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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
Fla. Pers. #13 f
March 30, 1967
Interview with Russell Pancoast
I: March 30, 1967, interview with Russell Pancoast, the grandson
of John Collins, at his architectural office in Coconut Grove
on Bayshore Drive. (pause) Well, okay then, I have
to check occasionally on my electricity. I have to say for the
purposes of the University, Dr. Laplame wants me to say, you
know that these will be given to the University and I have a release
that will clear it and if you want to they may be put in a, the
tapes will be put in a closed file. Now, you were so good to me.
I've talked with you twice and I have notes from the interview
that I took with you years ago. I don't want to waste your time.
You've been so good already.
P: Well, the time isn't so important. I'd rather do it regular and
you get what you need than worry about time. We've got all morning.
I: I think that I have, and perhaps I don't, but I think that I have the
main outlines of the stories about Mr. Collins, well first Mr.Lum,
and then Mr. Collins, and then Phil and Oscar and the plantations
and that whole business and if you have any sidelights they'll
probably come up in that conversation. I would like to start out
in the year when your father came first to Miami Beach and I
did a little homework last night and I have this book of Mr. Morrisons
which your father must have..
P: It mentions Miami Beach.
I: Yes. This book has a forward by your father and I gathered that he
seemed to approve of and be in favor of this book and it represented
P: It's the best one that I know of beyond other things'as far as we
I: Uh, huh. Well, according to that, it says that..it says that Thomas
Pancoast visited Miami Beach farm in 1911, it doesn't say the month,
when Mr. Collins first mentioned the canal. According to this, as
I configured, he seems to have gone home and returned with his wife
when the family venture, which was Miami BeachImprovement Company,
was organized and incorporated in 1912. Can we start then with your
father and now you tell me-----it was two or three of you. Not only
your father, but one with your uncle.
P: That's right. They had their wives.
I: Well, let's start with the first visit. In fact, let's take us back
before the first visit. They were all up there in Merchantville,...
P: Merchantville, not Merchantsville.
P: No, Merchantville.
I: Merchatville, no n.
P: Merca tville.
I: Mercatville. And they were living there and they were, well I know
that your father was in this business connected with his--your grand-
father in this...
P: Yes, in another words, my grandfather financed this business.
I: Uh, huh. And your father...
P: My father ran it under the name of Collins and Pancoast. That's
the name of the firm.
I: And they sold agricultural ....
P: They sold coal and lumber and agricultural products and agencies
I- Oh, automobiles too.
P: Yea, and hardware and just a general hardware and coal, lumber supply
store. Agricultural products, of course, along with it.
I: Well then, if you could take the start from there, then...
what was it that decided them to come down, and how did they come down,
and the whole thing?
P: John S. Collins had a friend, the original found/of th New Jersey
Horticultural Society. And he was a prosperous farmer who owned
several farms in the area. His home was in Morsetown, New Jersey,
not Mwrristown, Moorestown.
I: Moorestown, yes. It's near Philadelphia.
P: Which is five miles from Merchatville which is where my father
was located and where I was born.
I: It's all in the Philadelphia-Camden area.
P: Yes, that's right. It's east of Camden and he was fairly prosperous
and he had financed each one of his sons, and in this case, in my
case, his son-in-law, and put them in business at one time or another.
Lester Collins was not/XIN at that time. He was the youngest
son. He was put in charge of the farms.
I: That was for---
P: And after a while my grandfather came to Florida when he wanted to
in the winter and to do whatever else he wanted to do because he--
Lester, the youngest son, would take care of the actual day to day
farming. The oldest son, Arthur Collins, stayed in the old Collins
homestead in Moorestown and farmed out and had a nursery business
in addition to that and sent out catalogues and all those other
things, grew all kinds of nursery products, and sold them by mail
or by direct sale.
I: Parenthetically I must say that this extraordinary hereditary green
thumb that grows in your family--I have seen your brother L
thing and you and the whole--
P: And Marty comes along and she's good--
I: Is she good at it too?
P: Yes, yes, she's--she likes it and works at it. That's all the rest
of us do.
I: I never heard of a hereditary green thumb before--
P: No, not---well, we all like the soil I guess and we like to work
good at anything. Irving Collins was put into the same business
that my father was put into, except that he started with a store in
I: I see. Advanced, I think.
P: He sold coal, lumber, hardware, and farmer supplies, and he later
branched out and I'm not sure if at 1911 they had branch stores or
not in Remington and other places. And then my father had this store
in Richfield. Now, my grandfather had made a wild investment sometime
previously in mining--
I: Gold mining--
P: I guess gold and probably maybe precious stones. I don't know,
there's still some there, they tell me, semi-precious anyway, in
the Carolina mountains.
I: Carolin--well you see I thought it was the west.
P: And then he lost that, and he'd also invested in the Miami Beach
and the coconut venture in 1882 and then, of course, he lost that.
P: So with this background, in spite of his money-making ability
and his fairly prosperous life, he had invested a great deal of
his capital in these various businesses that his sons started.
So, when he decided that uh, to make things go properly in
Miami Beach, then he would have to furnish water in the '
and he would have to sprinkle the whole bowl in order to make
the trees prosper as they should and fruit as they should. And
he grew crops in between the trees and of course they needed water
too. And this was a very expensive thing. I don't know how
much detail you want me to go into about this stuff.
I: Well, I, I, I do think that I have in my notes the fact of what
he grew and it's explained in the books what he grew and some .e
I remember that he grew tomatoes and potatoes in between the avocado
and the mango trees.
P: Potatoes and onions and peppers and some other things, I don't know
what they all--all kinds of things.
I: But he was a really fantastic horticulturist...to me.
P: That's right...
I: He just wasn't any dirt farm, he mad everything...
P: For instance, he was the pioneer in developing the large black bay
in New Jersey, and in the blueberry fields ..
P: And I think I told you before about the fact that he wanted to send
pears to England and he knew that he would have to grow a special
pear in order to do that, and he proceeded to plant what was called
the kittle pear...
I: Well, that's still growing in this part of the family,... don't you
I: cousins that have orchards up there in..
P: No, that's gone...
I: That's gone...
P: I think that there all .
Anyway, they did grow those pears and they were the first to be
sent by boat to England. You also knew about the early and late
fruits that were tests now of markets...
I: I think that is important because he understood the marketing the
fruits and that was part of his...
P: Consequently when he saw the black sandy soil and he was used to sandy
soil and he knew anything would grow in it if you could fertilize it
with water. And he saw that on the west side of Indian Creek. He
decided that he could grow there avocados which were...he did not
have any competition with in this country at that time. And he felt
that no frost would ever bother them across the bay although it might
on the mainland.
I: Well he was right there.
P: Well, yes, although frost has come to the beach once or twice in
my lifetime. But it didn't hurt the trees when it did. So he had
a premonition there that was good, probably, and his thinking was
probably sound. Then he...
I: When he first started this farming venture he was around seventy or
a little short of. Was he not?
P: Well, you have to work backwards.
I: Well, I know, but I've got the date, and I believe that he came
P: It's about right...
I: In 1904, and he bought some more of his land in 1909....
P: In 1907 he planted the first avocados.
I: Well, we can figure out the date, he was close to seventy.
P: Yes, that's right.
I: He was seventy-five in 1913, in 1909 he would have been near seventy.
P: Yes, that's right. So, he didn't have any more ready cash so he
had all these investments for his children, and so he went to them
and said he wanted the company so they,...individuals could loan him
money to put down here. And there was no question in his mind they
would have to do it...
I: Well, he had set them up in business..
P: That's right and he felt that this was his share regardless of
P: And ah, but they, ah, were a little conscious at this time of what
he might do. It was unfamiliar to them and perhaps unfamiliar to
him. So they said that they would like to come and see what their
money was going to be used for. And he agreed to that and then,
see Lester didn't have a wife at that time, but Lester and Arthur and
his wife, and Irving and his wife, and my father and mother, then
got on a boat. New York and 7. in Havana,
and then came back....
I: Flagler's Steamer from Havana probably?
P: Yes, you see,cause they were running a ferry then and this was Flagler's
idea to run the ferry to Cuba. This was the only reason for the
overseas highway, really, not to get to Key West but to get to the
coast of Havana so that they could run a ferry.
I: Well, of course the ferry went to Palm Beach it did not go to...
P: No, the ferry never went to Palm Beach at all in those days.
P: It was...
I: So they went to Havana from Key West.
P: No, Key West,...the railroad wasn't there yet.
I: No, but they...
P: So...Nice Key then was open then and so they put a dock in for the
ferry ancthen the railroad got to Nice Key and later as they went
south of course they changed the ferry to Key West.
I: Well, now where is Nice Key?
P: Nice Key is at the end of Marathon.
I: I see.
P: Key Vaca.
I: I see.
P: Yea. That's where they were in operation -
So, I don't know this for a fact, but if the date works out,
and I can't see any other way that they must have gone to Nice Key
and then taken the railroad back up to Miami.
I: If the railroad was completed.
P: Well, it wasn't completed except to Nice Key...
I: Well then it was completed then I suspect.
I: Well, this is the one date that I'm interested in. Now this, when this...
P: Everything is r. what time of year I don't know.
I: Well, would they have come in the summer. John Collins never did.
P: I doubt it. Cause he never wanted to come in the summer and so I
doubt if it was in the summer. Probably, it was probably in December,
or somewhere along in thereXXXXKJ in 1911, I don't know
I: If I,...it would probably been in this respect, it would have probably been
something that would have been the last flat season in the foods
business, in agricultural business.
P: Yea, it could have been November, December,...
I: November,... right in there.
P: Or it could have been January, February, or ... but that would
pu1 it another year in the past.
I: Yea, but I have a chronography which we can check up on. Alright,
then in this insepction party, let's see, there was
Thomas J. Pancoast and his wife Kathryn, ...
I: Irving Collins, was he married at that time?
I: Irving Collins, and his wife.
P: That's right.
P: Arthur Collins..
I: Arthur Collins and his wife?
P: Lester Collins.
I: Lester Collins and his wife?
P: No. He wasn't married at that time.
I: Oh. So that you had two married Collins's and two
unmarried Collins's. Four men and two women.
P: That's right.
I: So that this party of six, you don't know whether John Collins
P: He went.
I: He went?
I: OK, so four men and two women and John Collins was already was
P: Yes, he was down there. He didn't come on this trip with them. I
don't know how he got there unless it was the usual way.
I: Well, he could have ..well, if he got here he could have taken the....
P: train down...
I: The train down, ... from down in Miami...
P: The train down from down in Miami .... that's what he done actually.
I: Well, take a train to Miami and have a boat take...
P: That's right.
I: Alright, then, this family group then came, alright, somewhere
in the fall, let's say in 1911. And how long did they stay?
P: I don't think they stayed over three or four weeks, if even that long.
I: Uh, huh. Your grandfather, then, had enough room to put them up and
P: They stayed in Miami.
Is They stayed in Miami?
P: They stayed, I think, in the House End Hotel.
I: Uh-huh. And then they went over by boat, obviously?
P: That's right. And they went by boat to look over this area.
I: I would like to...the reason that I am being so-picky about these
details is that I want to, in my writing I have plans to rather
skip over the earliest things, and not, you know,..,.
P: You don't want to make too much emphasis on some of these things,...
