This article is part of Overlooked, a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times.
In the 1890s, the area where Biscayne Bay and the Miami River meet — today considered the heart of Downtown Miami — was desolate, swampy and isolated. But one of its few residents, Julia Tuttle, saw great potential for the land.
“It may seem strange to you,” she wrote to a friend, “but it is the dream of my life to see this wilderness turned into a prosperous country. Where this tangled mass of vine, brush, trees and rocks now are to see homes with modern improvements surrounded by beautiful grassy lawns, flowers, shrubs and shade trees.”
One way to make this a reality, she realized, was by building a railroad that would give people access. The oil tycoon and industrialist Henry Flagler had already built hotels in other parts of Florida, as well as a railroad that extended to West Palm Beach. Tuttle was sure that if the tracks stretched to her sleepy outpost, a city would blossom.