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& Florida History Attractions & Information

Historica Museum of Southern Florida

The Historical Museum of Southern Florida is located in the heart of Miami, the Gateway of the Americas, and is accredited by the American Association of Museums. Archives, objects and folklife make up the museum's collections, which include rare, highly valuable artifacts and archives, such as James Audubon's Birds of America double elephant folio, to everyday items like a Florida Marlins baseball cap. The collections provide the basis for permanent, temporary and traveling exhibitions offered by the Historical Museum, with 72 different exhibitions created and/or hosted by the Historical Museum in the past decade.

Coral Gables Venetian Pool

It was the summer of 1921 in South Florida and George Merrick has a dream. This Dade County commissioner and "back country" land promoter envisioned a perfectly designed city as an answer to the uncontrolled sprawl of an emerging Miami. A city of plazas, esplanades and fountains, filled with buildings and homes inspired by a heritage of Mediterranean design. With the help of other visionaries of his time, Merrick's dream became Coral Gables.

Florida Timeline

  • 1912
    Florida grew immensely during the early 1900s. Railroads expanded to Key West in 1912, opening new land for development. Swamps were drained and the growing tourist industry attracted people from all over the world. Citrus groves expanded throughout northern and south-central parts of the state. Florida’s population grew considerably at this time.
  • 1920
    Depression hit the economy in Florida during the 1920s. Hurricanes swept through the state destroying property and killing hundreds of people.
  • 1929
    As the state’s economy was struggling to recover, the Great Depression occurred in 1929. Banks closed, tourism stopped, and thousands lost their jobs. The U.S. government helped to provide jobs by developing Florida’s natural resources.
  • 1945
    Florida became the twenty-seventh state in the United States on March 3, 1845. William D. Moseley was elected the new state’s first governor, and David Levy Yulee, one of Florida’s leading proponents for statehood, became a U.S. Senator.
  • 1950
    Cape Canaveral became a space and rocket center.
  • 1954
    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregation of public schools unconstitutional.
  • 1959
    Racial problems increased. Florida began integration. Fidel Castro takes over as leader of Cuba and the exodous of Cuban refugees to Miami begins.
  • 1960
    Thousands of Cubans fled Cuba and settled in Florida. By the late 1960s, most public schools had integrated and several new universities were built.
    The Federal census ranks Florida 10th in the nation with a population of 4,951,560.
  • 1961
    The Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba fails.
  • There is a successful launch of astronauts from Cape Canaveral: Navy Commander Alan Shepard on May 5 and Air Force Capt. Virgil Grissom on July 21 for suborbital flights down the Atlantic Missile Range. The Cape is selected as the launching site for a manned lunar landing program. The Census Bureau ranks Florida ninth in population.
  • 1962
    The Space Age spreads out from Cape Canaveral's launching base, and influences the state in many ways higher education and industry being among the most important.
  • 1963
    President Lyndon Johnson changes the name Cape Canaveral to Cape Kennedy and renames the installation the John F. Kennedy Space Center in honor of the late president. The Constitution is amended to authorize sale of state bonds to construct buildings at universities, colleges and vocational schools. Voters also approve issuance of bonds to purchase land for conservation purposes. Election of governor and Cabinet is shifted to off-year from Presidential election.
  • 1964
    First classes are held at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, and the University of West Florida is the name given to the institution established at Pensacola. Hurricane Cleo causes property damage estimated at $115,320,000 but no life is lost.
  • 1965
    The Board of Regents composed of nine members with ultimate nine-year terms, takes over policy-making for the state’s institutions of higher learning from the Board of Control. The first U.S. launch of two-man spacecraft with Majors Edward H. White and James McDivitt orbits the earth 62 times.
  • 1966
    The $700 million Walt Disney World, to be built in the Orlando area is announced. Claude R. Kirk, Jr. is elected the 36th governor of Florida. Kirk is the first Republican governor since Reconstruction. GOP nominees also win three of Florida's 12 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Voters approve early-start Legislature with Senate and House organizing on the Tuesday following the November general elections. Previously the Legislature organized in April.
  • 1967
    Repeated efforts by the Legislature to devise an acceptable plan of apportionment ends when a three-judge Federal court draws the boundaries of Senate and House districts and orders new elections. Republicans capture 20 of 48 Senate seats and 39 of 119 House seats.
  • 1968
    The Legislature submits and voters ratify three amendments which combine to give the state an almost new Constitution. The Republicans hold their national convention at Miami Beach the first national gathering of a major political party ever convened in Florida. The first Republican ever elected by popular ballot is sent to the U.S. Senate. There is a statewide teacher walkout.
  • 1969