I: Yea, so in order to sorta begin the story, the emphasis of this
story begins when these seven people come down from..from Moorestown,
so I am trying to get in my mind something about Arthur and I'm trying
to ask in a few moments and put into rather a mosaic of what this little
peninsula looked like in the fall of 1911 when they came...that is the
description that I want to take. Now Arthur says, and besides, don't
expect that you have to agree with what he says.
I: According to him, at that time, of course there was no bridge,
there was no road, there was no canal. Apparently the house of
refuge on 79th street had been either demolished,..
P: No, it wasn't demolished..
I: Was the house, there again, was the house of refuge at 79th Street
still standing in 1911?
P: Yes, yes it was. It was still standing in 1914 cause I saw it when
I came here.
I: Was it still functioning as a house of refuge?
P: As far as I know it was. As to what degree, I'm not sure.
I: You know there wasn't too much there except one fellow and a boat
and who maintained it then.
P: That I can't say. But I'm sure, yes, I'm sure that it was still
there, I know.
I: Yes, alright, so the house of refuge,...I'm just trying to see what
was there then,79th Street, a house of refuge, and the remains,
sort of a public scarecrow, of an old Tequesta Indian mound
that was later discovered rather near there.
I: The one the Smithsonian...
P: That's right, but I don't think anybody..
I: Nobody knew about it. I'm trying to relate a picture, you know.
Here we are IHXKX/high over the beach in a metro helicopter then
to 1911 '
P: Well, virtually its a strip, a sand stretch along the oceanfront,...
P: Starting somewhere along what is now 63rd Street, or maybe south
of that a little. There were tall coconut trees and short coconut
trees along the sandy...
I: Leftover fromthe coconut groves..
P: That's right, and those have managed to survive and the others they
planted never did survive. You'd never know that they had been planted.
I: Yea, them was...
P: For some reason or another these have survived. A lot of them did,
and there were places where they didn't. But none-the-less you
could still see them in rows.
I: There were still in rows there! How about down around
P: No. These had been planted a good many years before this...
I: But they were planted..
P: So sometimes the nuts fell off the trees and started another tree
that wouldn't be in a row.
I: Uh huh.
P: A young tree, so they could still distinguish the rows.
I: The tall ones would have been in rows,...
I: And the shor ones would have been...
P: q Now, from the pawning
operation that was started by the company that my grandfather was in,
headed by Latham T. Steele,...
I: Latham T. Steele and Henry Osborne.
P: Henry Osborne,...Henry Osborne,was, I'm not sure, he was one of the
early investors. I'm not sure whether he was active, not certainly
in the way that Phil was.
I: Well, of course Phil first collaborated this with your father that,...
with your grandfather, until....according to the story Phil and your
grandfather were in partnerships awhile, but Phil wanted to grow coconuts
P: This is much later. This is much later. We're getting all mixed up here.
because HIXKX didn't even have any ideas about growing anything
else but coconuts back in 1882.
I: Yea. Yea.
P: And there were a lot of other people in this company.
I: Yes, there was quite a.....
P: I think there was sixty if I'm not mistaken, and it may say in the...
I: Somewhere in the....
P: Somewhere around sixty people in this company, I believe. The
greatest amount. I'm trying to say that some of the coconuts did
survive. Now south of fourteenth street would have been the
other grove that had been planted in 1880 by, ah-what's his
P: No. ... and some of those trees were there too, see. So now
the coconut trees that we think of as in the city limits of Miami
Beach today are in that UKnI strip. Part of it.
I: That sandy strip KLK probably had a little dune on it, you know....
P: Not many dunes. This is the coming thing, I think. It wasn't dune
country, as you think of it at all.
I: Well, no-not like the northern dunes,...
I: But there's always a, you know,...
P: There was a little high rise there...
P: At the top of the beach and it gradually diminished back to the creek.
Now the position of Indian Creek today would be very similar to
...would more or less describe what was in that sand strip. It was
very narrow, for instance, at the south end and then widened a little
as it went north and so the sand strip was wider at some places than
P: But they went back to a mangrove shore along the east side...
I: Indian Creek.
P: ...of Indian Creek.
I: And of course...
P: And Indian Creek had,...was deep in some places and was very shallow
in others and there were islands growing in it. *
And the shallow parts are important in this early ecology because
that's where the crocodiles lived on the fish life on the shallows
and the mullet were there by the thousands of course and other
fish that lived with them and the alligators could live on that mullet
and on the birds that fed on the fish,.. in the shallows again, see?
I: Well you see, there..would it be inappli-/ say that it's rather
like one of those little creeks that you find on inland that run
off of Florida creeks?
P: Very similar to that in a way, yes.
I: With the mangroves and the little islands and turtle grass and birds...
P: That's right, yes. Well now then
I: And no west of that...
P: West of that then we come into what we would now call highpotland...
P: Well, but there was not rock in this case, it was on black sand. This
was quite deep, about eighteen feet deep.
I: Eighteen feet?
I: Well that must have been the remains, the remains of what had
once been 1.
P: That might have been the oceanfront at one time, and the sand
was deposited there, you see.
P: And the rock,..that part across the bay it varied a great deal
The south end by the, you know where the cut is, it might have been
five to seven feet deep and on up north it was deeper. I would
say at 41st Street where the farm was started it was probably about
eighteen feet down.
I: Well, underneath, way deep underneath this sand, this black sand,
was also a spine of rock on which...
P: Yes, uh-huh...
I: This is important.
P: The rock shelves under the bay generally and rises again. It might
have been a reef at one time and then as the land went down the
sand was deposited and the beach built up and then it was
done over again. And the creek was left in there so...
P: Now ah---
I: Let's see the pine and palmatto land then was of various lengths, but
then it too sagged down again...
P: It sagged down...
I: ...mangrove on the western shore...
P: ...to the Bob Ware Prairie out where it is today. In other words,
about where, I don't know how to describe it otherwise, ah...
I: Well, that's alright. It will be adequate. We have the maps, we
P: And then west it was very high in mangrove and if I'm correct, they
were as high of mangroves as Florida ever grew. The only ones I've
seen to compare with it are at the end of the Honey'River and Six Sharp.
I: Yea. I remember you mentioned that once before that you thought that
it probably was one of the most extraordinary stands of mangrove..
P: Well, for height anyway and for the extensive part that goes, there's
an awful lot of them. It can't compare with Shark River area for
extent, but it can for height...
I: Well, then...
P: ...south of here we never saw mangroves grow that high. There wasn't
good enough soil for them or something, I don't know. The rock was
too close to the surface in so many cases and you just can't get
any height with them.
I: Uh-huh. But of course with all that thick yuck...
P: Anyway, I have photographs of it here which I think might give you a
mental picture of it. Now if you want to turn that off while we look
at the photographs.
I: Well, that's alright. We'll have time. It's just not...ah...
P: Well now this is the one about the.....This is the way the sandy ocean-
front strip looked like. And the coconuts. You can't see the rows
from here, but you can imagine them...
I: Yes, well you would have to be standing in the.....
P: Yes, you see the young ones have come up since then and the
storms have knocked a lot of the big ones down so there's no
way to tell, and now there were some very tall ones like
this doesn't show, but I don't know how tall these are and I've
seen them much taller than that and these little fellows interrupted
I: It was...where Washington Arenue is now is what we're looking at
P: Well, anyway, this could have been right on the ocean...
I: Could have been right along...yea.
P: I think that that's Washington Avenue, I don't know what all
that's back in there...doesn't make sense to me...looks like water.
I: Maybe it's taken from Washington Avenue looking towards the sea.
Does that make sense?
P: You can't see the sea from the western edge of that coast. So that
that's not right.
I: Maybe it's mistitled.
P: Nevertheless, it could be. That's ...
I: Yea, that's what...
P: That's what disturbs me a little bit. It says 1910. Now who took
that I don't know. But I am pretty sure that the...
I: Incidentally, I'm going to come around behind you. This book that
you're showing me...
P: Oh, I'm sorry. Here, let me do it upside down.....You can come around
if you want to...
I: This book that you're showing me. Is..thei's a duplicate in the
Miami Beach Public Library, isn't there?
P: The man that made these photographs, a man named Mattlay..
I: Mattlay...yes, I know who he is.
P: ...Has all these negatives and he went to various people and
said I would like tI make you up a book. So you select out of my
photographs what you want...
I: I see...
P: And each one then might not be an exact duplicate....
P: This side we have the mangroves that were toward the ocean and on
this side we have coconut trees.
I: Well this looks very much, except the Everglades Park...
P: I know...
I: Everglades State Park looks like now.
P: Yes, uh-huh.
I: Well, then in 19--, I didn't realize, no, this is 19--....
P: Nov, this is Alligator Hole, and we call it Crocodile Hole at
I: Uh-huh, well there wouldn't have been alligators...
P: Now this is very near the House of Refuge.
I: Yes, and it's also...
P: And you could go through this and up into here and get out of the
boat and walk over a little sand stip and you're on the ocean. Now
the closest point that you can get to with a boat without having
to wade through an awful lot of stuff....
I: Isn't this--correct me if I'm wrong--but, isn't this rather near
....wasn't that widened out to be near where the turnbasin, you know
that big basin where the present King Cole Hotel is now, you know
where that's found?
P: No, that's too far inland, you see. The King Cole....
P: Yes, that's right. The House of Refuge is on beyond that.
I: Yes, this is...this is just a few blocks north of what is now the
P: That's right.
P: Yea, .
I: And this is your tremendous mangos.
P: That's right...in height was...
P: This is....I did have one of a man standing along side of it.
I: I have a picture of that. I think that's in Jane Fisher's books...
there's a picture of a colored man with a big ax....
P: Yes, that's right...
I: ...standing underneath the...
P: Yea, and that gives you an idea of the height of the...
I: Yes, tremendous..
P: There's nothing in here to give you the scale, see.
I: Yea, tremendous. Well, that...this...to get back to our party of
seven New Jerseyites who come down here for the first time in
E: Just one moment...let me finish with this...
I: Oh, excuse me...I beg your pardon.
P: This is where
I: Yea, that's the palmettos...
P: The palmettos and the pines would be a little further up here, and then
it ran low enough to come into the mangrove swamp and from there to the
bay which was a long strip...
I: What was Mattlay doing down here that early?
P: Now, I don't think he was and this is what puzzles me.
P: Where he got these from I don't know, but it's possible that, I don't
really know that much, you know, about the party He may have
collected these- from others or he may have taken them himself, I don't
I: Alright now this then...thereagain, alright, now that we are at the
picture let's talk about it. That was my question. Down at the south
beach the mangroves had been chopped back to a certain extent to put
in this pier.
P: Well, just a little piece where they don't have...
I: The pier and the boardwalk...
P: Just a little here and there, that's as far as they went.
I: And, ah...
P: Then they came out here to get to deep enough water for the boats
I: And is this stuff in the background, is that...was it smithcaseena...
I: That they found?
P: Smithscaseena, that's right.
I: And that would have been smithscaseena still in 1914hen ah...
P: That's right, still smiths...
I: Well that, well that fits the descriptions of them.. Well that would
have been the one, except for the Collins farm...
(changing sides of tape)
P: ...they had to catch the high tide in order to get them
I: So then to get back to our family party, which it must have been
kind of a holiday in you know there
P: That's right. They wanted to make...they wanted to make a holiday
out of this...
I: Obviously ,
and they even brought their wives along with it..
P: Oh, well this was a holiday you see, and they took a holiday since
they were going to come down anyway, let's make a party out of it.
