Welcome to Florida Maps: Then & Now, an animated map series from the State Archives of Florida. This episode highlights historic maps of Key Biscayne.
Key Biscayne is a long barrier island that sits just offshore of metropolitan Miami. This map, from the confirmed Spanish Land Grant of Mary Ann Davis, shows Key Biscayne long before dredging altered its shoreline, and causeways linked it to the mainland.
From the earliest days of Spanish exploration, the island, whose southern tip is known as Cape Florida, served to warn mariners about the impending danger of shallow water and treacherous reefs. In the early 19th century, shortly before Florida became a territory of the United States, escaped slaves and free blacks, known as Black Seminoles, fled to Key Biscayne. For them, the island served as a point of departure. They sought freedom in the Bahamas and elsewhere in the British Caribbean—removed from the institution of slavery, which was rapidly extending its reach into the Florida peninsula.
The United States built the first lighthouse on Key Biscayne in 1825. On July 23, 1836, during the Second Seminole War, Seminole warriors attacked and burned the lighthouse. It was rebuilt 10 years later. The lighthouse was attacked again during the Civil War, this time by Confederates hoping to prevent Union forces from using the light to guide blockading ships patrolling the coast.
The Northern and middle sections of the island witnessed significant development in the 20th century. The development of homes sites, channels for luxury boats, and a golf course, combined with natural erosion and efforts to deepen the Port of Miami, give the island its present shape. Today, the Southern third of Key Biscayne is part of the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.
For more information about historic maps and other resources from the State Archives of Florida, visit FloridaMemory.com. In addition, Google Earth Maps from this series are available for download.
All photographic images reside in the Florida Photographic Collection, State Archives of Florida, Tallahassee: COM06383; RC03402.
Cary, John. “A New Map of Part of the United States of North America…” London, 1806.
Confirmed Land Grant of Mary Ann Davis. Series 991: Confirmed Spanish Land Grant Claims, 1763-1821, box 10, folder 2. State Archives of Florida, Tallahassee.
Key Biscayne and Cape Florida Lighthouse Maps. Series 543. State Archives of Florida, Tallahassee.United States Coast Survey. “Progress of the Surveys… Florida Keys… Key Biscayne” Washington, D.C., 1858.
For more information about available Florida Maps: Then and Now in the KMZ format and for help using Google Earth visit our Google Earth page.