Julia Tuttle, The Businesswoman Who Founded Miami: 5 Things To Know

By Zuri Anderson

March 8, 2022

Julia Tuttle was a visionary for her time. With dreams of establishing a city on the warm coast of South Florida, she made it happen by being the first, and so far only, woman to be the founder of a major American city -- Miami. Thanks to her business sense and persistence, she left behind an enduring legacy.

Get to know the Miami founder better with these five facts:

Why She Moved To The Florida Area

In 1875, the Cleveland, Ohio woman visited her father's orange grove in the Biscayne Bay area and fell in love with the region. It wasn't until the 1886 death of her husband, Frederick Tuttle, that she decided to move to South Florida for "the delicate health" of her two children, Frances and Henry.

Her Citrus Crops Was The Beginning

Tuttle bought a huge citrus plantation in the area before she made her big move in the late 1880s. Most of Florida suffered terrible winter freezes in 1984 and 1985, virtually destroying citrus crops and new trees throughout the state. Tuttle's crops were spared due to the mild climate of South Florida, leaving her oranges the only thing on the market.

The businesswoman would send a particular rail mogul some of her citrus flowers as proof that the area is worth visiting.

Her Ties To Henry Flagler, The "Father Of Miami"

Photo: Getty Images

That railway mogul happened to be Henry Flagler, a fellow Cleveland resident who took up Tuttle's offer and traveled to South Florida to observe the land. For a while, Tuttle and

Impressed, he decided to run his railroads all the way through Miami to establish a beach resort in exchange for land from Tuttle. As news of the rail through Florida emerged, real estate agents and interested home buyers started flocking to the region, intrigued by the promise of "freeze-proof" lands.

Then came July 28, 1896, the day Tuttle persuaded several powerful men to incorporate the City of Miami.

She Passed Away With A Huge Debt

Because Tuttle gave large swathes of land to Flagler, she incurred massive amounts of debt by the time she passed away on September 14, 1898. She was 49. Unfortunately, her children sold her land to pay off some of that debt, leading to her name being forgotten in history for some time.

Remembering Her Impact

For years after Miami's founding and rapid growth, Flagler, known as the "Father of Miami," took most of the credit for the Magic City's early history. That all changed in the last few decades, especially after the I-195 causeway over Biscayne Bay was named after Julia Tuttle. More memorials and dedications would appear in honor of Tuttle's legacy, including statues and a 12-foot-by-12 foot fabric mural of her.

Julia Tuttle causeway
Photo: Getty Images
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