I: Yea, so they all went and they stayed at the hotel in Miami and then
when they all would come over to the Collins' farm they would have
taken a boat across the bay...
P: A small boat now.
I: Yes, because the bay was shallow at that time and then they...
P: The farm had been in operation since 1907. They started the plant-
ing in 1907 and increased the planting a great deal in 1908.
P: Now, ah, they had farm boats running back and forth, workboats,
I: But these were boats that would have landed in Miami, gone across
the bay, they were shallow draft dodgers...
P: Gone north across the bay...
I: North up around Indian Creek...
I: And all the way down....
I: To land at what must have been the Collins's dock at say...
P: 41st Street.
I: 41st Street. Well, that's where...near where the Fountainbleau docks
are now at 41st Street.
P: Very close to that. But then on the other side of that. This is where
the 41st Street bridge comes in.
I: Yea, yea. I see. Where the 41st Street bridge and then the people
would have gotten off and there was at that time...
P: At that time...this is the way history grows up and land gets planned
because/farmhouse was there and the dock was there before 41st Street
became a street at that location.
I: Uh-huh. Yes.
P: See? Then they it Pine Tree Drive.
I: Yes. That was the sheltered drive...
P: Because they put the...planted the trees there as a windbreak. They
planted a double row to make it a good one. And so there was...
I: I handy place to put boats.
P: All the traffic then ardthere's no trees...no fruit trees there
and nothing planted there. And that was the way to get back and forth
and that's where the farm people mostly go. And therefore it became
Pine Tree Drive eventually.
I: Now, see, this is just perfect. It's exactly what I want because
when people...people reading this book would presumably, you know,
be sitting at the Fountainbleau and they could look out and they
could see how the whole thing grows up...
P: Now, now this goes...
I: ...we think of cities...
P: Yea, yea, that's right...
I: We think of cities as being planned and laid out by people, but we
con't always, they grow automatically like that.
P: No, they....grow. Well, most of our cities in the United States
have grown around a port, because sailboats could land at it, and
they started, and since they didn't want to walk too far to their boat,
why, they...most of the development in those early days came next to
the docks. Alright now, this is a little bit because there was the
farm and so forth, and some of these things began to determine these
these things. And I think that Indian Creek originally had an outlet
at the south end, just south of Maroney Plaza.
I: Well, if it didn't have a popular outlet, I'm sure it had a drainage
to the mangroves, because you know how that goes.
P: Yea, but there were no mangroves on the oceanfront again, you see...
I: Oh, you mean you think it went to the sea.
P: It went to the sea, I think so.
Now, practically all of those did in the early days. It didn't come
down to a dead end, and I think that eventually the sea closed it up,
and it became a dead end. So, the thought was then, that if they could
put a canal in, the easiest place to start was the south end of Indian
P: And then go to Miami about as straight as you could go...
I: And that..
P: And that would determine the position of EKHK Canal, till as far
back of that would become a road...
I: Which is now
P: And then if they build a bridge across the bay where would they
build it to a place where they had dirt in order to build a road
to get to the beach after they got over there? So therefore,
Collins' bridge got...
I: ...got across at that point...
P: Across at that point and that turned into Venetian Causeway and so
the position of all those islands and the Venetian Causeway was determined
the end of
by the idea of building a canal from/Indian Creek.
I: When they built...
P: ..this is all I'm trying to say...
I: Oh, no, that's fine. That's just exactly the kind of thing, that's
just exactly the kind of thing, and that's the kind of thing that
books..that books don't tell you that...
I: And this is what interests, well, it interests me, and I hope
to interest others. Tell me, as long as we are on the Collin's
Canal, when the Collins' Canal, when they did get around to digging
it and we'll have to come back to the family conference later on,
but when they did get around to digging it, it must have, it's
route must have lay mainly in what was rather low land...
P: All through mangroves, most of them, not all of them. The east end
again was high land. Due to the waves, you see?
P: Oh, maybe ah, five or six blocks or seven or eight blocks, then it's
from there on.
I: Well, he cut it then rather than to dredge, I mean the choice he would
have had two choices, would he not? Collins, I'm speaking of. He could
have either dredged out Indian Creek all the way...
P: Oh, he would have had to dredged the whole bay cause this is where the
shallow part was. His boat always got stuck in the bay, not in the
I: Oh, I see.
P: They got stuck in the bay and after they got out of the north end of
Indian Creek, which was deep enough, they didn't have any trouble there.
I: Well, some of these...
P: At the dock at 43rd Street they had to dredge into the shore.
I: Yea, yea.
P: But they got down there alright. They didn't have much trouble.
I: So Indian Creek, despite of its size, was deep like Steamboat Creek...
P: It would not flow, I don't know what he had to do. I don't know what
the controlling depth was at that time. It was plenty deep enough.
I: The bay was the problem, so in other words...
P: The bay was the problem..
I: So they dug a canal south of the shallow spot in the bay.
P: Yes, that's true.
I: Is that correct?
P: Yea, in other words, yes. The idea was to build a canal down to a
place where there was...
I: A clear shot across the bay..
P: And that worked out to join the south end of Indian Creek. And it
would give a flow of water through there, too. I'm not sure that
this occurred to them at that time, but I noted...
I: Well, it must have resulted in that.
P: Yes, in fact it did.
I: Well, alright, back to the family place. It was a rather holiday,
and I'm sure that there was the spirit of adventure there, that these,
because your family, as I could gather from looking up the times in the
Encyclopedia Dictionary of American Biography, the Collins, except
perhaps for your grandfather, had stayed perhaps fairly close to
home. They were not, they were not tremendous world travelers, nor their
business interests were all located within a thirty or forty mile area.
P: Yes, that's right..
I: ...of Moorestown, or Camden.
P: Yes, that's right.
I: So, it must have been quite a jaunt for them.
P: Quaker settlements grew up around Burlington.
P: They could get to that on the Delaware River, you see, and they
came before William Penn up there and...
I: Yea, I know. That must have been...
F: ...and he developed on the other side of the river more. You see,
these Quaker people had settled in this area on the New Jersey side
up around Burlington. Moorestown not very far from Burlington and
they kinda spread out that way and occupied all that land there and
finally farmed it.
I: I know that of course the Collins family was completely Quaker from
the way ...from way back, but was Irving Pancoast also?
P: Not, there was no Irving Pancoast.
I: I mean Thomas
I: He was also a Quaker...
P: That's right. John Pancoast, the first immigrant, had a letter
from a meeting in England introducing him to the meeting in Burlington.
I: I see.
P: He came somewhat later than them and Francis Collins who was the first
Collins to come, but in the same area. His wife had died, and it had
almost killed him, going back to the things he had left here. So...
I: So, but it's interesting.
P: Yea. Anyway, he came over with his children, cause his wife had died,
and he wanted to get out of the country, except his oldest son, who
had been indentured to somebody in London to learn a trade as they
often do back then. So he didn't bring his oldest son and his oldest
son later came to America, but landed in Virginia and his father
didn't know that...
I: That his son was...
P: ...that his son was also in the United States, or what became the United
States, but he found it out and he went north and missed the family
and on the way back he drowned in the Potomac River.
I: Oh, for heaven's sakes.
P: Now isn't that something?
I: These old family stories, you know my husband is the director of
k, of Salem witches, and you know, you get kinda
off on these things, they're so...
P: So far as we know, there's no Pancoasts. We don't think he had any
P: We're not sure of this, but we don't think he did. So we possibly
know that all the Pancoasts in this country came from that one.
I: From that one heir. Well, ... I think, I'm sure that would be true,
because Pancoast is such an unusual name and such a stout old English
name and it's so extraordinary.
P: It's spread all over the country now. You'll find it everywhere. There's
some in the telephone books here.
I: Huh. But there no relations?
P: No relations whatsoever. You find them in Florida, you find them...
there's a football coach over in Tampa, and ah..you find them in California,
you find them in Arizona, ". there all over the place now, but
Not very many again. It's not...
I: It's an unusual name, extremely unusual. Well, alright, so we go back
to 1911 and we have this group of a family of, and I gather from later
sort of internal evidence, this was as families go, a close knit one.
And they must have been...
P: Certainly, financially they were, you see. And they were close knit
I: Yea, I mean, they were just, you know how, they weren't at each other's
house every minute, but I mean the very fact that they would all take
their wives together shows that they got along well.
P: That's right.
I: So. Were they all serious practicing Quakers?
I: Alright, so here we have seven practicing Quakers.
P: And their wives were too.
I: And their wives. No children obviously. They'd been left back.
I: Seven practicing Quakers taking the trip down there and coming in
November, when, let's say, when the weather would have/been bad up there.
P: The funny part of it is that you used the word practicing with Quakers
when you wouldn't use it with practicing Catholics. Now why do you do that?
I: I simply don't know.
P: I don't know. I think I'd look into that, cause I don't think they were
members of the Quaker meeting, but I don't know if you would call them
I: Course, by practicing I meant people who were not...
P: Members of the meeting.
I: They were members of the meeting. In other words, thepewere
plenty of Quaker people who were Quaker ancestors.
P: But if you say practicing, you may mean, I think, that they were
ministers of the meeting or they were...
I: They were members in good standing in the congregation of Pittsburg.
P: That's right.
I: Now for instance...
P: I don't know why this happens, but I'm...
I: Your children are of Quaker ancestry, but as.far as I know, they
do not belong to a meeting.
P: Tbey do not belong to a meeting. But I wonder why that word practicing
comes in and connects with Quaker somehow. I've noticed it before.
I: Have you?
P: Yea. I don't know why it does.
It Well, there's so much of language that's in the book.
Well, this was rather a gay party of holiday Quakers and they must have
been in their lives, generally speaking, rather solid citizens.
P: Oh, yea.Very well respected.
I: And.respected, and-so it was really a holiday.
P: Yes, that's right.
I: Crossed with a business, well being Quakers, they would have of course
wanted probably to combine both because with a Quaker conscience maybe
you couldn't just run off to Florida, but if you had business, ah..or
am I being...
P: Well, I don't know whether to get back into this. We're getting too far
back, I think. There are two practices of Quaker meeting. Two meetings.
P: One is the conservative crowd and the other is the non-conversative
crowd and this family all belonged to the non-conversative. And so,
they might have a piano or give their children piano lessons and
they make good grades and so forth. And they did it. And so they were
...they were on the more liberal side, see? So, I don't want
to give you the impression that they were staid people who were
Quaker proud, cause they did not. Although my grandmother did.
I: But they were staid, say compared to Carl Fisher, who came down
with hisyachts and people later on.
P: Yes, I daresay they never thought of owning that. But they were fairly
prosperous and they had of economy.
I: Yea. When they came down here...your mother must have...ah...somebody
must have been a talker in your family. I don't know who, but somebody
must have and they must have told you what it was like...how did they
feel about him when they came down and saw this and what was their
impression of the whole thing...and...and..ah...
P: Well, the good part of it is that the women had to...the women didn't
talk much about it to me evidently, but my dad, of course, is the one
that caught fire on this thing and my mother had to tool along, or else
she never would have come down to this God-forsaken place, you know what
I: Yes, well it's true...it's a horrible place.
P: but it wasn't so bad in Miami, as it
had about eight or nine thousand people in it, but over there it was
just a wild country with the mosquitoes and sandflies, just unbelievable.
We don't even conceive of what they were like.