    With the office reestablished by the revised Constitution the first lieutenant governor since 1889 is appointed. The Legislature reorganizes state government so that over 170 separate agencies become 22 operating departments. On July 16 Apollo 11 lifts off from Cape Kennedy to carry the first men to the moon.
  • 1970
    Democrat Reubin Askew is elected Florida's 37th governor, defeating incumbent Republican Governor Claude Kirk in his bid for a second term. His running-mate Secretary of State Tom Adams, becomes the state's second lieutenant governor under the revised Constitution of 1968.
  • 1971
    Apollo 14 plagued with many troubling incidents, touches down on the Moon 108 hours after blast-off from the Kennedy Space Center. Capt. Alan B. Shepard is in command. President Richard M. Nixon orders a halt to the Cross Florida Barge Canal after $50 million has been spent on the 107-mile structure. Amtrak begins operation of service into Orlando. Apollo 15 astronauts explore the Moon for three days in a record-breaking flight of 12 days originating from Kennedy Space Center. Walt Disney World opens October 1st. Estimated cost of the facility is between $500 and $600 million.
  • 1972
    Apollo 16, despite a guidance malfunction, lands on the Moon for three days of exploration and returns to Earth without further incident. Tropical storm Agnes roars out of the south Atlantic to cause heavy damage along the eastern seaboard northward from Miami. Paula Hawkins becomes the first woman elected to the Florida Public Service Commission.
  • 1973
    Miami Dolphins complete undefeated season and win Super Bowl.
    Despite fuel shortages in the latter part of the year, Florida sets an all-time record for influx of visitors, when 25.5 million people visit the Sunshine State. After seven and one-half years and nearly 260,000 refugees, the "freedom flights" from Cuba come to an end on April 7th. The airlifts, bringing refugees into Miami at the rate of 48,000 a year, help transform the ethnic makeup of Dade County by adding at least 100,000 Cubans to the 150,000 already there.
  • 1974
    Reubin Askew becomes the first Governor to be elected to successive four- year terms. The Legislature creates an ethics commission to oversee public officers and employees. It also enacts legislation for collective bargaining by public employees.
  • 1975
    The state jobless rate hits a 25-year high in January at 8.3 percent and eventually unemployment reaches 9.3 percent. Governor Askew appoints Joseph W. Hatchett to the Supreme Court, the first black justice in the court's history.
  • 1976
    Former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter tops Alabama Governor George C. Wallace and 10 other Democrats in Florida's Presidential Preference Primary, giving Carter's campaign impetus which leads to his party's nomination for president. In the same primary, Florida Republicans prefer President Gerald R. Ford over former California Governor Ronald Reagan. Carter garners 51.93 percent of Florida's general election vote.
  • 1977
    Severe cold devastates citrus and vegetable plants. This causes President Carter to proclaim 34 counties disaster areas. The U.S. Corps of Engineers recommends against resumption of construction on Cross Florida Barge Canal.
  • 1978
    Jesse J McCrary, Jr. is appointed Secretary of State by Governor Reubin Askew on July 19, the second black to serve as Secretary of State and as a member of the Cabinet. Miami businessman and former State Senator Bob Graham wins election as Florida's 38th governor.
  • 1979
    Miami Beach reports a record resort tax collection for its fiscal year. Taxes received from hotel rooms, food and beverages reach a record high of $3,727,380. It is the twentieth anniversary of Busch Gardens in Tampa. The grand opening of the Museum of Botany and Fine Arts at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota marks the first time science and art are combined in such a setting.
  • 1980
    Race riots tear apart city. The Mariel boatlift brings 140,000 Cubans to Florida.
    The Miami Seaquarium celebrates its 25th Anniversary. Tampa opens its own $6.2 million water theme park, Adventure Island. A bill raising the drinking age from 18 to 19 is passed, however, all military personnel are excluded.
  • 1981
    The first manned space shuttle launches are made from Kennedy Space Center, with launch schedules to increase in the year ahead. Unmanned rockets with payloads are scheduled approximately every month by NASA from the KSC launch pads.
  • 1982
    The Florida Legislature completes a difficult reapportionment after an extended session. Gov. Bob Graham is reelected for a second term. The $800 million EPCOT Center opens at Walt Disney World.
  • 1983
    The space shuttle Challenger launches its first 5-member crew and the first American woman, Sally Ride, into space from Kennedy Space Center. Thirty-eight overseas highway bridges from Key Largo to Key West are completed under the Florida Keys Bridge Replacement Program.
  • 1984
    The Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay is under reconstruction. It is expected to completed in 1986 at a cost of $215 million. Donald Duck's "50th Anniversary Celebration" is held in June at Walt Disney World. Busch Gardens celebrates its 25th anniversary. The Miami Metro Rail, the only inner city, elevated rail system in Florida, begins service in May.
  • 1985
