History Chronology Perrine - Cutler Ridge Gallery Historical Images

The history of Perrine and Cutler Ridge begins with a group of indigenous people - the Tequesta Indians - who migrated to the area over 1,500 years ago. In East Perrine off Old Cutler Road, archaeologists discovered an ancient burial ground with a six-foot mound where twenty Tequesta Indians were buried around 500 A.D. Unfortunately by the year 1800, the people of the Glades, as they had come to be known, were all but wiped out. The victims of diseases introduced by European explorers and by brutal encounters with Florida’s Spanish conquerors. Eventually, the Tequestas were forcibly removed from Florida by the Spanish to live in Cuba, where after a few years the Tequestas were killed and placed into extinction.

Dr. Henry Perrine, a noted botanist and scientist was granted a township (36 square miles) of land below the 26th parallel in 1838 from the Federal Government. The Perrine land grant required each section consisting of one square mile to have farmers or cultivators on it, and that they raise tropical or semitropical plants that had commercial value and were not indigenous to the United States. Dr. Perrine’s dream was to transform the area into a resort and health center. His work with medicinal plants was to be a research break-through.

The Seminole Indian War was quickly moving south, and for safety’s sake Dr. Perrine relocated his family to Indian Key. The Seminoles, under the leadership of warrior Chief Chekika, descended on Indian Key where they captured Dr. Perrine. He pleaded with Chekika for his life and he promised that he would work medicinal magic in return. To angry to listen, Chekika ordered his men to beat Dr. Perrine to death and set every building on Indian Key on fire. Mrs. Perrine and her children escaped the 1840 attack that killed her husband before he could get his grant surveyed.

During the next few decades, squatters began moving onto the Perrine land, building houses and engaging in various types of economic activities. The main industry of South Dade County in 1870 was coontie starch making. This was very profitable since a man and his helper could produce about 200 pounds of starch a week and the product could be sold for about five cents per pound. As a result of these high profit margins, starch making remained popular until all the starch plants had been gathered to near extinction.

One of the first people to attempt the cultivation of fruits and vegetables for profit in South Dade county was Dr. William Cutler a physician from Massachusetts. In 1883, he purchased a 600 acre tract of land next to the Perrine grant. Dr. Cutler convinced a William Fuzzard to settle on his land and by 1892, Fuzzard was growing pineapples, tomatoes, mangoes, and guavas, which he shipped to Boston. The great freezes of 1894 and 1895, wiped out much of the agricultural activities in the middle of the state causing many farmers to move to the South Dade area and encouraging Henry Flagler to extend his railroad from Palm Beach to Miami. By 1895, over twenty families had homes, groves and raised crops in the area. The town of Cutler had a school, church, sawmill, boarding house, general store, shoemaker and daily mail delivery by 1899. As the railroad construction continued south, most South Dade residents expected it to be built on the ridge of land close to Biscayne Bay where the town of Cutler was built. Strenuous objection by Commodore Munroe and other influential citizens of Coconut Grove, who had built their estates on the ridge north of Cutler, moved the railroad construction west to the town of Perrine, and Cutler was doomed. The last store closed in 1906 and the school closed in 1908. The Cutler area did not develop further until the early 1950’s when Joe Segal and David Blumberg purchased 1,400 acres from Walter Haines and began building houses in the community of Cutler Ridge. Thanks to a massive increase in activity at Homestead Air Force Base during the mid-1950’s all of the houses were built and sold by 1960. Cutler Ridge shopping center opened in 1960, was expanded and became a mall in 1978. In 1984, American Bankers Insurance Group moved from Miami’s international business district to its present headquarters site in Cutler Ridge. And in 1988, the fast-food giant Burger King Corporation moved its world headquarters to its present 114-acre site in Perrine. Throughout the last three decades, these relatively small areas have mushroomed into extremely popular residential communities with fine subdivisions where numerous professionals reside. In recent years, the communities of Perrine and Cutler Ridge have developed into a mix of upscale residential properties, a thriving corporate community and busy shopping centers.

The Perrine area is customarily lumped together with Cutler Ridge lying to the south. The accepted boundaries are East from the Biscayne Bay to SW 147 Avenue in the west. The area is sandwiched roughly between the Pinecrest Municipality and Florida City - Homestead. Some historical towns, such as Peters (centered at US1 and SW 186 ST Quail Roost Drive), Cutler (the earliest and largest of the pre-railroad South Dade towns, centered at the Deering Estate, Old Cutler Road and SW 168 Street) and Rockdale (just south of US1 and SW 136 Street), are contained in Perrine.

The town was greatly enlarged and emboldened after the decision by Henry Flagler to run his Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast Railroad through the area. This deviated from the more easterly, expected route through Cutler. The Extension ran on the same tract that the South Dade Busway occupies today (just west of US 1).

The present town of Perrine is roughly separated by US1 into East and West Perrine. Although Perrine was traditionally considered a predominately black area, the post-WWII demographic transition segregated the black population largely to West Perrine, lying west of US1 and the Railroad tracks. Interestingly, Perrine is laid out, both east and west, in roughly the same economic pattern. Closest to US 1 are the most economically depressed areas, in both the black (west) and white (east) areas. Traveling further east and west form US1 the property values rise to their highest values around SW 137 Avenue (west) and Old Cutler (east). Perrine is truly an area divided solely on race.

Perrine was briefly incorporated as a city in March 1948. The townspeople elected a mayor and city council. The city designation did not last long. Only a year later, after the election of a black mayor, the white city council and the mayor along with his son, the only lawyer in Perrine, went to the state legislature and asked for dissolution of the city charter. This was so ordered in May 1949. The obvious racial undertones of this story are not lost on the present day maneuverings of those who are pushing for incorporation of Perrine. The contemporary clash of philosophy has at its base also the issue of race and geography. The drive for incorporation of Palmetto Bay sets out a new city that would roughly encompass East Perrine. The County has rejected this proposal mainly out of fear that the lower tax base citizens of West Perrine will be lost in the transition and left to the county as part of unincorporated Dade County. This issue is particularly sensitive in the wake of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

The worst weather related disaster in US history and one of the two worst hurricanes ever to hit Miami left the area of Perrine and parts south absolutely destroyed as well as defining it as a community. The economic losses were staggering. Those who had the ability to leave for the most part did. They took with them many of the privately owned, small business, jobs and spirit of community that Perrine is just now regaining.