I: I know, your brother said that if you went out with a white shirt.on,
it would just turn gray.
P: That was so. Anyway, they looked over the farm and they decided that,this
is what I understand is important I think, looked over the farm and they
decided that there might be some prospects to the farm, but they didn't
want to pour a lot of money.in it because they didn't think the prospect
were good enough. In other words, they had their own prospects and
their own business and they would rather put their money in that.
But I think I told you this before, but these New Jersey people thought
that when hot weather came that the haven, the escape from it, was
I: If only to get away from the sandflies.
P: And a lot of them, now I'm talking about in the north...
I: Well, I know, but about down here.
P: No, but up north I'm talking about, they'd spend, have a cottage
or rent a cottage on the oceanfront and they usually took the ocean-
front locations directly on the river, but went past Merchantville,
Moorestown, and Mount Holly, and went right on out to Barnegat Bay,
and then there's a little place called Seaside Park and that's where
they had a cottage cause it's easy to get to. And they thought this was
the ideal escape for a vacation and hot weather. When they came to Miami
and found it wasn't on the oceanfront, they were shocked. They thought,
you know, from the geography that they would be on the ocean, but they weren't.
And they thought well it's hot down here in the summer and nobody could
stand it and they would all want to go to the beach and although Smith's
Casino was there and you could go up by prairie at that time, nobody
could have a cottage there. Nobody had any cottages and there was no
place to stay and they thought there was a good market then for all kinds
of people from the north who'd come down for winter vacation and
go to the oceanfront. They'd rather be on the ocean than on the bay.
They were sure of that.
I: Yes, particularly if it was at that time.
P: This is where the whole thing starts right here, see, in this idea.
I: -And that results...
P: This is the concept of shall we put the money in this farm or shall
we put it into real estate for people to build over here and why
did they think of that. Because of their background I think.
I: And they were already, as far as you could tell, thereagain, this
is your personal view,..
P: That's right.
I: We can't turn the time back, but as far as you personally think this
is what they talked about when they went back to the hotel in the
P: There is nothing personal about it again, because they thought it
out and decided they would be willing to give my grandfather money
from the businesses if he would build a bridge across the bay
and they could open the real estate deal as well as the farm.
I: So you mean the bridge was contemplated even before the canal?
P: Well, at the same time. Could have been...
I: Well, now there again. This is just a minor discrepancy, but let's
P: I'm not sure when the canal was thought of first.
I: Well, it...according to Nash's book, it says that Thomas Pancoast,
this must have been the first trip in 1911, came down.
P: Well, it says he did, it should have said that...
I: He and the family. Alright then. Now we've cleared up that discrepancy.
He then, apparently, went home ...it says he went home and then returned
with his wife and family when the Miami Beach.....
P: Well, they all went home. They all went home, you see.
I: Well, it...
P: But it was determined then that who was going to come down and what they
were going to do.
I: Well, alright then, they must have decided the whole thing right then
and there. I mean the outline.
P: Well, there might have been a little left-over decisions, but nevertheless,
this is the
I: Yea. Yea.
P: ...concept that was made.
I: Well, they must have been...
P: Well, my grandfather agreed on all this. He wasn't...he said yes,
he thought this was right. He's quoted as saying yes, this could
become another Atlantic City. Those were his words. But, in my opinion,
it's the family that decided that it should become a real estate
development in preference to the farm development. My grandfather's
heart was in the farm development.
I: Yes, of course. I ..
P: So then.-..
I: Well, there were at that time three sons and one son-in-law who came
down to make the visit. Why was it of alirts, there were four men
who couldn't come down. Why was it Th&mas Pancoast, rather than the
P: He and one other were the only ones willing to come.
I: Well, let's go back. Why were they willing, then?
P: Well, I think that they liked a challenge. I think that this is, or
was. I think that they were adventurous enough to want to do it.
I: Yes, I think that...
P: They were established in a small town. He was director in a bank
and so forth and so on and ah...
I: Well, hw long...
P: ...there really wasn't any need for them to move out...
I: That's...I'm sure there was no reason. That's, well you see,
this is what interests me cause we're coming now into one of my
questions which is the psychology of your father and ah...
P: My mother, too, don't forget...
I: Well, alright, your mother...
P: She has...she would have the worst of the pioneers and this always happens
and people don't realize it. No women wanted to come i, in those
days. Lots of men did, but most women did not.
I: Well, alright, now old was your father then in 1911, approximately?
P: I'll have to check.
I: Oh, I think I probably have something.
P: I probably don't know the year.
I: Well, alright. He certainly was no baby. He was not of an age that...
P: No, but he was a young man.
I: Somewhere between thirty and forty, maybe?
P: Forty, I would say, maybe something like that. You'll find out.
I: Alright, if you...
P: Check it.
I: OK, well I think I can check it cause I must have a birthdate
for Thomas J. someplace.
P: If you don't, I do.
I: Alright, let's assume that he was somewhere around thirty-five or forty.
I: If you are of that age and he already had at least two children didn't he?
Or was his other born?
P: He had three children, three boys.
I: Three boys, it's Arthur, Norman, and Russell. Alright, so here he is,
he's a bank president, he's got a...
P: He wasn't the president.
I: I mean the bank director,he's got the...
P: Well established in the town...
I: Well established in the town...
P: They had one commercial, hardware, building-supply store
I: Alright, I mean, but let's talk about this. To me this is interesting.
Alright, now, here he is the director of the bank, he's got two children
who are probably in school or starting in school. He's settled, he's living
he's a member of a family that's stayed in the same place for two hundred
years. Why should this man move out? He must have fallen in love with
this place and your mother too. So, what happened to them? What struck
them all in this place?
P: Well, I don't know, but, I don't think...
I: I mean it's not quite common to pull up your stakes that way...
P: I know, this is what always suprises me. But the rest of the family
would not. They were ...
I: That's it.
P: ...they would not...and it was decided that Irving Collins who has the
hardware, same business in Morristown, could run the other store so that
business would not disappear. So that took care of the economics of the
I: Did they all invest approximately equally and, well they found a company
and they must have...
P: I'll look up that in those books of mine. I think there was an incentive
there and the couple that was moved out were given certain shares because
they had to come down and do the work. They were given certain shares
they did not finance.
I: Yes, well of course, well they would have gotten an extra bonus doing
P: Yes, that's right.
I: Still, your father was not a poor man...
P: My mother got some too, you see, as well as my father.
I: Well, what kind of people were they that they would pull up what had been
to some people, let's not put it this way because I don't necessarily
think it, but they are of the type of people that some people would have
considered kind of stick in the mud, at least not just as solid...
I: All of a sudden here are two people who are willing to upstake and go
in an age when most people are tending to settle down. What kind of people
were they that would want to do this kind of thing?
P: Well, I think that America has been made up of people like that for a long
while. Why did the original John Pancoast come over. It might have
been economical, might be, I don't know, and ah religious persecution.
I: Well, yes.
P: All kinds of things. But in this case they did try to . I'm
sure, and they...the prospect of the size of the thing and the challenge
and so forth. And, ah...they really their lives and
not too excited about that.
I: Well, I mean, I felt...cause I felt that this must have entered John
Collins too, cause John Collins is a respectable merchant and he's
made and lost money, but even when he lost money he provided for his
P: Yea, but he didn't stay and invest his money up there. He was going
into all kinds of things too.
I: Yea, but he was more of a...he was more ing, think perhaps than...
P: Yea, but he wouldn't let his wife be bearing. He made her stay home
all the time when anything came up.
I: Oh, you mean during the winter when...
P: Ah..in the early days he would just pack up and come to Florida, he
wouldn't think. I'll be gone. I'm going to Florida. And then he would
go. No women involved for a while and no invitation to come for a while.
Then after a while, he did. He had one unmarried daughter, Mary, and
he would bring his wife and the unmarried daughter down later, down to
...you know where the barefoot man came from?
I: Um...I'll have to look it up.
P: Just south of Palm Beach...ah...
I: I don't know...Dania? Oh, no, not Dania.
P: No, Uh-uh. I want to say Hommossassa, but I can't think of that.
I: Well, I've got a map and Ill look it up. Then his wife would stay there
P: So they would all come down there. They had a cottage they could
all get into then. I don't know if he built it, rented it, or what.
But they did come down here in the early days, and ah...after he had been
down here some. They didn't come on down here then until after the farm
was started and then they would come to the House End Hotel. See?
I: And they allstayed at the House End Hotel?
P: That's right.
I: The thing that I...do you think it would be unfair to say that
John Collins was a good businessman, at least an enthusiastic businessman
all his life, as he was able to make money and often people who make
it lose it. But don't you think that it might have been...
P: He was somewhat of a gambler, of course, and irresponsible.
I: Don't you think that it might have been that there's a kind of...
isn't it hard when you come from the north and come down here
and in...ah...it's just so glorious, it kind of overwhelms you.
P: Coming from cold weather into warm weather, it always impresses you.
I: Well, what...you see what we have here, I don't think, I mean if you
were a Quaker of the type and the era of which most people were. Perhaps
you wouldn't, your Quaker conscience wouldn't let you just come down
to Florida and lie in the sand the way people do. But if you came down
to Florida and had a bonafide business venture, this would allow you a
little bit to have your cake and eat it too in the highest sense of the
P: There's certainly plenty of people that have done that. They have retired
or they have changed their occupation and come down and have been challenged
by the things around them. They can't stay still. Some people just can't.
They've got to move. They've got to do something. They can't just lie
around. That never occurred to them.
I: Well, don't you think that mi ght have somewhat been the same feeling that
your father had. He came down here and he would love to stay and here's
a budding business...I mean....
P: That's right. He felt this was a challenge and there was a great opportunity.
No question about it.
P: He must have liked it. He never would have decided to come...
I: Alright then, to get back to L,
Finally, then, he came down in 1911 on the big trip. Then, in 1912...
P: Then they were back to make arrangements to leave town.
I: Yea. He came back and brought...were you then in the Collins thing?
P: I was left up north. They knew that there was no good place to stay here
and they were going to bring the youngest boy Norman with them and they
hesitated to break up my school year and I think also they had problems
enough. So they found that they could put me with an uncle and aunt on
the Pancoast side.
P: The name wasn't Pancoast, it was Holmes, but nevertheless, Dad's sister
agreed to take me for that school year.
I: Which school, I mean that would have been the year of what school year?
I don't mean grade, but what year would it have been?
P: This would have been...they came down in 1912.
I: 1912, yea, alright. Now that would have been then May?
P: Then, so they left me up there. What time of year they came in 1912
I don't know...
I: Well, if it's the funny type of school year it must have been...
P: That fall, then, I went to school at the same school as 1912 and
END OF TAPE
INTERVIEWER: POLLY REDFORD (R) jc
INTERVIEWEE: R. PANCOAST (P)
P: And I'm going to make a note too, because I'm going...
R: This is the uh...
P: ...to find out...
R: I have to make a note...
P: ...when Esther Hines was married, uh, came back on his honeymoon I'll know
exactly when I came to See here's where my memory fails,
'cause I think I only had part of a year out there on my uncle's farm, and
that doesn't work out with the 1912.
R: Yes, there is a discrepancy there, but I think that probably you're
memory not of the farm, but of the school year would be more accurate, that
you started eighth grade in New Jersey...
P: this is, no question about that...
