John S. Collins, Founding Developer of Miami Beach

Photo from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_S._Collins

Photo from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_S._Collins

When you drive along famed Miami Beach’s Collins Avenue, do you think of its history or who it was named after?

John Stiles Collins (1837-1928) is the name behind the street and an American Quaker from New Jersey who originally moved to South Florida for agricultural purposes. He was born on December 29, 1837 in Moorestown, New Jersey and was the sixth generation of Collins’ to farm the family’s western New Jersey homestead since 1678. His passion for farming extended beyond his own land and led him to invest in a potential area within Florida where he bought acreage in 1891. Although he did not move to the state until 1896 he envisioned an enterprise in growing vegetables and coconuts along the swampy stretch of land between Miami and the Atlantic Ocean, now known as the barrier island of Miami Beach. Adventurous in his investments, he was captivated by the land and bought additional acreage with fellow New Jersey partners. Collins wanted to grow exotic crops which hadn’t yet been introduced to the market such as mangoes, avocados and ‘alligator pears.’  The partnership did not last and Collins eventually bought out his partners making him the sole owner of five miles of land, or roughly 50 blocks in modern-day Miami Beach.

By 1907 his groves were successful and in addition, tourism was also beginning to flourish. Collins now focused on improving transportation. But it was with his crops in mind.  Transportation was too slow and he wanted a canal. Collins’ canal would cost more than he could afford so he turned to his children for financial assistance. They had been responsible for the success of the New Jersey family business while their father was planting in Miami.

Collins’ children saw potential in Miami Beach however their vision extended beyond horticulture and towards tourism. They agreed to finance the canal if their father would agree to build a bridge across it opening traffic to the beach area and thus enhancing real estate value similar to that of Atlantic City. Together the Collins family founded the Miami Beach Improvement Company and construction on the bridge in 1912 began and triggered a flurry of real estate potential activity.

But money ran short, and so too did the completion of the 2.5 mile intended bridge. With half a mile remaining to be built, Carl Fisher, an Indiana auto parts mogul, agreed to give the now 74-year-old John Collins $50,000 in exchange for 200 acres of land on the beach.  In 1913, the bridge completed and also became the longest wooden wagon bridge in the world, ultimately giving rise to the great boom of the 1920’s.  Collins, his family and Fisher all became very wealthy alongside the development of Miami Beach, which ultimately resulted in a 400 percent increase between 1920 and 1925. But John S. Collins never lost sight of his trees. By 1922 Miami Beach boasted the largest avocado and mango groves in the world.  However its historical roots in agriculture would not last much longer, sacrificed for the tourist trade and a future in residential and hotel mega success.

When John S. Collins died at the age of 90 on February 11, 1928, Miami Beach bore little resemblance to the wild swampland of years before. However both the Collins Canal, the catalyst for the 1915 incorporation of Miami Beach as a city, and Collins Avenue were named in his honor!

4 iconic movies with scenes filmed in Miami Beach

For film aficionados, a stroll through South Beach means more than beautiful beaches, model-status patrons, and luxurious high-rise hotels.

In fact, there’s a good deal of television and cinematic history that takes place right here on the streets of SoBe. From cinematic masterpieces like Scarface to unforgettable comedies like There’s Something About Mary, South Beach serves as the backdrop for many a movie moment.

Below are a few iconic movies that were filmed, at least partially, right here in our own beautiful backyard.

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1. Scarface
We’d be remiss without mentioning one of the most iconic movies in all of cinematic history, a great deal of which was filmed right here on Miami Beach: Scarface.

Though, unsurprisingly and per Hollywood custom, many of the supposed “Miami” scenes were actually filmed in California, a number of iconic moments from the film were shot on the shores of Miami Beach. The notorious chainsaw scene was filmed on Ocean Drive, for example, and several key scenes from the film took place at the famed Fontainebleau Hotel, located in the heart of East of Collins.

2. Bad Boys 2
Perhaps not quite as renowned by film critics as Scarface, but still just as loved by fans, Bad Boys 2 was filmed primarily in Miami and around South Florida.

Production for the film actually caused closures on the MacArthur Causeway for several days, which caused major traffic delays around the city. A fun fact about the filming: At one point during filming on Cape Florida State Park, the film 2 Fast 2 Furious was being shot on the other side.

3. There’s Something About Mary
While much of the film takes place in Coral Gables, we see a number of scenes that were clearly filmed on the other side of the MacArthur. We meet the character Sully at Big Pink, the iconic breakfast and late-night joint located East of Collins in South Beach.

4. Marley and Me
Though a great deal of this much-beloved tearjerker was filmed in Hollywood, Florida as well as in Key Biscayne, Coconut Grove, and Los Olas, a number of scenes and aerial shots take place throughout Miami Beach, including recognizable shots from the Rickenbacker Causeway, the MacArthur Causeway, Ocean Drive, and Washington Avenue.

Bonus: Miami Vice, Dexter, and Burn Notice
Though not movies, these series are filmed all over South Beach and the greater Miami area, including iconic locations such as Jose Marti Park and Crandon Park.

It’s interesting to note that many of the scenes, particularly in Dexter, which supposedly takes place almost exclusively in Miami Beach, are actually filmed in Los Angeles, California or on closed sets.

Stay tuned for our next article featuring classic movie moments filmed in the East of Collins community. Which of your favorite, iconic movie scenes were filmed on Miami’s beaches? Tell us in the comments.