Those who know anything about this town's history would say that Arden Hays Thomas, a.k.a. "Doc," was a pharmacist from Southern Indiana who moved to Miami in the 1920s and constructed a frame vernacular-style house in 1931, slightly east of what is now South Miami. Thomas was proprietor of the long-gone O.K. Drug Store and the still-standing-on-South Dixie Highway O.K. Feed Store. In 1974, one year before Thomas died, he willed his house and nearly three acres to the Tropical Audubon Society (TAS), with the provision that his property be preserved and utilized for environmental education. A chapter of the National Audubon Society and Audubon of Florida, the 54-year-old TAS is a nonprofit organization devoted primarily to promoting conservation, education, and enjoyment of the natural world. A major part of its mission to raise ecological awareness has been geared toward birds -- spying and documenting rare specimens and leading numerous bird-watching and bird-counting expeditions. TAS moved into the Thomas house in 1976, making few changes except for adding a botanical garden in 1995. In addition to avian-based activities, the society throws several native plant sales throughout the year.
This weekend the group will celebrate its 25th anniversary in its headquarters with an open house, featuring guided tours of the abode on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. and treks through the garden at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. The fête continues on Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. during the organization's annual picnic and meeting. Visitors are invited to bring a covered dish and gather under the chickee in the garden. There members will choose new directors for the society's board and introduce Maureen Finnerty, newly installed superintendent of Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks, who will deliver a presentation.