R: You started eighth grade in New Jersey, and you completed eighth grade
in, in Miami here. I think I remember you said, you told a very amusing
anecdote about how you were the northern kid and, and all these other kids,
and you had to prove yourself, Paul...
P: Gee, I walked out the door to see where I was and, and was met by a
small gang right away, and called me a and started
to beat me up, and uh, any quicker, I started to fight.
R: Well, I guess you got out alive all right...
P: I got out all right, and I know who those people were...two of 'em.
R: But did they later become friends?
P: No, we were never friendly, but we of course tolerated each other, and
REDFORD, TAPE #14
we grew up...you know kids lose their savage angle sometimes, they...
R: That does bring up a point. Do you think that there was a great deal
of...particularly later on...of the thing that came this successful, without
mentioning any names, do you think that generally speaking that there were
a number of people who became...particularly Miamians on the mainland...who
became resentful of the success of the, of the beach enterprise?
P: Oh, possibly, but I don't think that was the big thing, because it was
all part of the growth, and they were all, uh, growth minded, you know what
I mean? So any...
R: Sometimes in Key West, you know, if somebody from outside of Key West
or particular some...at that era too... if some damn Yankee comes down,
and is very well, or doing crazy stuff over on the beach, but
sometimes it might happen that, that with the success of the project that,
that they would become resentful, of course, perhaps, they were and you never
P: Yea, I wouldn't know, you see, as it were, I wouldn't know, but I don't
think there was too much there, because, uh, people were coming
in all the time from the north and from everywhere else, and this wasn't
the only growth, it was going westward and it was going Northward, but uh,
so all these things were happening all at once, particularly later on. The
early part, why we just thought we were crazy.
R: Yes, well in a sense, you can see how it was. There was so much extra
land, and why should you...
P: We called it the Folly.
P: They, they just thought he was crazy.
R; Now, let me ask you another question. With...
P: What would happen in hurricanes? was one or two...
R: Well there haven't been no hurricanes in Monroe...
P: you know...we were crazy, cause hurricanes would, no
covered the beach at one time.
R: Mmm, and of course your grandfather had not experienced a hurricane...?
P: No, but you could see the, you could see some big trees, though that
had been washed over, so you know, if you looked you could see...
R: Well, maybe they didn't wash up...
P: But uh...Monroe didn't realize what he was saying either, because the
water never so deep on the beach as it does in Miami,
R: Yes, because of the_
P: Because of the that'sright.
R: Uh, all right.
P: Nevertheless, uh, we were concerned about the water washing over,
because he was right...
R: He was right.
P: ...to be concerned about it.
R: Yes. But that the Pancoast Hotel, it (laugh) couldn't (fare) too well,
P: That's right.
R: ...in a hurricane. Well, there hadn't been many hurricanes at that
particular time anyhow, it / a period of about ...
P: But, but Monroe knew about'em...
R: When Monroe did, but I mean, when...in your grandfather...between 1900
and 1926, there were not very many hurricanes.
P: He hadn't experienced any...trees were still there and so forth and
REDFORD # 14
so on; it looked pretty good to him.
R: Um, what...may I ask a question...was your family or at least certainly
John was very clever about the developing of with
an idea to the New York market, so the principles of marketing...
P: Well, now this is remarkable, because most people didn't know what
avocadoes were at all, and you'd think that if he was going to plant
avocadoes, he wouldn't have any problem selling them at all if
he could get people to use them. The idea of planting early avocadoes and
late avocadoes, you'd think wasn't part of the picture at all, because the
big part of the picture was to develop a market at all for them.
R: But your grandfather certainly understood the principles of marketing
and I cannot believe...
P: Well, he sure did that all right...
R: I cannot believe that his son-on-law and grandson sons did not too.
So here is the problem. Here you've got a beach property. All right,
there is a railroad to Miami, but it's way at the end of nowhere, and
these, this family there again are Quakers from a small town.
R: Where did they expect to get their customers from?
They themselves were not, I don't believe, correct if I'm wrong...
P: Customers...they expected to send them up, send them north on the
R: Yes, but, is that... ?
P: The same with oranges and grapefruit, they wouldn't) be eating oranges
and grapefruit up there...
R: The oranges and grapefruits you send up north, I'm talking
about customers for real estate. You're...
REDFORD # 14
P: Oh, for real estate?
R: Your families weren't, your family was a very stolid, old line family,
I know because we have the same background of ourselves in New England.
R: But, these people were not social mixers. They would not go to Newport,
they would not travel in the wealthy, uh, what was the jet set of the day.
R: Where then did they expect people, to get...this was a, for wealthy
people come down in 1912 and 1914, come all the way to Florida
just to li ve for a few months. Where did they expect that they would
to get these live real estate customers to build these ?
P: I don't know how much history they knew, but, uh, people from the north
had been coming down from 1850, and they...
R: Society, wasn't it?
P: Well, right, but coming down in great numbers in north Florida,
and even when they had to come by boat, go up the St. John's by boat, in
that area, and they were coming all the time; now, here we're really
getting down to where it was different, and they thought now that it's
accessible, everybody will want to get away from the north if they can.
R: Because they wanted to themselves?
P: Yea, sure. Why go through this cold weather... well look at this beautiful
place with the palm trees and the weather is beautiful, and so forth
and so on. Why not away from it? I don't think...they didn't seem
to have any doubt at all about that people would want to come down the
railroad and so forth.
R: Well, well that bothered me, because that would have been my doubt, and
of onurse this is when Carl Fisher later appeared in the picture; it was
Carl Fisher who attracted a certain type of clientele to the beach that later
was, I believe was very instrumental in determining what later happened to it.
R: But, um, all right.
P: Fisher was a good advertisement. I think I've told you this (before)
anyway. He was a...he was a, he knew how to merchandise his
(Our) thought would have been to be something nice, and have people want it
because it was nice.
R: Like the Pancoast hotel?
P: Well, whatever we did. This is, this something I practiced architecture
a good many years. But you just go so far if you don't have a merchandiser.
If you want to really go big, and this is your idea of size, and work by
to make a lot of money...if that's your primary motive, you better learn to
advertise, and learn to get public relations wherever you can get them and
so forth and so on. Now this, this Fisher had this inherently in his blood, and
he knew how to do it. And we recognized that when Fisher began to develop
in what he did. So that unowned land by our family and by Fisher which was
just swamp land was still
not owned by either company and we couldn't clear up those swamps, and Fisher
probably should be and we probably should be, but we didn't .So we went together
on a fifty-fifty basis shortcoming.
P: They shortcut on a hell of a lot of land, though, when they get
R: Why did Har-...?
P: ...between them, but we didn't market it. We let Fisher market it, and
we were fifty percent over, see, and we did a lot of the work, and directed
the work and had as much to do with it as he did
except the selling, and we said he's the seller, we'll let him sell it..
So the the official organization, which he build up with
little state men and so forth with the advertising and all that. They
did the advertising, they did the selling see and it was all
under his name. So a lot of people never knew that we were the fifty
percent owners of the bayshore land.
R: Well my...this brings me to, uh, to two points. First of all, this is
a minor question to clear up. The, uh, I remember you once described to me
what part of the deed of your grant went from the ocean shore to the lily
P: Well that was a, that was a description of the deed that, uh, Field
got from a piece of land he bought way north of here, and I don't know
where it was...
R: Well, no, it, it doesn't make any difference, _on the beach.
P: It could have been just south of Fort Lauderdale or it could have
been north of Fort Lauderdale where there was fresh water and where the
inland waterway is now.
R: Well, but I, as I understand, the land/that, that, even in the state of
Florida laws at that time, the could not give you the title, the original
title must not have included much of any submerged land; it was probably
to the high tide line...
P: He didn't want to buy it, anyway...
R: Well, now...
P: He, what he wanted to buy, what Field wanted to buy to put coconuts on
was, was only along the beach.
R: That's right, but the land was there, he had to take
the whole. bit, but what I'm, what I'm saying now is that when the Miami
Beach Bayshore Company...when it filled up considerably into the bay, therefore
you must have bought submerged land from the II Board.
P: We bought it from, uh, from uh from Field.
R: You bought the land from Field, but did Field...
P: Field owned a lot of that personally, see, where, where we bought, and
when the company went defunct he still held title to this area that we
R: Uh huh, the alley but who had, did, did Field, who had bought the
bay, submerged bay bottom land, that's my question?
P: Well, uh, owned some of it, and Field some
in their own names.
R: And, and, and was all the bay bottom land that was later filled in by
the mainland beach bayshore company, was it all, had all that been purchased
or been granted from the state of Florida before the Pancoast
P: Most of it, and there might have been some exceptions. Most of it
was owned by Field or or there might have been others in the picture,
but not many.
R: Well you know what I mean, nowadays we think about ; it's
kinda of a dirty word. In those days of course it was not, and it was...
P: They didn't even know where the shoreline was, you see, because the
mangroves through the years had grown out some places, and in some; there was
a meandering line...
R: Yea, that's what they...they still call it the Meander Line...
R: Well, I was just wondering how the title to the bay bottom was...because
you see you had not only your bay bottom, the Collins Fisher interest by
this time, the Miami beach bayshore, had not only a question of the
the bulkhead line...
P: That's right.
R: but, the areas, because obviously the bay was at that= time
very shallow, and the dredging that the Miami beach bayshore, and the
P: bottom of the bay...
R: ...was what made the bay so deep all over there, and I just wondered
what, how they had squared that if there was any...
P: They probably had to go to the II Board to get permission to...
R: But you're not familiar with that aspect...
P: No, only, one little detail which may throw a little light on it, it may
not, and that is that uh, beyond the bulkhead line or beyond the meander
line, uh, well within it would be Bell Isle, which was mangrove ..
R: That was just a mangrove...
P: It was an island actually with a little shallow water between there and
the mainland of Miami Beach.
R: But that's Key; it's just...
P: It's just off of it, see. Now, uh, when it was finally decided that Bell
Isle would have to be developed, you couldn't come across that small island,
you had to fill that too. They bulkheaded it and filled it, and when they
did they deepened the water between the island and the mainland of Miami
Beach, and then the II Board said you don't own that island...
R: Because it,...the channel...yea.
P: Because of the deep water you see, and we made the deep water, and then
we had to go to Tallahassee and bid the island in in order to get it.
R: Yea, yea, I remember that story... Nash or something.
P: So, that's right, so it means that, that uh wherever they established
the bulkhead line, the meander line, and uh, why from there on they dug deep
water, the chances are they could never own
at least couldn't use the land, it would become, it would...the title of that
land would be in the, in the in the state, and no doubt they
had to go to the state to get permission to dig out, but there was no problem
in those days, because...
R: Well, no, of course, there was no, there was no shortage of bay land...
P: They just, they just thought this was a wonderful ...
R: ...Sure. No, no, I, I don't mean to...I mean there are people...that's
one part I want to...
P: We never even thought about the ecology of the bay, it never even
occurred to us...
R: well, no, ; it was unknown.
P: Well it was just part of the, great part of conquering a wild part of the
United States which was that area,...
R: Even if it had occurred to you, there was not ...
P: ...and it was delayed a great deal down here, because Florida was late
R: Listen, there was not a scientist in the United States, even if you
had been concerned, there was not a scientist in the United States that
would have paid any attention to your, uh...it's only when you begins to
; it's only when you begin to run short of things...
P: That's right, then we begin to be concerned about ...
