Walking through the tropical hammock of Pinewood Cemetery in Coral Gables, a serene 4-acre site filled with native gumbo limbo, coco plum, palmettos, bromeliads, and orchids, you stumble across the headstone of one of the first recorded burials in the area south of the Miami River: George T. Crew, born 1864, died 1899, hunting accident.Your imagination reels at the simple and faded epitaphs carved into the gravestones, offering up more questions than answers with their bare-bones stories of a life. Who was this Mary Townsend Addison, born January 1834 in Florida, died September 1, 1906, at age 87, "without John, and Settled on the Hunting ground Mid 1860's"? Or the curious case of the Perry quadruplets -- Cecil, Bruce, Cecilia, and Bell -- born December 6, 1925, and died 16 days later on December 22, all sharing the same plot.
As cemeteries go, Pinewood doesn't seem all that old compared with just about every other historic resting place in the United States. But considering that South Florida was a minor pioneer outpost of subtropical jungle in the late 1800s, with the first settlers slowly filtering south, its age is relative and its historical significance to the area great.
Burials were first documented around 1897, but several funerals had been reported as early as the 1840s. Though roughly 250 burials have taken place in Pinewood, the last around 1968, only 15 original markers and 25 replacement stones are still on the grounds in what was rural, undeveloped territory (think Everglades without the muck). It's a slice of Miami history that includes fraternity pranksters and ghost sightings.
You can fill in the blanks to the mystery of these early settlers during Pioneer Day 2003, and celebrate Miami heritage and the pioneer spirit with tours of the site by docents in period costumes. Featured speakers will be historian Arva Parks and Coral Gables Mayor Donald Slesnick. The event runs from 10:00 a.m. to noon at the cemetery, on Erwin Road just south of Sunset Drive. Admission is free. Call 305-460-5093 for info. -- By John Anderson
Talk of the Town
Everywhere you turn in South Florida yet another condo development sprouts up, adding a slew of folks where there had once been few, blocking bayfront views with acres of glass and cement, and doing who-knows-what-else to our environment and quality of life. Considering the recent building boom it's perhaps a little late, but discussions about uncontrolled growth in our community finally seem to be taking place. The latest is "Tug of War? Private Gain vs. the Public Good," a seminar presented by the Urban Environment League in conjunction with the Tropical Audubon Society from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Miami Woman's Club (1737 Bayshore Dr.). With guest speakers like state Rep. Julio Robaina, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson, Miami-Dade schools superintendent Merrett Stierheim, and Miami Herald editorial board member Nancy Ancrum, one thing is certain: A lot of talk will be going on. And with subjects like transportation and pedestrians, schools, smart growth and land use, and the politics of public space, one can only hope a lot of action will ensue. Admission is $20 and includes breakfast and lunch. Call 305-576-2530 or 305-931-4250 to RSVP. -- By Nina Korman
Companions cavort along boulevard
If you think you've seen enough bitches walking Biscayne Boulevard in outrageous outfits, think again. Some of the Eastside's finest b's and dawgs will be walking on the wild side and parading themselves in a howling spectacle. Best of all, this display of affectionate companions has no chance of being raided by the police. In fact the local Neighborhood Enhancement Team is helping organize the ordeal. Now the bitches we're talking about are indeed bitches and the so-called dogs are, well, dogs. Pet owners will be dressing up their lovable doggies for a pet costume parade that winds its way from Jimmy's East-Side Diner (7201 Biscayne Blvd.) to end up at the American Legion Park (6447 NE 7th Ave). There the costumed mutts will compete for prizes and barking rights. The fun begins at 10:30 a.m. Admission is free. For information send e-mail to Strell@ForSaleNow.com. -- By Juan Carlos Rodriguez
It's an Illusion
Everyone who can't pull a rabbit out of a hat or even perform the simplest of card tricks knows that there's much more to magic than suspending yourself from a crane in a clear plastic box while you starve and do gosh knows what with your bodily functions for 44 days. That's a stunt. Magic is making things appear or disappear, performing psychic tricks and escape feats, and our favorite, cutting people in half. All of those exploits might be witnessed this afternoon at 2:00 at the Ramada Plaza Marco Polo Beach Resort (19201 Collins Ave., Sunny Isles Beach) during the ninth Magic on the Beach. The culmination of an annual conference presented by the International Brotherhood of Magicians, the show stars Sylvester the Jester, mentalist Guy Bavli, and Ayala & Tanya (above), 2002 Las Vegas Magicians of the Year. Admission is $20 and includes entry into the world's largest magic shop in the hotel, so you can stock up on wands, top hats, and various rigged gadgets. Call 305-932-2233. -- By Nina Korman