- Historic Sites
The Bubble In The Sun
Under the Florida palms William Jennings Bryan orated and Gilda Gray shimmied while real-estate promoters hawked lots. It was the greatest land boom in our history
August 1965 | Volume 16, Issue 5
The Mizners’ Boca Raton was never finished, and the brothers, when they died in 1933, were both financially ruined. But Addison left behind more than a score of houses that are among the supreme artistic artifacts of the Twenties. George Merrick’s Coral Gables, which had never relaxed its rigid zoning or its architectural standards, remained one of the most beautiful towns in America. And though Merrick himself lost heavily when the bubble burst, he made something of a comeback. In 1934 he re-entered the realestate business and soon had branch offices throughout Greater Miami. When he died in 1942 he was Miami’s postmaster.
Not all of the new arrivals of the Twenties departed when the bubble burst. Miami’s population had grown from 5,471 in 1910 to 29,571 in 1920; it had risen to 110,637 by 1930. In the Twenties the metropolitan area led all others in the nation in its rate of growth, and the twin cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg ranked sixth. And in the thirties, Florida as a whole continued to grow at a more rapid rate than any other state in the Union. But, when compared to the boom time of the Twenties and the boom time which was to come in the fifties, the peninsula was as in a great sleep.
In 1928, Henry S. Villard described a trip to Miami for The Nation: “Dead subdivisions line the highway, their pompous names half-obliterated on crumbling stucco gates. Lonely, white-way lights stand guard over miles of cement sidewalks, where grass and palmetto take the place of homes that were to be. … Whole sections of outlying subdivisions are composed of unoccupied houses, through which one speeds on broad thoroughfares as if traversing a city in the grip of death.”