R: But, I, I wanted to clear up this point, because a lot of people talk
about how it's just piracy and rape/and how they took these public lands, but
P: Oh no, these...
REDFORD # 14
R: ...the state was more than glad, they would have given you the whole
P: Yea, I think so, yea. And I don't think they came beyond their
meander line to ...I think they followed it as best they
could; it was some problem, but...
R: Well there were certain technical problems...
P: That's right...
R: in connection with it too...
P: but, uh, they didn't, they didn't go out in the bay, but the people
who built the islands /that was something else.
R: Well, to get back to...
P: ...but we didn't build those islands, and...
R: No, that was later given up to another development company...
R: and of course they would have had to go to the II Board...
P: and we didn't see anything wrong with it when they did it, I mean...
R: No, no...
P: ...but we didn't do it ourselves...
P: ...we expected that, what we thought was that Miami was...
R: Well, you had plenty of land, to uh...
P: ...owned by people that were there.
R: You had penty of land too. Well to get back to what you were talking
about just before about how, how the, the Pancoast Collins family understood that
Fisher was the advertiser. See this started out my talking about where you
were going to get the customers and um...
P: I don't think there was any doubt in my mind that people would want to
come to Fri in i r; never thought about coming in the summer.
to Florida in the winter
REDFORD # 14
R: Is that your telephone?
R: I'll turn this off.
continuing after interruption:
All right, it's my contention, I would like your opinion on an opinion
which I am now going to venture, and which you may trample on at your
pleasure. It's my contention that, my feeling, that in a very curious way,
now we're coming out to Carl Fisher and the Collins Pancoast family,
corporations; it's my contention that dissimilar though these people were
and probably although the relationship was always a cordial, a friendly
and honorable one, that, as far as personality is concerned you probably
couldn't find two more unlike sets of people as they were.
P: That's right.
R: But, and it's to everyone's credit that the relationship was conducted
in such a good way, but in this very curious way, just as you must have
the sun and the moon, the tides and the opposite, but the two were necessary,
that Fisher not only for his money...
P: That's right...
R: ...it's not only Fisher's money; everybody said oh the Pancoasts just
want Fisher's money, I don't think that's true, I think...
R: ...that they did need Fisher's money, they needed his ...
P: That's right, we borrowed from everywhere we could as far as that goes,
and if we could sell a piece of land to him and get money, why we did.
R: But, Fisher was a wild, erratic, uh, he was extravagant, y'know I...
extravagant in, in this sense of the word, I've been following up a lot on
REDFORD # 14
Fisher. He was extravagant in the dictionary definition of synonyms; he was
inordinant, violent, absurd, foolish, fanciful, exagerrated, excessive,
high-priced, prodigal, vulgar and ridiculous.
P: There's one thing that should be added to uh...
P: ...yea, there's another essential quality here that isn't mentioned there;
that is one reason we got along together, because his word was as good as
any contract he would put in writing.
R: He was also honest, ...
P: In other words, there was an integrity there; if he gave a promise or if
he gave an offer or if he does anything, he would live up to it.
R: Uh huh.
P: Now this is an important thing, this is...this goes back, it means that
uh, basically he was going to stick to what he said; there was an integrity
there that should be recognized, and I don't think it always is.
R: No, there was, you're quite true, you're quite...
P: And as long as we dealt with a man that we could trust when he said he
would do certain things with us and so on, and we thought that we could always
be trusted you see, why this is the reason we got along, because it didn't
all have to be put down in writing, it had to be agreed upon verbally, but that
was good enough for both parties.
R: It's my contention also that you, meaning the Collins and the Pancoasts,
were as necessary to Fisher as him to you, I think my grammar's loused up
R: because when you have, not kind of the traditional picture of an
eccentric genius, but when you have someone who is flamboyant, who is a
showman, you need a steady, you need a business manager, a wonderful
vaudeville performer is no good without an agent, a manager...
P: That's right.
R: ...and Fisher, as I iindetstand it in his other ventures, Jim Allison
must have played this role.
P: ...role, and we played it here to some extent of course.
R: ...it was not a personal um...
P: ...and probably the, the most talented of the group in that respect
was Irving Collins.
R: Talented in what sense?
P: In the sense of knowing what, what could be done, what should be done,
and thahold-back on certain ideas and to go forward with others.
R: You mean he had to kind of...
P: And he was, he acted as a brake in some respects on Fisher's ideas.
R: Well that's right, he was very much associated with, with...
P: And my father also in the same way in some cases, but my father was
always probably more interested in, in doing what he thought was right
for the community, the beach and everything else, and whether or not it
would line his pockets.
R: Well, what sort of a fellow was he? Your father, he was greatly beloved;
that comes out in all the records, and ...
P: Well, he liked people, and people liked him, and uh, if there were bad
things, uh, on the beach for instance and -ing, and everybody
else realized it, he would somehow not acknowledge them to himself, 'cause
he wanted everything to be right, you see. He wanted to be good, and he would
not, he would not acknowledge that these things...in his own mind I don't
think he acknowledged it, though as bad as they might be in some cases...
P: ...and uh, he always wanted to go forward, he was a...how shall I say...
he was a constructive person, he wanted to...he didn't uh...
R: He didn't like to look on the dark side, I, I understand...
P: He always liked to look on the side; he planned that way;
he worked that way, and I would say that oh, after the well after the
boom, there's no reason to put a date on it, but uh, call it a
boom, he spent probably two-thirds of his time working for every
organization he could work for that would help the quality of the beach.
Not working for the companies directly, but indirectly in that respect.
R: Well, I think everyone understood, I think Fisher understood that, too.
P: Well he needed, Fisher needed somebody that was close to the picture
in that respect because he couldn't do it just that way, he never felt that way
R: He was pretty high-handed wasn't he?
P: So all these people...yes, he was pretty high-handed, and he needed
somebody that would take care of that particular angle and have that
particular aim, although I don't mean that Fisher didn't have the same aim.
There's an interesting speculation here, and that is if Fisher had never
come along, what would have happened?
R: What do you think would have happened?
P: I think that the whole thing would have been much slower, but I don't
see anything that could stop it.
R: Well, that was behind my question when I asked...
P: And the question is whether it ever would have developed the same way;
I think it probably would, but it would have developed much slower.
R: Well, now this, this is really the heart of the, the heart of the thing.
That was behind my question when I aksed you where were these stay-at-home
Quakers going to find the rich people that were going to come down to the
beach and 1912, 13, 14. Uh, it was certainly true that, that development
costs were so tremendous that the cost, beginning with the cost of the bids,
that it was so huge that the Collinsfamily in purely financial resources
alone, could not have, have swung this thing from the beginning. They would
have had to get some sort of outside capital.
P: They did get outside capital, to go as far as they did go. They got
it from local banks, they got it from credit on their northern businesses
and so forth.
R: But they wouldn't have had that much money, would they?
P: No, but they could have done it slowly.
R: I think if they had done it slowly...
P: There was too much resource up there not to be able to go on from year
to year unless some catastrophe came along, and uh, they would earn so
much a year and be able to advance their credit up there and put the money
in here, and then they would have had to sell uh, concentrated on the small
pieces, develop them, and sell them. They could take a small area on
Indian creek and it and take the mangroves down, and sell it,
and another piece on the ocean front and put the roads in, and they always did
their development first by the way; they didn't sell ...
R: Yea, well neither did Fisher.
P: Yea, neither did Fisher, see; there, there was another agreement between
us, we never, we didn't like that kind of selling; there was too much integrity
on both sides to do that sort of thing, although north of Miami beach it was
R: Well, it's done all the time, everywhere else.
P: That's right, but they didn't believe in doing that, and uh.
R: Well, there's no doubt that, that it was the, that it was the quality
of development that made it so.
P: Well, I think...all right...now if Fisher hadn't come along, the uh,
the type of people would have probably been somewhat different, but we're not
sure of that, it's a question of uh, I think it's a question of speed and uh
concept. Now, if Fisher hadn't taken his land from ocean to bay
and cleared it all at Lone time, it would have been much harder going for us,
because we couldn't have afforded to clear that muchjungle at one time.
So people would still think of it as a mosquito haven, and the very fact
that you could see all over the country made people realize that the land was
there. They, they didn't realize how much land was there when the swamp
covered so much of it. They could only see the oceanfront, that was possible
to build out there all right andback on the farm property and that area
back of Indian Creek and south of there...
R: See this...
P: ...but they couldn't conceive of tewhole thing as being a great big
development, and it would have been much slower, there's no question about it.
I think it would have gone ahead; I don't know where...what people would have
been interested, but Fisher wasn't the only person who
bought a big chunk from us.
R: Before Fisher, he did?
P: Well he didn't buy it from Fisher; he bought it from us.
R: Yea, but I mean, Fisher...
P: But I think we could have...and that's what...I mean to say that other
people were interested, and uh, many of them in the east, and never had any
contact with Fisher at all, were coming down here from the Philadelphia and
and so forth
New York areas, and uh, we could have sold them property, we did sell them
REDFORD # 14
property. Which entirely....before Fisher/orgoing we sold them property.
So, before he did his buying and so on.
R: Well, not only...didn't he do his clearing very early ?
P: And L did the same thing. L put on his first
subdivision in 1912...
R: Oh yes...
P: Ours wasn't filed until after that.
R: That's right, and this is later on.
P: That's right, so L was going to push his end of it, and he
wouldn't have been able to progress as fast either, because the money
to clear it was going by Fisher to L
R: Oh my God, L got a hundred thousand dollars from Fisher
right off the bat. Oh, that's another minor point, L in his
book claims that Fisher loaned him the money first before he loaned
Collins the money for the bridge. I don't know if it's important.
P: All right, I don't know. He may have. It's not important, I think.
R: Um, Yes, well this, I'll tell you, this is the reason then, this is
just a gold mine, I'm so glad I waited to talk to you til later.
P: I don't think L bought the land about that same time, they
didn't own it for years.
R: No, no, no they bought it rather late in the game. But my uh.
P: And I don't say that they wouldn't have gone ahead and eventually
gotten a causeway over to their place.
R: They might have done.
P: Because they had political influence in Miami and in Dade
County and uh was the head of the Southern Bank and
Trust Company, and they loaned us money...
P: Southern Bank and Trust Company.
R: ...to build, to build a_
P: Well, we needed some credit.
R: No. this is very interesting, you see the part of my ; believe
me nobody is interested in business details,just as such...
R: ...it may surprise you I'm going into this so exhaustedly, because this
is kind of for the record and what you say...this is on the tape here,
somebody 50 years from now can untangle if they're interested. But what my
interest is that most people talk about business as if it's just a, you know,
as, you see, the figures, and it's not true. Uh, a business partnership is
like a marria ge, and there is as much psychology and interest in human
interrelationships and as you point out if they hadn't built the canal
the world wouldn't have been in the same place. Well, and that's why the,
the business of ,Pancoasts, Collins and the Fishers, their
relationship (I keep worrying about this thing dropping off again), uh, is
uh very interesting because it's my belief that once the thing had
happened and once the Fishers came in, that indirectly, you see, that
what later happened to Miami Beach lie very likely in Fisher's personality
because the use of showmanship and other things although,
talk about you know the cunning of the Jews as if it were an invasion of the,
REDEORD # 14
from outer space and all this and that, but, Fisher's anti-Semitism
and all this is a whole n'other thing that I don't think we have to go
into now. But, or his lack of it, but the thing was, that in putting his
stamp...he put willy-nilly a kind of a stamp on Miami Beach which later
on was exagerrated by the people. Now, let's go back, going back to the
days long before Miami Beach was developing a long way there was always
a problem of these difference between this type of people that came from
Maimi Beach, and the people that came to Palm Beach. And, um, you see
the two, the two developments were in the beginning rather similar in the
sense that they were luxury homes for the wealthy, except that Palm Beach
was society, was it not?
