In the color photo in the front page, Anne is standing near the dock of a gated luxury waterfront enclave downtown in the Village of Coconut Grove where she recently helped customers purchase a home. Nearby was the dock at the Peacock Inn, circa 1900, only footsteps distant and yet one hundred years away. November 1900 Solomon Greasley Merrick, his wife Althea and their thirteen year old son George sailed into the Bay, arrived at this dock, and then rested at the Peacock Inn on pristine Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove. They journeyed by a horse drawn wagon into the Everglades swamp and settled on land that they later developed into the world famous City Beautiful of Coral Gables.

 

Dade County Needs Money! Taxes Double!

By Anne Platt

Taxes are too high! Roads are impossible! What was the tax assessor thinking when he established my assessment? I'll protest!

The Dade County Commission was called to order Sept. 6,1869. Three community service minded pioneers representing approximately seventy-five registered Dade County voters were present. Book A, page one of the Dade County Commission Records show that John Addison, Andrew Price, and Frances Ingfinger, President, ordered "that the assessor levy a tax of twenty-five cents upon each one hundred dollars of taxable property in the county."

Dade County, named for Major Francis L. Dade, massacred by Indians the year before, was created in 1836. The first county seat was at the bustling settlement of Indian Key, considered safer than the mainland as the Seminole Indians were on the warpath. Over two hundred miles in length, the original huge Dade County extended from the Bahia Honda Key some thirty miles east of Key West, clear north to the St. Lucie River at Stuart. In 1866 the southern boundary was moved to Jewfish Creek just south of Homestead.

By the old Ft. Dallas site, now downtown Miami.

Records kept by W. H. Gleason, the clerk, show total taxes collected for 1871 were $25.77 for the school tax and $115.34 for the county tax. Basic math would make the total assessment-for the Dade County tax roll that year approximately $46,000.00 for all of the real property from Homestead to Stuart!

Surprise! Dade County needed more money! The commissioners ordered 1874 taxes raised to fifty cents per one hundred dollars for County taxes, thirty cents per $100 for courthouse taxes and twenty cents per one hundred dollars for schools.

William B. Brickell, also a County Commissioner, protested the $3,700.00 assessment on 2,422.87 acres along the Miami River and south (today land along Brickell Avenue) that were owned by his wife. He thought the prior assessment of sixty cents per acre more accurate. That assessment equaled $1,453.00.

Already beginning to cherish its own identity as an artist's haven and  upscale tourist hide-away, Coconut Grove decided to incorporate in 1919. The citizens formed their own Town Council and Board of Equalization to set assessments and collect taxes.

Augusta Saint Gaudens and her late husband, the famous sculptor, were among the many drawn to the growing arts community in Coconut Grove. In February were frequently unable to reach her Bay front estate at the end of Ozone Avenue because the road was impassable. The county and state had reduced her taxes by $30.00 per year for each of the last two years. She asked Coconut Grove to do the same. The equalization board declined. They did later fix the
road. Of course it is now named Saint Gaudens after her family!

Records for June 30, 1920, kept by the town clerk Frederick Ross, show the total amount of tax collected by Coconut Grove to be $10,583. The tax assessor reported that the tentative valuation for the next year was to be approximately $4,000,000.00.

A few miles west in the South Miami area, just east of the Red and Sunset crossroads, the entrepreneurial John Edward Ravlin, a major real estate developer and landowner, found his own solution to the city tax problem. Ravlin, who later dug the Mahi waterway between present day Alfonso and South Alhambra, already owned approximately eighty acres of groves in the area. He didn't want to be a part of the new Coral Gables, and in the 1920's sued the City of Coral Gables to stop the annexation of his property.

The lawsuit went all the way to the Florida Supreme Court where Ravlin won.  Look for the small area of Dade County right on the Mahi waterway! (Author's note: As of 2006 this is again part of Coral Gables.)

His daughter and son-in-law Roxanne and Karl Hart shared the story that as the depression hit, Ravlin got caught developing two subdivisions. He had just laid the sewer pipe in both, and had no money to pay the property taxes that were due. He pulled the sewer pipe up in one, and sold it for scrap metal to pay the taxes on the second, thus saving both of his properties!

To put the dollar value in perspective, a pound of coffee cost seventeen and one half cents in 1900, thirty-nine cents in 1923, and over two dollars today!

 


 

 

 

 


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