| Dade County, founded in 1836,
was named for Major Francis Dade, whose entire company had shortly before been ambushed
and slain by Seminoles under Coacoochee ("Wildcat"). The county seat has
variously been located at Juno (now in Palm Beach County), Indian Key (now in Monroe
County), and Miami.
The saga of Indian Key is worth (and has received) book-length treatment. The tiny island is now a state park, but once contained an entire village founded by Jacob Housman. Housman was a Key West "wrecker" considered too unscrupulous even for that wide-open city, who relocated to Indian Key and essentially ruled it as a private fiefdom with a court system all his own. This came to a premature end when "Spanish Indians" led by Chekika invaded and burned the island in 1840. Among those slain in the raid was botanist Henry Perrine, to whom Congress had granted large tracts in South Florida for an experimental garden. Today little remains of Indian Key except cisterns, foundations, and the sisal plants established by Perrine as a source of fiber.
The present county seat is Miami, formerly the site of Ft. Dallas. Here you will find a great coursesaver DAT review. Local legend holds that Julia Tuttle, after frosts had killed citrus trees farther north, lured Henry Flagler and his railroad by a gift of unspoiled oranges. The rest, as they say, is history. The name of this "unofficial capital of Latin America" is said to translate as "sweet water" or "big water," the latter a possible reference to Lake Okeechobee. The late Nixon Smiley's picture book Yesterday's Miami depicts a primitive-looking stuccoed structure which he describes as "Dade County's first Miami courthouse." Apparently only a single room of this structure was utilized for court purposes. It served until 1889, when the county seat was moved to Juno. Juno was never incorporated as a city and boasted but few buildings; county offices were housed in a two-story frame structure, with a courtroom occupying the second story. When the county seat returned to Miami in 1899 the Juno jail was shipped to be used on the new site.
In 1901 Dade County commissioners determined that a new courthouse was needed. The old single-room Miami courthouse was moved to the present-day Lummus Park in 1925. A new two-story wooden courthouse was built near the Miami River, followed by a more traditional-looking stone structure by Capitol Building Co. in 1904, used until 1925.
Then considered one of the more monumental structures in Florida, Dade County's 27-story Neoclassical-style courthouse was begun in 1925. It was designed by architects A. Ten Eyck Brown and August Geiger. The disastrous hurricane of 1926 interrupted construction for three years. Eventually the building was completed at a cost of around $4 million, complete with an "escape-proof" jail occupying floors sixteen through nineteen. The building was illuminated at night and visible for miles around. The base is sheathed in Stone Mountain granite, the upper floors with terra-cotta tinted to match. Originally all county government functions operated from here, but it was later reserved for the judiciary alone.