Downtown Dig Uncovers Parts of Miami’s Rich Past
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MIAMI (CBS4) – At a construction site in downtown Miami, the future can’t take shape without one last look at the past.
“It was a village prehistorically. It was a hotel in the early 1900s,” archaeologist Ryan Franklin said of the location just off Biscyane Blvd across from the EPIC hotel. “Now this is the next story of this property.”
But before a single brick can be laid for Met Square, an entertainment hub planned to supplement the rest of the Metropolitan Miami Development, a team from the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy has to survey the land.
“There’s an ordinance about developing in certain archaeological zones and this falls in one of those zones,” Franklin explained
So they dig and dust, spray and sift, never quite sure what they might find.
But after a several weeks of effort, about a foot and a half beneath the surface which was once a parking lot, the dig team found a set of steps.
Then they located tiles and bricks which served as the base of columns.
A antiquated, fresh water aquifer also turned up below ground.
All of it was once part of the Royal Palm Hotel.
Built by railroad magnate Henry Flager, the Royal Palm opened its doors in 1897 after workers extended the original shoreline to make room for the sprawling clapboard structure, gardens and pool.
“The Royal Palm hotel was the place to be in Miami,” Jorge Zamanillo with HistoryMiami told CBS 4’s Lauren Pastrana. “There were some smaller hotels, but the luxury, the quality and the architecture of the building alone was a draw and really started the big wave of tourists coming to South Florida.”
Artifacts from the hotel are now on display at HistoryMiami, the museum near the Stephen P. Clark Government Center.
Some of the discoveries from the current archaeological dig will likely be housed there as well.
Not far from the Royal Palm Hotel exhibit, a portion of HistoryMiami is devoted to the Tequesta Indians, Miami’s earliest inhabitants.
It’s believed the site where Met Square will be built was once home to a Tequesta village.
Archaeologists have uncovered a circle of post holes at the site believed to be more than a thousand years old, Franklin said.
It won’t be preserved like its more famous counterpart, the Miami Circle, but it will all be documented.
From the make-up of the dirt, to the tiny animal bone fragments found within, it’s all a reminder of what once was…
“It tells the story of Miami that a lot of people don’t know,” Franklin said.
The dig is expected to be completed in another month and a half.
Construction should begin at the end of this year and wrap up by the end of 2014.