P: Yes, you might say it this way, although a very exceptionss,
and that is that Palm Beach was settled by people of second generation money,
and Miami Beach was settled by first generation money.
R: Yes, but you see...
P: I know...
R: But you're right...
P: ...there are exceptions, but this is true.
R: and you know, and the first generation money was, there again, please,
I'm talking but correct me if I'm wrong, if I, if what I've gathered from
talking with everybody that the first generation money was very largely the
new rich young, middle western millionaire who made all their money on the
automobile and on the, the by-products of the automobile industry.
P: A lot of that is true; there's not question about it.
R: And they rather set the tone of the Beaches; they certainly were not
members of the Moresetown Quaker meeting that came down here.
P:No, of course they were not. But, it's still interesting, I think the
development of the Beach was inevitable and I think more and more people
were making more and more money in this country and they would have come
south in the Winter now what would have happened, how it would have
developed, I think it probably would have developed similarly anyway, because
if you remember Fisher didn't build an oceanfront hotel, and neither did he
have hotel property per see along the oceanfront. So he certainly didn't...
R: How about when put up the ...
P: That was our land, Fisher.
R: What about Fisher putting up a sign saying he was..
P: And we had that, we...1912 before Fisher...
END OF SIDE 1
REDFORD # 14
R: Fisher, someone told me that Fisher didn't think too much of the
oceanfront, that he, there was too much, I don't know if this true or not
but this is the story that I, was told to me, that Fisher did not,...
thought that the bayfront was a much better place for hotels, that the
oceanfront was too much salt and spray and I don't know if it's true, but
that Fisher believed in the bay shore for his hotels, and uh,
P: I'd like to give you another version for that.
P: Although that can be, you're, you're expression, you're opinion can
be substantiated by the fact that he didn't have oceanfront/property
himself, but he built on the oceanfront for his own home.
P: ...and he attracted other people to build up there, and he built two
or three houses for sale up there, to encourage people to buy oceanfront.
But, when the bayfront property was filled, there was nothing on it, and
he began to plant a little on it, but nobody was encouraged to every build
on that part of the land, and when he had an area that was absolutely
stagnant the thing to do was to build a hotel on it and attract things
R: Laugh; that makes more sense.
P: This is exactly what he did; there!sno question about this; this
was talked over many times. The Hotel was started for the
same reason and that was bayshore, we were in the picture, -and we
both decided that nobody would build up that way and you couldn't attract
people up that way unless something was being done.
R: That...I believe you hands down, because the other, that other story
REDFORD # 4
doesn't have the ring of truth.
P:P: There was a little bit minor influence there, and that is that Fisher
was a boatman.
R: Yea, and he wanted...
P: And many others had boats- and they knew that they couldn't handle
these boats an the ocean front...
P: So they thought they could attract people with boats on, on that side
and they thought they could get the customers there all right. But this was
done as a real estate, (emotional) situation, really. That...
R: Go on.
P: No, that's all.
R: A, well...
P: were made where, where nothing else had been
happening.. We did the same thing start with, he'd
build a little in order to, uh, start ______ ..
R: Um, with Fisher, someone else said what Fisher had in mind was very
largely a community of Dmes, and that he had built hotels and had all the
polo and beat races and the shows and the bathing beauties
and everything as a kind of an attraction to get people down from the north
so that once having stayed there they would then want to buy land.
P: No question about that.
R: Well then did the hotels, uhm,, was this also the plan of the Collins
P: Yea, but we thought we could get some hotels started; we:wanted one
on the oceanfront, we, uh, wanted one on the west side of the Pancoast Lake,
at the end of Indian Creek.
REDFORD ,# 14
P: And uh, we tried very hard to get one there and we finally got somebody
interested, but I think the balloon broke before they got it started. I know
that when I was finishing my last year in the, senioryear in college
my uh, uh my senior problem was a hotel to be built on the west side of
R: Oh, unless you were...
P: They were trying to promote this idea, that, to build a hotel there.
R: Was it all the build-...just on a, to get back on a personal level,
was it all the atmosphere of building and hotels and pools and stuff that got
you interested in architecture?
P: I suppose so. Every building that went up we always went to see
on the weekends; there wasn't a house that was built that we didn't go through
on, several times on, while it was being built.
R: Yea, yea.
P: That and the fact that I liked to draw. I had an art teacher that
took an interest in me, and I found I could draw, and I liked to draw. Uh,
these little things, it's hard to say, but I'm sure that the, that the
drawing had a s much to do with it as anything else. And the fact that uh,
I watched building going: up and so forth and that uh, there seemed to be
a field there; nobody in our family had ever been an architect, so there was
no help there and, and thedidn't quite know how to help me if they wanted
R: Uh huh. Well this...
P: So I had to make up my own mind about what I wanted to do, and uh...
R: I am...
P: I did it with much hesitation...(laugh).
REDFORD # 14
R: My, uh, time here is about running up, and you must have other things
to do besides talk to me.
P: We can go to lunch if you want to.
R: Well, I have a husband to get home to feed, but I have still another
half an hour, but I, let me clear up a few questions here let me see. Do you have...
P: I've got sme people I'll have to tell I'm going to be...how long will
R: It's up to you...if you have an appointment, I'll leave, and hope to...
P: I don't have an appointment, I just go to lunch with these people, and
I don't have to go to lunch with them, I ...I just want to tell them to go
ahead without me.
R: Well, would twenty minutes be too bad?
P: No, I can ask them/if you want to wait or go ahead.
R: Fine. I'll shut this off.
I have a couple of small little picky questions merely to clear up
things that when I talked with your brother I wasn't able to,uh, forgot
to ask. Do you remember if there was a bar in the Pancoast hotel? after
P: I (don't) remember there was ever a bar before he sold it, but uh
they did serve drinks in the dining room, I think. I don't remember that he
ever put a bar in there.
R: Yea. Well that was a minor. When did Arthur Pancoast's wife die?
I ask this because he told me that when his wife died he/became discouraged
and left the beach, and then I didn't want to dwell on when his wife had
died and everything so....
P: I can't think of the day. I can look it up for you.
R: Oh, good.
P: I'll look it up for you.
REDFORD # 14
R: That's, that's not important, just around the thing...um, when did
you leave the beach?
P: In August, it'll be 8 years this August.
R: But your office has been here longer than that.
P: Yes.. We knew we were going to move long before that.
P: years before that.
R: So you made up your mind to leave 8 + 3 years, eleven, this is
67, you made up your mind to leave in 1956?
P: Yea, '55, '56....
R: Without being, being, without asking a personal question, may I ask
P: Um,, very easy to answer. (laugh)
In the first place, uh, we were getting practically no work on the beach.
R: Uh huh.
P: We had, I had done my career, I had, most of my work was on the beach, but
not all of it. And all of a sudden the trend began to go the other way.
The Jewish/didn't come to us, and if they did our fees were too high for them
to pay or they didn't pay 'em. And little by little we got no more work over
R: You weren't in the hotel construction, you were more or less homes?
Your business didn't...
P: We'd have liked to have been in the hotel business, but they would
never do it except on a cut rate...
R: I see.
P: And I think they paid for it eventually, because of that, but uh...
this is a question of whether man gives one/service or another and gets
paid for it
REDFORD # 14
P: Anyway, uh, this was the way it worked, we wouldn't cut our services,
so we couldn't cut our fees below a certain point and this wouldn't satisfy
them, so they, they didn't come to me, and I don't think it was religious,
entirely either although it might have had something to do with it. So uh,
little by little our business began to develop over here and other parts
of the state, and uh...I was the only one of the four/force that was
living on the beach, and it always seemed most inconvenient to have
them come over, uh, across the bay every day. And it seemed that since
our work was over here and uh since everybody lived overthere except
me, that it made sense to come over here, one more thing and that is that
the area in which our house was in,uh, began to get pretty commercialized, in fact
it had been for a long while, and uh I wanted more room to grow more
R: The green thmb again.
P: The green thumb again, and I didn't like the position we were in over
there, and the temptation to build a new house, and I always wanted to be
on the water, and here we were within a block of the water and 2 blocks or
3 blocks from the ocean and we never say it. And I said I want water where
I can see it all the time. So we came over to this side, and we, we came
I went all over the area looking for a rock pit.
R: And that's how you found...
P: And we found some rock pits, but every time we found them, we didn't
1 ike the surroundings or what might happen to them; there was no guarantee
that we wouldn't be in isolated spot that wouldn't tie in with everything else,,
until we did find where it was located that we found out that the owner of
all that property around there belonged to, uh, Davis, who just
REDFORD # 14
bought it and put it together; we were doing a lot of work for him at
R: Yea, and then you later _; yes I
P: develop it is all.
R: Well, what is your feeling, you are also a, a personality
because you've started me, but because you fit in, I wish I had the card,
my little notes here, you fit in with the most extraordinary
from to which if you're interested I'll explain
it to you, about how in the life of one man, a whole thing was developing
Nature herself will change a most extraordinary quotation
that fits in. Uh, so how do you as a person who really, with your style of
life is very much, very close to what that is what's going on; how do you
feel about...what, what do you think and how do you feel about the changes
that overtook the beach, what happened and why, and this of course will take
another three hours...
R: ...to sum it up, but uh, maybe I can come back sometimes when you
suggested this and have another hour to give me. Uh, what happened,
what happened after...all right....we had the real estate press, followed
b y the hurricane, followed by Fisher's collapse at Montauk point, and the
Depression, but then what; why did it happen; why did it go one way then
the other; why didn't it go the way of Stock Island and the Keys for instance?
Why...what happened that made it what it is now, so you think?
P: I don't know if I can answer that. I'd like to go back again and
REDFORD # 14
assert one idea, and that is that I heard it said many years ago, and there's
a certain grain of truth to it. If you had had the personalities that were
here at the time this whole thing was growing, and put them anywhere else,
it would have been a success. (laugh) If you'd had the uh, if you'd had
Carl Fisher, and uh and any, and uh...our giggles went, um...
P: ...Mary and my Dad, and L and a half a dozen others that
you've been mentioning, they were so forward looking and so forward moving
and so sold on their own area they could have pushed anything through anywhere
(laugh). And I think there's a lot to this. There was a gathering of
people here that all, or what do you call 'em, ambitious, or, or energetic,
or...but they were certainly sold on the area and they were trying to sell
it to everybody else, and they did the darnedest thing to sell it to
people in the North, and they did sell it.
R: Sure they did. ...
P: It wasn't only Fisher alone; of course he was the big one to sell, but it
was all these others, and all this combination and the things they did
and getting the channel in and they fought about where it should go and
all that, but they got the channel in and, and I can remember bringing,
taking very proudly by my Dad out to see the little building out there
at the airport...
R: L where they had the...
P: ...and what he visualized what would happen, but it went far beyond
his visualization, but nevertheless he was confident it was going to be
a jumping off base for South America. And, they didn't think little in those
days; it was a little building, yes, but it was going to be a big thing.
REDFORD # 14
R: Well they, they were boomers, boomers...