    Florida's state park system marks its 50th anniversary. Begun during the Depression with nine parks, the system now includes 92 park and recreation areas. DeSoto Trail was officially dedicated during May in Inverness. The Kennedy Space Center's Visitor Center is renamed Spaceport USA. Two well-preserved, intact human brains are discovered by Glenn Doran, archaeologist at Florida State University when he uncovered the 7,000-plus-year-old skulls in the swamps near Titusville.
  • 1986
    The Kennedy Space Center witnesses America's worst space tragedy when the space shuttle "Challenger" explodes after takeoff. All seven astronauts aboard are killed. Treasure hunter Mel Fisher continues to salvage vast amounts of gold and silver from his discovery of the Spanish galleon "Nuestra Senora de Atocha" which sank in 1622 during a hurricane off Key West. The television series "Miami Vice” continues to capture the nation's imagination, revitalizing interest and tourism for South Florida. Walt Disney World breaks ground for a major movie and television production studio to be constructed in Orlando.
  • 1987
    Bob Martinez is the first person of Spanish ancestry to become governor of Florida. Calvin Jones, state archaeologist finds what is believed to be the site of Hernando de Soto's 1539-40 camp in Tallahassee. U.S. Census Bureau estimates indicate that Florida has surpassed Pennsylvania to become the fourth most populous state in the nation. The ranking will not become official until the Bureau publishes its report in early 1988. It is predicted that Florida will be the third most populous state by the year 2000.
  • 1988
    Florida once again becomes the center for America's space program. Regular space shuttle flights resume in October for the first time since the "Challenger” disaster in 1986. Two Republicans capture posts in the Florida Cabinet in the general election. Jim Smith is elected Secretary of State and Tom Gallagher takes over as State Insurance Commissioner. This is the first time since the Reconstruction Era of the 1870s that Republicans have won any statewide office other than governor. Floridians now have a state-operated lottery which gives away some of the largest prizes in the nation. An international team, using experimental technology, completes the world's deepest cave-diving expedition at Wakulla Springs in north Florida.
  • 1989
    U.S. Representative Claude Pepper, dies in May. Genetic testing reveals that a Wauchula hospital a decade ago accidentally switched babies belonging to Sarasota and Pennsylvania couples, setting off a legal battle. Devastating cold front hits state in December, closing airports and interstates and causing statewide power outages.
  • 1990
    Panama's governor Manuel Noriega is brought to Miami in January for trial on drug charges. Joe Robbie, Miami Dolphins founder, dies in January. Flooding Panhandle rivers in March force evacuation of 2,000 homes. Owners/players contract dispute delays spring training baseball season. St. Petersburg's Suncoast Dome opens in March. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August results in massive state National Guard and Army Reserve unit callup. Lotto in September awards record $106 million jackpot. State gasoline prices in September soar to seven-year high. Democrat Lawton Chiles soundly trounces Republican incumbent Bob Martinez in governor’s race. Outgoing Governor Martinez in November was named the nation's drug czar. In December, Tampa is awarded franchise team in the National Hockey League.
  • 1991
    Lawton Chiles in January is sworn in as state's 41st governor. Miami-based Eastern Airlines in January announces closing due to financial losses. Former Governor LeRoy Collins, 82, dies in March. U.S. Senator Bruce Smathers in April donates record $20 million to University of Florida library system. In May Legislature approves $29.3 billion state budget, including $164 million in new taxes. At Governor Chiles' request Legislature in May creates new Department of Elderly Affairs. Also in May, Queen Elizabeth 11 visits Miami and Tampa, and confers honorary knighthood on Tampa resident Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf. Five Navy bombers found by treasure salvers are determined not to be the "Lost Squadron" of Bermuda Triangle fame that went down in 1945 off the coast of Florida. Miami and Denver are awarded new national major league baseball franchises. The 1990 Federal Census puts Florida's population at 12,937,926, a 34 percent increase from 1980.
  • 1992
    Homestead and adjacent South Florida are devastated on August 24 by the costliest natural disaster in American history, Hurricane Andrew, demanding billions in aid. There were 58 deaths directly or indirectly related to Andrew. The hurricane destroyed 25,000 homes and damaged 10,000 others. Twenty-two thousand Federal troops were deployed. Shelters housed 80,000 persons.
  • First elections since Florida gained four additional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives saw Cubans and Afro-Americans seated. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Cuban-born, joined lleana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Cuban, elected to the Florida House in 1982, the Florida Senate in 1986, and the U.S. House in 1989. Among Afro-Americans elected to Congress was Carrie Meek of Miami. Sixty-six in 1993, her political career saw her elected first to the Florida House of Representatives, the Florida Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • 1993
    Janet Reno, State Attorney for Dade County (Miami) for 15 years named Attorney General of the U.S. by President Bill Clinton, the first woman to so serve in U.S. history. Although a pro-choice Democrat she managed to win reelection four times in a conservative stronghold, the last time without opposition
  • 1996
    Miami turns 100.

Ancient Spanish Monastery