Brickell Park is an archaeological site and public park in downtown Miami. The roughly two-and-a-half acre park is located just north of Miami First Presbyterian Church. Excavations have shown that the area was the site of a Tequesta Native American burial ground sometime between 500 B.C. and 750 A.D. In modern times the park was part of a massive piece of land owned by William and Mary Brickell. The Brickell Family, together with Julia Tuttle, was instrumental in establishing the city of Miami. Mary Brickell outlived her husband and went on to develop much of the family’s real estate, establishing neighborhoods such as Millionaire’s Row, Miracle Mile, and The Roads. In the 1920s a small portion of the Brickell property was donated to Miami to serve as a city park. Today it is home to the Brickell Family Mausoleum, now empty, which is the sole surviving structure from the Brickell Family.
Thousands of years ago,
much of southern Florida was inhabited by the Tequesta Native Americans. It is
believed that the Tequestas had a settlement at the mouth of the Miami River,
with the most obvious evidence being the Miami Circle at Brickell Point.
Multiple excavations in and around Brickell Park have revealed that a Tequesta
burial ground once existed on the site. It is estimated that the burial grounds
were in use from around 500 B.C. to A.D. 750. The Tequesta Native Americans
would later be decimated by foreign disease and forced enslavement after making
contact with Europeans in the 1500s; the last few Tequestas left Florida for
Cuba in 1763.
In 1870 William and
Mary Brickell purchased a large tract of land in present-day Miami for $3,000.
Their property started off as 2,500 acres, but the couple gradually acquired
more land, until they owned over 6,400 acres. At this point much of the land
remained wilderness. In 1871 the Brickells built a house and opened a trading
post, which became popular with local Native Americans. By the 1890s, Julia
Tuttle, considered by many to be the founder of Miami, had arrived in the area.
Together she and the Brickells convinced railroad tycoon Henry Flagler to
extend his railroad farther south to their properties for the purpose of
establishing a city. Tuttle and the Brickells each gave some of their land to
Flagler, which would end up becoming the City of Miami.
In 1908, William
Brickell passed away, leaving the Brickell property to Mary. Mary Brickell
spent the remainder of her life developing and selling her real estate,
building roads, installing electricity, and planting flowers. She created
neighborhoods such as Millionaire’s Row, Miracle Mile, and The Roads. Mary
passed away in 1922 and was interred, along with other family members, in a
mausoleum located south of the Brickell home. In 1948, William and Mary’s
daughter Maude E. Brickell had their remains moved from the mausoleum to
Woodlawn Cemetery after complaining that there was too much noise around the
mausoleum at night.
In 1924 the area
surrounding the Brickell Mausoleum was donated to Miami to serve as a public
park. The mausoleum remains at the park today, albeit empty. The small,
granite, Neo-Classical building is the only surviving structure connected to
the Brickell Family, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places
in 1989. The park itself became the source of much contention between Miami and
the Brickell Family. A clause stipulated that the property would revert back to
the Brickell Family if the City of Miami ever ceased to use it for park
purposes. In 1987 the city commission attempted to nullify the clause, leading
to a series of lawsuits between the city and the Brickells. In 1999, Brickell
Park was put up for sale, with the proceeds intended to be split between the
city and the Brickell Family. However, the discovery of Tequesta remains on the
site caused the planned development to be stopped. The park is now a designated
archaeological and historic site.