P: They were really boomers. They...
R: This is an American thing. But do you think this the American
dream now this is what interests me, Ron,...
P: It was a combination of all these personalities, though, that
made it go as fast as it did, I think.
R: All right, but is this the American dream, to start out with all these
people, and Quakers, and automobile millionaires and all this wonderful
skyrocket people, and come down here and do all of this, and then, look
what it comes into within one man's lifetime.
P: Yes, well they didn't know where it was going, but they did/Know
it was going to grow, and they were sold on the fact it was going to grow,
but they didn't know how to control it when it did grow.
R: Well, do you think this...
P: And uh, once a developer who loses control, and he does lose control
when the community is incorporated, is then a political problem of handling
people, and uh, it's a question of uh the wiseness of uh, of the uh
political leaders and the developer and how much he can influenceand how
far he can see as to how the town and country will develop and what will
become, and most people, of course, at that time couldn't see far enough
to know how to zone, how to restrict property, the use of it, what roads
would be important and what would be too, much too small, and/by luck
in many cases that things happened as well as they did and in other cases
it was just the opposite. For instance, by establishing road,
north and south, and Washington Avenue north and south as far as it went,...
it didn't go far enough, but it connected into 23 Drive indirectly...
P: And by having Collins Avenue with a long thin island we had three means
REDFORD # 14
of north-south travel pretty well established.
R: Uh hmm.
P: Now that could have been any other way than that, and if it had been,
something would have had to be done to establish those ways to get north
P: And when they went out of Miami Beach and out of the control of that
land, then they got into a terrible mess, and we've always had a hard time
getting north from that point, from 79th Street north, and we've had to
do all kinds of things to get people north there, and it still isn't good.
But we were lucky in the, in the fact, and I, I don't know how wise they
were, but they knew that they wanted to make certain lands accessible and
this is the way it was done, and then the east-west roads were never important
because the land is comparatively narrow the other way...
R: Well, and that...
P: ...but there were plenty of roads.
R: That and made the Miami develop, Beach and develop in kind of
P: But anyway, then uh, you can read the early deed restrictions before
something came into effect, and you'll find'that they didn't visualize at all
what was going to happen to the automobile and uh, how much room it would take
and no other city did that,I know of.
R: No, nobody did.
P: So we got into the same problems that every other city had, and then
they uh, for instance they didn't require parking for a hotel; put a hotel
up with 300 rooms, but you didn't require any parking, and you didn't require
the necessary setbacks. So if you formed this, almost a solid wall
REDFORD # 14
of buildings which is something that should have been stopped long since,
and the city should have known this, and uh, there was enough thinking
going on at the time, but no action.
R: Uh humm.
P: And uh, it was if anybody did think and start to talk
that way, well the property owners were too influential at the time, and
they didn't want to lease/lose any land, the little oceanfront strips
were too small, and of course nobody visualized that all this residence
property on the oceanfront would become hotel property; if they had they
might have moved Collins Avenue back, or done away with it altogether, so
to get the property deep enough.
R: Uh hmm.
P: Well, they left it so shallow that uh, now they're losing the,
they encroach on it too much when they build and then that loses the
sand that would be the beach, see.
R: Well, what you're talking about are, are very vital things and of
course with your background as a city planner, these are the things that it,
P: That's right.
R: that would occur to you, but do you think that, when people see
Miami Beach and worry about the hotels and, and the...it's become in some
ways, it's kind of a, a national joke, although a very ambivalent national
joke, in some things, and people always talk about Miami Beach as it
repres-...counter-represents something; do you think this is kind of the
American dream, that this is what happens to progress when you, uh,
here you have these people and they come down and they do all this thing,
and, and it changes from night to day, in one man's...less than a lifetime.
REDFORD # 14
P: Well, of course, the growth was extraordinarily fast, and sometimes
the faster it is, the more mistakes that are made, but many a city has
made the same, or similar mistakes, but do it a whole lot slower. We just
couldn't look forward enough to know what was going to happen, I mean
we're looking forward now and fighting for automobile parking. Everything
we do, everytime we design a building it takes more thought on how to get
the car problem solved, and it's certainly possible that within thirty
or forty years, we won't have any cars.
R: Yea, I see...
P: See what I mean, we can't look forward that far because...
R: I think that's very true, but now for instance ...
P: ....we don't know...
R: ...the city of Chicago, which is where I come from, never forsaw
the car either, and neither did the city of Philadelphia, and I'm sure
neither did the city of Camden, but they never, none of them became the
flamboyant place that Miami Beach...
R: so we can't really blame the flamboyance of Miami Beach on the cars...
P: No, as I...keep getting off on another angle, and I think this is, this
is an answer to where the money is made and what the, and how the people
want to spend it in this country. There are many people who, who work
under what we would think is impossible conditions and live under them,
perfectly content to and then accumulate enough money to come down here
and make a big show. And uh, when those people do, and you know they don't
live that way all the rest of their life it became, it becomes something that's
...unnatural to me, that they would go spend that much money at one time,
and yet I, I see it, for instance, I just took two weeks in the West Indies,
RECORD J 14
and when the boat stops at the or three or four boats
at the same time, uh, everybody has money, which they may have saved
for fifty years to get enough to go on this cruise, but they're going
to spend that money because that's what they wanted to do. And so they
go into these cities and the people that live there look at them as though
oh, these are some,/the most undesireable that ever walked into our streets.
Why, because they've got an accumulation of vacation money, and they're
going to spend it, and this comes with prosperity and it comes with a
certain aim that they've had all their life to get enough money to do
something and now they're going to do it. And they are...these are
the people that come down to our hotels and don't live what we call a
natural life. And they don't take the type of vacation or have the
same enjoyment as people who might have had that money and interspersed
their vacation and leisure all during their normal living.
R: That's true, and...
P: It's a, it's a burst of
R: That's true, and yet your, your brother told me very frankly and the
nothing, that the Pancoast Hotel was, I asked him was it true that the
Pancoast Hotel was the most exclusive hotel in the country, and he said
it was the most expensive. So, even back in the old days there was a
great deal of wealth spent, spent in this kind of thing.
P: Well a great deal, but note uh...that's a hundred and twenty five
rooms, now we're talking about figure 400 hotels with 300 rooms a piece
or something and this entirely a different thing. One hotel that way
wouldn't have created the impression...
R: No, I don't...
P: It's the quantity of these people that are willing to, to accumulate
REDQORD 11 14
money to spend in the concentrated time, and who had the money and
the prosperity the country has created this money, and the background
ins't there to spend it the way we would normally think people would
spend it, and so people that don't live that way, and never have, or
don't spend their leisure that way or have the same desire look
askance at people, and there's nothing to say that in another generation
or two that situation won't change; it's perfectly possible.
R: So it's...
P: A lot of these are first, con't forget these, a lot of these are
first generation money again, and they come from hard work and they
come from bucking impossible conditions and they finally came out on
top, and now they're going to spend it and show that they made the grade
and so on. So this is first generation thinking and this is a natural
reaction I think. Of course, it's not, you can't put anything as simple
as a conversation like this and then generalize so much, but I think this
is the...this is a secret of mine...and uh everybody that doens't do it
that way, and doesn't think that way, and doens't live exactly that way,
resents it somewhat and they resent the artificiality that comes along
with it, and uh the show and the extraordinary extravagance and so on
and so on. They don't, they don't think this is right. We have a little
too much puritan blood in, in some parts of the country; have to...
R: resent this sort of spending, and resent this sort of money, and
this is another influence that we've inherited, you see, in this country.
Now we're looking at the other side; these two people don't agree in their
philosophy, and yet those same puritans might get on this cruise ship
I'm talking about and go down to this West Indian island and act like a,
REDFORD # 14
a bunch of spendthrifts, you see, and get...
R: Uh huh.
P: disliked thoroughly.
R: Yea. No, I think that the psychology, you see, because, the thing
about Miami Beach is, that uh, is that the whole thing is a financial
phenomenon, but it's a psychology, it's an interest, y'know, with the
puritan ethic and everything, we are used to thinking of industry,
commerce and wealth, and being things like farm machinery, or steel
mills; they've got to be something, y'know, that you can hold in the
hand, that you could look at; it's big...the railroads, even airplances.
But here you've got people spending money on, on intangibles. The
whole thing is psychology, it's showmanship, it's...
P: No question about it.
R: ...um, that's the problem that has to be met. Now if you can
make money on these things, this is, this is the new thing in America,
this is the new, the new,, the money made on intangibles instead of
tangibles. But uh...
P: That's part of it, but also there's another little thing, and not
too little, and that is the airplane has helped it a great deal.
R: Oh yea.
P: But it is easy to get here and easy to get away, and a man can bring
his wife and go back to business, for a few days and come back on the
weekend, and the ease of getting back and forth made it flexible and
possible for a lot of people to come here that might have chosen an area
further away. And then around this situation we've accumulated all kinds
of attractions. The concentration of those attractions keep people coming
REDFORD 1 14
R: But that was Fisher again, don't you think?
P: Well, now...
R: ...don't you think that Fisher set the tone with the polo beans...
P: Yes, this, this...
R: and the race to lure people down.
P: ...you're right, this is part of it, no question about that, and uh,
he, he but he...it was the same idea again.
R: No, I mean he set the tone, uh, in the sense that it was this idea
of what he was...
P: Yes, except he didn't do it quite the same way.
R: No, but the principle is...is the same.
P: Well, he had polo instead of horse racing.
R: That's right.
P: You see.
R: Bu t that was just the aristocrat...in other words, we had a...
P: Yes, he was...
R: in our family where involved in real estate;
we'd say well it's poor / four million with the decimal point
moved over another, another two places, in other words the, the polo
of the rich...
R: ...became the dog races of the not so rich.
P: It's the same thing, but the idea is, uh, I agree with. But they're
entirely different situations. One's a participator sport, primarily,
and there's no gambling in it, and the other's a gambling sport, the gambling
instinct will take people to dog races and horse races, everything else...
REDFORD # 14
P: ...and they don't care a hoot about dogs or horses.
R: That's right...you couldhave those
P: So I don't think it's a fair comparison, but I understand what you're
R: The idea behind it. Well let me pa-...I'm just about running out of
tape, let me...no, I have a little bit yet, but I know you're anxious
to get to lunch...let me pack up here...oh, I must again on this tape
ask you that you know that this may be...no, what I want to ask you, and
you should speak loud and clear, is there any reason that you want this,
whatever you've said, restricted in any way in as far as...it would only
be open to qualified scholars at any rate, but do you want to have this
P: No, I don't care; there's nothing I've said that uh I care about,
escept that I don't want it to get in the newspapers and rewritten some
R: No, no...
P: ...because they can take a small piece of it and blow it up.
R: No. What this, this will be for...
R: If it's taken in context, I
R: Let me put it this way, this tape recording, a duplicate of it actually
will be put in the archives of the University of Miami library, open to
qualified scholars and historians only.
P: That's all right.
R: Now, if I, and I should explain to you that the-laws, particularly
since the Kennedy business, uh, my publisher will not let me quote even
the day of the week from you without signed release, so I could never write
in any book, Russell Pancoast told me that it was sunny on March 15 (laugh),
REDFORD # 14
without asking you, without signed release from you.
P: Uh huh.
R: It, it, and it may come...I want to prepare you, I'm going to
shut this tape recorder...
END OF INTERVIEW