Park History


History of the Fruit & Spice Park

In 1898 young Daniel Roberts and his friend Claude Jenkins arrived in Cutler after over a year’s trip down the peninsula in a sailing row boat from the Lake City area. The boys had stopped on the way to hunt alligators whose skins they sold for 75 cents each to fund their trip south. Homesteaders had already staked out claims in the Silver Palm area to the west of the Perrine Grant, so the boys made their living clearing land and setting out groves for these settlers while they hunted farther west and south for land to homestead.

Many families which had settled on claims brought children with them. The problem of schooling became acute. Dan and Annie Roberts donated an acre of their homestead at the corner of Coconut Palm Drive and Redland Road for a one-room schoolhouse. The little frame building stood until Hurricane Andrew flattened it in 1992. When it was first built in 1906, it faced Coconut Palm Drive and was much nearer to the road. The Redland School continued to operate until 1916, when its pupils were absorbed by the Redland Consolidated School.

In 1907, a group of homesteaders met at the school to choose a name for the community as John Bauer planned to apply for a post office to be located in his store. Mr. Frank Kanen suggested the name “Redland” because of the color of the soil. This met with the approval of the group and the main road running north and south was also given that name. Annie Roberts and Mrs. Otto Froriep who lived on opposite sides of the main east-west road chose the name Coconut Palm for it as most of the settlers had a few coconut palms in their yards.

After the old Redland School was closed in 1916 the Redland Women’s Club purchased the property for a club house. In addition to their meetings and social affairs, enough books were collected to open a lending library for the community, staffed by club members and volunteers. This continued until the books were turned over to the Lilly Lawrence Bow Library when it opened in Homestead in 1936. The Redland District Fruit Festival was held there in 1935 and the club continued to be active until the early 40’s. It was then sold to Dave Kufeldt in 1944.

In the early days baseball was the main sport enjoyed by the men and boys in Dade County. Each community had its own team and laid out a diamond wherever they could find a flat piece of ground free of pine trees. The Redland District ball diamond was on the Dan Roberts homestead just south of the present Fruit & Spice Park buildings. Soon after the soldiers returned from World War I the men of the area decided to organize the Redland Golf and Country Club. Shares were sold at $100 each and great plans were made for buying the land, improving the ball diamond and building a clubhouse and golf course. They did fill in soil along the base lines of the old ball diamond and played games with other communities, but the club never got off the ground. John Bauer owned the land by then and the Homestead paper reported that he received $500 from the members for the sale of the land.

Dan Roberts fell on lean times in the 1920’s and 30’s. Just before the 1926 hurricane 50,000 of his young trees ready for market were ordered burned by the Citrus Canker extermination Crew. Due to frequent hurricanes and the Depression, he lost his land in the mid 30’s.

The coral rock building which houses the Park auditorium was built around 1913 and used by the state as a laboratory for Citrus Canker research. The lab moved to larger quarters before WW I and the building was used as a headquarters for the Red Cross. Volunteers met there to roll bandages and other first aid needs, and yarn was given out to knit into mufflers, sweaters and socks for the soldiers.

It stood vacant after the war until it was purchased by William Brodie in the early 1920’s. He repaired the building and covered the walls and ceilings, which had never been finished, with wallboard. Mr. Brodie lived there until he built a large house on the northwest corner of Coconut Palm and Redland Road. The Property was purchased by Robert and Cina Stewart 1924. They added a room on the back for jelly making. Mr. Stewart was not too well and was very good at making fudge, so the candy business was started to give him something to do. It soon expanded and a helper was hired to work in the kitchen. Mrs. Stewart took over his job. At first the post office was on the porch of their house, along with their candy and jelly samples. Later Mrs. Stewart’s father, Gustav Stromstadt, came to live with them and built a new building for the Redland Post Office in front of their home. It was destroyed in the 1926 hurricane but rebuilt and used as the Post Office. In 1934 when it was closed due to the Depression, it was again taken down.

Ruth and Fred Zinck purchased the house from Mrs. Stewart in 1943. They tore down the candy kitchen and used the material to make a garage. The garage was condemned and torn down in 1981 by the Parks Department. After the 1945 hurricane they added the coral rock facing to the house. The Zincks occupied the property until 1946, when the house and an acre and a half of land was purchased by the County for $8,000.

When the County acquired the 20 acres at the corner of Coconut Palm Drive and Redland Road for a tropical fruit park in 1944, the first person to apply for the job of superintendent was Mary Calkins Heinlein. She was from a pioneer family although her parents had settled in Longview instead of the Redland District. Mary’s father, Orville W. Calkins, was a professional musician and her mother had trained for the Chautauqua stage when they decided to join a group of friends and relatives leaving Topeka, Kansas to homestead in South Dade. By 1910 the Florida East Coast Railway had established passenger service to the area so the Calkins family arrived in the relative luxury of a pullman car. Mr. and Mrs. Calkins occupied the lower berth and, to her embarrassment, Mary had to share her upper berth with her father’s cello which was considered too valuable to be packed and shipped with his other instruments.

