Brickell on Brickells on Brickell

Go figure. Beth Brickell, who wrote William and Mary Brickell: Founders of Miami and Fort Lauderdale, shares an uncommon name with her subjects but no family relation. Sounds about as likely as one of the city’s first and wealthiest landowners thinking about the future of a city more than simply trying to make a killing in real estate. Oh, and we’re talking about Mary, not William, at a time (the turn of the 19th Century) when it was rare to see women handling business matters. There are a lot of surprising things revealed in Brickell’s book about the Brickells. The author, a former TV actress and film director, continued her father’s research on one of Miami’s most important founding families and became captivated by the couple, especially Mary. Turns out Mary was behind the Brickells’ decision to self-finance the construction of Brickell Avenue, which would become one of the nascent city’s widest streets, with room for a parkway planted with flowers and shrubbery. Mary also sold land to some of Miami’s earliest and most famous residents, including William Jennings Bryan and the Tiffany (as in Tiffany lamps and glass) family. And she orchestrated the deal with James Deering that allowed him to acquire 180 acres on Biscayne Bay and turn it into Vizcaya. She also planned the Roads, a more affordable neighborhood for Miami’s working man. Brickell, the author, will talk about the Brickells on their eponymous street at the JW Marriott Thursday. Call 786-472-9686 to RSVP. The event is free. Or catch her at Books & Books (265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables) next Wednesday at 8 p.m. The reading is also free.
Thu., July 14, 6 p.m., 2011