An architectural jewel designed by 28-year-old Hilario Candela, the Stadium was used for decades for concerts,boat races, even boxing matches, for crowds at a maximum number of 6,566 until it fell into disuse and functional deterioration. As of this writing, a preservation group has formed to restore and renovate the Stadium for its original uses as well as to assemble a collection of primary and secondary artifacts and materials to tell the story of the museum from its original conception, to its use design and construction, to its deterioration from misuse and disuse, to the formation of efforts to renovate and restore the structure for its its original uses and additional uses as a museum and library of materials related to its past and intended uses.
The Stadium was built at a cost of $1 million. The Biscayne Bay was dredged for boat racing by marine and heavy construction contractor J.B. Fraser & Sons of Ft. Lauderdale for approximately $900,000.
Unfortunately, upon opening day of a boat race, a speedboat racer died in a boating accident. Still, the Stadium stayed in operation for decades until 1992 when the structure was declared unsafe by local building officials as a result of Hurricane Andrew. Trespassers had easy access to cover the entire structure in graffiti. The wooden seats became unsafe as a result of destruction and weather deterioration. In 1963, Candela’s 326-foot long single cantilevered fold-plate roof was the longest such single poured roof in the world.
The Friends of Miami Marine Stadium was organized in February 20, 2008, to raise the funds to restore the Miami Marine Stadium.
By November 1912, according to the terms and conditions of the Settlement Agreement made in 1906, the last of twelve deeds had been delivered by the State of Florida Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund (the State Cabinet) to the Florida canal company conveying in the aggregate more than one million acres of prime east coast land for dredging 268 miles of Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville to Miami.
Under the 1906 agreement, state legislators had given the canal company more time to finish the waterway and more state land if the canal company dredged an additional 30 miles north of St. Augustine to Jacksonville. In 1914, many stretches of the waterway had not been completed to state specifications. The state had required a canal five feet deep and fifty feet wide. In many cases, embankments as in this photograph slid back into the water, requiring remedial work.
At the same time, shippers, business and trade associations complained that the State should not have given the last of the twelve deeds for work that had not been completed or completed incorrectly. The photograph plainly shows a deficiency of retaining walls or their equivalent to keep dredged material from sliding back into the canal by 1914. Unfortunately, the State’s original specifications called for “maintenance” of completed work to be paid for out of toll money collected but little else in specifying precisely how the waterways were to be maintained.
Brigadier General Quincy Adams Gillmore, Second Florida chief of the Army Corps of Engineers. Gillmore graduated first in his class at West Point. He conducted several surveys of the Florida east coast during his command (1869-1884). In later years, Gillmore published several textbooks, including one on underwater concrete, a necessity in waterway and canal improvements. Gillmore recommended improvements in the old Haulover Cut that Wright had constructed in 1854. But Wright, now Gillmore’s superior and Chief of the Corps of Engineers, turned Gillmore down. The Federal Government remained resistant in spending federal dollars for construction of internal improvements. Construction of waterways was left to the states and to private enterprise for work deemed local in importance. In the relatively new state of Florida, its government after the Civil War was bereft of any cash to pay for public improvements. It was again left to private enterprise to finance canals and railways.
In 1881, four St. Augustine investors led by Dr. John Westcott, who also had been Surveyor General of Florida, formed the Florida canal company that would dredge 268 miles of privately-owned waterway by 1912 and earn the company more than a million acres of valuable east coast land from St. Augustine to the tip of the Florida peninsula as well as the right to collect tolls from waterway traffic. Westcott proved invaluable in heading the company. His knowledge of the choice state land available to pay for the company’s work benefitted the enterprise immensely in the years ahead. In 1929, the State of Florida turned over what been the private Florida East Coast Canal to the Federal Government free of charge for perpetual maintenance and enlargement as the Florida portion of the toll-free Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Courtesy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
1959 Gold Coast Marathon on the Intracoastal Waterway
Russell Fraser, Jr., racing an outboard motorboat in the 1959 Gold Coast Marathon on the Intracoastal Waterway between Miami and West Palm Beach and the return to Miami the next day. Some hydroplanes among the scores of boats of every class reached speeds approaching a hundred miles an hour. Many fast boats completed the two-day course at an average speed of sixty miles an hour. The brainchild of powerboat enthusiast Sam Griffith, the GCM ran from the Pelican Harbor Yacht Club at the 79th Street Causeway to WPB and back (134 miles) from 1947 through the 1960s. In later years, boat mishaps and injuries forced race committeemen to abandon the ICW for the modern Miami Marine Stadium, now in the hands of preservationists who hope to restore the abandoned stadium. Courtesy, Russell Fraser, Jr.
One of the older steamboats plying the waters of what was then called the Florida East Coast Canal, the “Courtney” carried mostly passengers on short trips along the Florida East Coast in the 1890’s. Henry Flagler, then president of both the Florida East Coast Railway and the Florida canal company, cruised into Miami on the “Courtney” (also called the “Sweeney”) just before he arrived in Miami in one of his FEC Railway cars on April 13, 1896. Upon completion of the railway,Flagler liquidated his holdings in the Florida canal company and resigned as president. For the next thirty years, the Florida canal company and Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway would compete for passengers and freight in providing transportation down the east coast of Florida. And both companies would compete for settlers buying the millions of acres of state land the Florida legislature promised these two companies for extending transportation into the southern tip of the Florida peninsula.