|Past and Present
Visitors to the Homestead and Florida City area find an area building on its rich history for a bright future. Homestead's active program of historic preservation keeps the past alive while preparing residents for the burgeoning industries, tourism and future population growth.
Tropical South Florida is rich in history both documented and legendary. Four thousand years ago Indians inhabited the southern tip of Florida. Pirate smugglers, gun runners and revolutionaries roamed area waters centuries ago.
The area south of Miami was opened to homesteaders in 1898. A path known as the Homesteader's Trail was the only route in and out until railroad and oil magnate Henry Flagler extended his railway south to the area. Later, Flagler extended his railroad from Homestead to Key West and the Overseas Railroad was completed in 1912. Homestead's major source of revenue at that time was agriculture, with the harvest of winter vegetables and tropical fruits being shipped all across the country. Due to its strategic location, the Homestead area prospered with the Florida real estate boom in the early 1920s.
In 1926 Mother Nature unleashed her fury with a major hurricane, destroying Flagler's overseas railway. In 1945 another severe hurricane struck and demolished the World War II airfield at what is now Homestead Air Reserve Base.
Almost 50 years later, in 1992, Hurricane Andrew blew through deep south Miami-Dade County leaving a wave of destruction in its path. True to the pioneer spirit that created the area, the people of the Homestead and Florida City communities picked up and rebuilt and restored.
The community has focused on preserving and renovating historic buildings, establishing new businesses and creating a historic district replete with charming specialty shops and restaurants. Many Mediterranean revival structures in downtown Homestead have been refurbished and adapted for new uses. The antique shops along Krome Avenue form a charming district, one that is part of a designated Main Street Community of the Florida Bureau of Historic Preservation.
Homestead's population is increasing as its ethnic composition becomes more diverse. A revitalized business district, a thriving agricultural industry, a 280 acre Park of Commerce and surrounding attractions make the Homestead/ Florida City area a popular destination for newcomers. New housing developments complement charming older neighborhoods. Innovative schools, lushly landscaped parks and renovated shopping areas enhance the quality of life.
Homestead/Florida City has moved into a technological economy. According to Miami-Dade County and the University of Florida, Miami-Dade County's population will increase by over 500,000 by 2005. To provide employment for the increasing population, Miami-Dade must target industries that accelerate both the growth of above average income and entry level jobs. The industries that are "deemed best-suited" are biomedical, film/entertainment, financial services, information technology, international commerce, telecommunications and the visitor industry. High-paying jobs in fast-growing industries in turn create others at all levels that cut across governmental, social, ethnic. economic and political constituencies.
The first phase of the business incubator center is operating in Homestead and can assist soon-to-be entrepreneurs and new business owners in the basics to help them succeed. A grant from NASA and assistance from Miami-Dade Community College is making it possible.
Commerce & Trade
Besides providing national and international markets with tropical produce and plants, the agricultural industry also contributes to the revenue generated by tourism. Scattered throughout the region are agricultural fields that allow self-harvesting of vegetables. Many roadside stands offer crops that are specific to the tropical climate including mango, avocado, lychee and carambola. Agricultural-guided tours expose visitors to the industry in what is the only subtropical farming area in the continental United States. U-pick stands are often a destination of local and regional visitors.