Deep in the throes of creating Miami Beach,
a Real Estate investor and developer, Carl Graham Fisher, who also built the Indianapolis Speedway and developed Montauk, Long Island, turned his attention to a new island at the intersection of Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean created by the 18 foot deep dredging of Government Cut begun in 1905.
Alton Beach Realty Company, owned by Carl Fisher, purchased Fisher Island in 1919 from Dana A. Dorsey, a local business man, banker and philanthropist who purchased the newly formed island from Herman B. Walker in 1918. Fisher named it Harbor Terminal Island and promptly set up a new corporation, the Peninsula Terminal Company, and embarked on building deep water docks for a seaport. The City of Miami also wanted to build a seaport, so with political pressure and law suits, the City thwarted Fisher’s persistent attempts.
“Part of my island for your boat,”
Fisher proposed. Vanderbilt promptly accepted. So was the legendary trade.
Fisher’s path crossed that of William Kissam Vanderbilt II, eldest son of William K. Vanderbilt and great-grandson of famed “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt. Fisher coveted Vanderbilt’s 250-foot yacht, the Eagle. Vanderbilt, an avid sportsman and frequent visitor to Miami and Key West, desired part of Fisher’s property on the Atlantic Ocean. “Part of my island for your boat,” Fisher proposed. Vanderbilt promptly accepted. So was the legendary trade.
Initial deed for seven acres in hand in 1924, America’s richest sportsman fashioned a $1.5 million private retreat designed by Mauricio Fatio on the southeast corner of the island. He began with a Mediterranean-style mansion facing the Atlantic, lavished with imported English oak, Victorian mahogany paneling and marble fireplaces. Vanderbilt surrounded the home with lush landscaping, gracious guest cottages, a lap pool, a sea plane bay, and a slip for his yacht. To provide modern comfort, he installed an electric power plant and pumping station. Vanderbilt and his second wife, Rosamond Lancaster Warburton Vanderbilt, hosted lavish and elegant parties.
Carl Fisher, suffering from the loss of his wealth during the Great Depression, sold an additional 6 tracts of land to Vanderbilt, along with 10 acres to Sinclair Oil Company, and 10 acres to the United States Government for a planned Immigrant Quarantine Station.
One year after Vanderbilts death in 1945, Rosamund Vanderbilt sold the estate to Edward S. Moore, an executive with the National Biscuit Company, for $500,000. In 1946 Edward Moore passed away and his widow sold the estate to Garfield “Gar” Wood. Gar Wood was a close friend of Carl Fisher, a championship car racer at the Indianapolis Speedway, and a world renowned speed boat champion and enthusiast who invented the hydraulic hoist. In 1963 Gar Wood sold his 13.2 acre estate to an investment group headed by Charles G. Rebozo (Bebe) including Richard Nixon, George Smathers and five others. Gar Wood stayed living in the mansion until his death in 1971. Eventually, William Rebozo, Bebe’s nephew, joined with Mutual Benefit Life of New Jersey to develop the island into a residential community. Subsequently, Fisher Island Holdings, LLC, purchased the remaining Developer Interest. Today, the Developer, plans on completing the project with the final 200 condominium units being constructed in the future. The finished development will be limited to 878 residential units.
A new era
Fisher Island is now home to the finest amenities in the Miami area.