| Flotsam |

The Stories Behind the Names of 25 Miami-Dade Cities and Neighborhoods

Compared to many American cities, Miami has a relatively short history. Much of that history involves real-estate development booms and busts. The result is that many of the area's city and neighborhood names are either shockingly obvious, highly descriptive, or simply pretty and marketable. (Buena Vista, for example, doesn't have a view any more beautiful than many other neighborhoods, but it sure sounds good.)

Some others, however, have a more interesting backstory. Here are a few: 

Though some locals have tried to rebrand the area as Little Santo Domingo, the Miami neighborhood wedged between Little Havana and Liberty City takes its name from the Seminole word for "alligator." Which is appropriate considering that in 2013 a man in the neighborhood made headlines for trying to trade a live alligator for beer

Some people oddly assume the city's name comes from the mall, but that's not the case. Don Soffer, one of the original developers of the area, says he chose the name "Aventura" in 1968, 15 years before the mall opened. One version of the story goes that the name was inspired when one developer involved in the project remarked to another: "What an adventure this will be." The word "aventura" is Spanish for "adventure." 

Oh, Soffer also once said the correct pronunciation is "Aven-TOUR-a," although many people pronounce it "Aven-CHUR-a." 

Bal Harbour 
This village was originally called Bay Harbour, but the city wanted to let everyone know the town wasn't on just a bay; it was on an ocean too. So they came up with the word "Bal" as something of a combination of the words "bay" and "Atlantic." 

This is Miami History 101 here: The neighborhood is named for William and Mary Brickell, who, along with Julia Tuttle, played a major part in founding Miami. 

Coral Gables 
Coral Gables founder George Merrick came to the area as a boy when his father moved the family here at the turn of the century. The home the family lived in had gables (i.e., the term for triangular wall under a roof's pitch) made of limestone — hence "Coral Gables." At least according to local legend, that's how he chose the name. His family's home is still operated by the city as a historical site. 

Alfred and Doris Kaskel developed the area and simply decided to combine their first names. Sounds slightly better than Kaskel, Florida. 

El Portal 
This is Spanish for "the gate," because there used to be a large wooden gate at the entrance to the village. 

Florida City
Florida City's seemingly unoriginal name is actually a big middle finger to Detroit. In the 1910s, much of the area was bought up by a Michigan-based company that advertised the new area heavily in Detroit. A bunch of people in Detroit moved down, and they decided to call the new area Detroit too. 

According to the city's official website, longtime residents soon came into conflict with the Detroiters, and many of the Detroiters moved back home. Shortly afterward, the area was renamed "Florida City." Take that, Michigan! This is a Florida city! 

Yes, the mainland neighborhood takes its name from the famed Miami Beach resort. In 1970, Ben Novack, the Fontainebleau's original owner, grew jealous of Doris and Alfred Kaskel's plans in Doral and wanted to create his own planned golf course, resort, and community. It was to be known as Fontainebleau Park. Novack, however, soon fell into financial problems (and the Fontainebleau Park investment headache would play a part in the hotel's foreclosure in 1977). The company Trafalgar Developers would go on to develop the community under the "Fontainebleau" name, but no link to the famed hotel would ever be mentioned in press or promotional materials when the community opened in the '70s. 

The Fontainebleau hotel, by the way, takes its name from a castle in France. 

This community is simply named after Lyman Gould, who operated the Florida East Coast Railway depot in the area. 

In the language of the Muskogee Indians, the word "hialeah" means "pretty prairie." In the language of the Seminoles, it means "upland prairie." In modern Miamian, it might as well mean "urban sprawl prairie." 

The city takes its name from the Homestead Acts of the late 1800s in which the federal government basically gave land to individuals as a way to address inequality (which, apparently, is not part of Bernie Sanders' campaign platform).  

A guy named Henry John Broughton Kendall managed this area when a land company bought it from the State of Florida in the 1880s. 

Miami was named after the Miami River. The river got its name because it flows from Lake Okeechobee, which was at one point called the Lake of Mayaimi. 

Oh, and originally, residents wanted to name the town "Flagler" after Henry Flagler, but Flagler himself was like, "Nah, please don't." 

It's the Spanish word for "orange." Oranges once grew here. 

There's a joke that "Ojus" is short for the phrase "Oh, just north of Miami," but actually it's the Seminole word for "plenty." The name was probably chosen to boast about the area's plentiful harvests. 

In a time when mixed-used megaprojects are popping up in Miami left and right, the Omni Mall might not seem like much of a big deal. But when the Omni Mall & Hotel opened in 1977, it was the biggest game in town. The mall featured a multilevel department store, the third Givenchy store in the United States, movie theaters, and even a mini theme park. The hotel, meanwhile, was the first hotel to be built in Miami-Dade in 11 years and the first to be built off of Miami Beach in 20 years. It was a huge deal for the City of Miami. 

The development group behind the Omni used "Omni" to brand other hotels and shopping areas in other cities. So it isn't unique to Miami, but local just decided to use it as a neighborhood name as well. The hotel is now a Hilton, and the mall closed in 2000, but the neighborhood name has stuck. 

A shortened version of the original Seminole name of "Opa-tisha-wocka-locka," which means "a big island covered with many trees and swamps." 

The neighborhood was originally known as "Colored Town" because it was one of the few places black people could live in Miami under Jim Crow laws. Eventually, the name "Overtown" was adopted, supposedly because black residents of Coconut Grove used to say that they had to go "over town" to get there. 

The area is named for Henry Perrine, a tropical-plant enthusiast who ended up being killed by Seminole Indians in 1840. 

Red clay used to be prevalent in this South Miami-Dade farming area, but residents decided to go with the singular "Redland" so the area wouldn't be confused with Redlands, California. 

Richmond Heights 
The area is named for the Richmond Timber Company, which once owned a lot of land there. 

The Roads
Miami is laid out in a grid system of streets and avenues, but in 1920, Mary Brickell wanted to carve out a pedestrian-friendly residential neighborhood with streets that ran at a diagonal to the main grid. Originally dubbed "Biscayne Hammocks," the area's diagonal streets were called "roads," and that's the name that stuck.

Probably 99 percent of you skipped over this one because you already know the story, and 1 percent of you are about to be like, "Oh, damn, how am I so dumb?" This area is named after the Tamiami Trail, which connects Tampa to Miami. "Tamiami": "Tampa-Miami." Get it? 

Also, Flagami gets its name from the meeting of Flagler Street and Tamiami Trail, which makes it a mixed-up mess of three separate, originally unrelated words. 

Wynwood's name seems to be a case of "it just sounded pretty," but it's worth noting that the area was originally named Wyndwood Park. When the City of Miami built an actual park in the area, it somehow was named "Wynwood Park," without the first "d." Eventually, the "Park" part would drop off as well. 

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.