John S. Collins

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John Stiles Collins (December 29, 1837-February 11, 1928) was an American Quaker farmer from Moorestown Township, New Jersey[1] who moved to southern Florida and attempted to grow vegetables and coconuts on the swampy, bug-infested stretch of land between Miami and the ocean, a barrier island which became Miami Beach.

Collins Bridge across Biscayne Bay between Miami and Miami Beach, Florida opened in 1913 as the "longest wooden bridge in the world." photo from Florida Photographic Collection

Although the farming venture was not successful, with involvement from his family, notably his sons and sons-in law, John S. Collins also became a land developer. He and his family formed the Miami Beach Improvement Company in 1911, instituted the first recorded use of the term "Miami Beach",[2] and built the Collins Bridge across Biscayne Bay from the established City of Miami in 1913. They built a casino, an oceanfront hotel and began residential development of the island.

The Collins Bridge project ran short of funds and the 2.5 mile (4 km) long wooden toll bridge was in danger of not being completed when 74 year old Collins struck a deal with automotive pioneer and millionaire Carl G. Fisher (1874–1939) to loan him the needed funds in exchange for 200 acres (800,000 m²) of land. Fisher later described John Collins as "a bantam rooster, cocky and unafraid."

The Collins Bridge was located at the southern terminus of promoter Fisher's Dixie Highway project, which brought traffic from the mid-west as part of the National Auto Trail road system. Collins, his family, and Fisher all became very wealthy with the development of Miami Beach, which had a 400% increase in resident population between 1920 and 1925.

John S. Collins died in 1928 at the age of 90. Collins Avenue and the Collins Canal, both on Miami Beach, are named in his honor.

References[edit]

  1. ^ John Collins Biography, Miami Beach History. Accessed March 13, 2008. "Born on December 29, 1837, in Moorestown, New Jersey, John Stiles Collins was the sixth generation of Collinses to farm the family's western New Jersey homestead since 1678."
  2. ^ Great Floridians 2000 Program

Further reading[edit]

  • Kennedy, Patricia, Miami Beach, Arcadia Publishing, Images of America series, 2006

External links[edit]