul George is historian at HistoryMiami Museum. To order a copy of this photo, contact HistoryMiami archives manager Ashley Trujillo at 305-375-1623, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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