The Kansas contingent had drawn straws at the Land Office to see who would get which homestead and they also had to wait their turn for construction of their homes. When the date rolled around for the Calkins to move onto their property or lose it, Mr. Calkins had constructed a 10′ X 10′ chicken house, but his turn hadn’t come up yet for house construction, so they moved into the chicken house.

By 1912 the Bauer’s store at the corner of Redland and Bauer had been augmented by an Episcopal Church built in 1909 and a Guild Hall for community recreation in 1911. That year the community decided to celebrate May Day with games for the children; drills, entertainment, the winding of the May pole by the young ladies, a baseball game in the afternoon with the boys and men, and food for all. Pretty Mary Calkins with waist-long blonde curls and big blue eyes was chosen queen and attended by a court of little girls dressed in their Sunday-to-meeting white dresses. She rode in George Kosel’s goat cart pulled by the boys dressed as Indians.

Orville Calkins sponsored the Redland District Band, became its bandmaster and also organized a dance band to play at parties. He donated his talent to the community but played at the Royal Palm Hotel orchestra and at various theaters in Miami as a professional musician. Mrs.. Calkins gave elocution lessons and put on plays in the South Dade clubhouses. As Mary grew older she became adept in flower and fruit arrangements at the County fairs and at Vizcaya. She and her second husband Herman Heinlein, operated a nursery on Coconut Palm Drive west of Redland Road.

Mary campaigned with Preston B. Bird who was running for County Commissioner with the promise that he would press for the establishment of a County park for tropical fruit. Mr. Bird was elected and served 14 years as Commissioner for South Dade. He was able to secure the funds and arrange for the purchase of the land from the various owners and have it accepted by the Commission as a County park. When Mr. Bird appointed Mary Heinlein as Park superintendent she brought to fruition the dream of A.D. Barnes, who visualized the park as early as 1935.

Many of the trees Mary Heinlein planted came from her own nursery. One day as she was planting an allspice tree the name “Redland Fruit & Spice Park” occurred to her and was later made official by the Parks Department. Mary served as Superintendent until she retired in 1959.

During Mary Heinlein’s fifteen years as superintendent she gave tours of the Park, supplied the University of Miami with information on plant specimens, maintained a large fresh fruit centerpiece and floral arrangements at Villa Viscaya, and put on displays at the Metropolitan Miami Flower Show and the Youth Fair. During this time she was also President of the South Dade Garden Club and the Homestead Women’s Club, and was recording secretary of the Federation of Garden Clubs.

After Mary Heinlein’s retirement the Park was managed by Mr. Blair Hickson who was followed by Mr. Jesse Hughes who retired in 1981. Mr. Chris B. Rollins became Manager of the Fruit & Spice Park in 1981 and still holds that position.

As a tribute to Preston B. Bird and Mary Heinlein the Metro Dade County Park & Recreation Department changed the name of the Park from the Redland Fruit & Spice Park to the Preston B. Bird & Mary Heinlein Fruit & Spice Park. The ceremony was held on Saturday, June 28th, 1980. Beginning in the early 1980’s and continuing until Hurricane Andrew, the Park implemented an ambitious development program. This included greatly expanded classes, workshops and tours, and an expansive plantings of trees, vegetables and herbs. The Park Gift Shop was also constructed in the early 80’s. This period also saw the designation of the Park, the Redland Community United Methodist Church, and several surrounding homes as the Redland Historic District.

In 1982, Chris Rollins was notified by Fran Mitchell that she had a historic home that needed to be rescued. The Bauer-Neill-Mitchell House, built in 1902, was donated to the Fruit & Spice Park by Fran Mitchell. Its original location was a patch of pineland near the Orchid Jungle. It was moved onto Park property to be preserved as a typical Redland Pioneer home. Success for the project is largely due to the efforts of Mr. Robert Jensen who organized the move and got Florida Power and Light and Southern Bell to voluntarily raise their lines so that the structure could be moved the 8 miles to the Park without excessive expense. Upon installation the Bauer-Neill-Mitchell House was landscaped with typical pioneer plants and historic fruit varieties.

Hurricane Andrew, in 1992, caused massive damage to the Park gardens and buildings. Destroyed were 750 canopy trees, planting beds, irrigation, fence, nursery and two historic buildings. Although the Coral Rock Building sustained only broken windows, flooding and roof damage, the Redland Schoolhouse (1906) and the Bauer-Neill-Mitchell House (1902) were totally destroyed. Facsimile reconstruction of the Schoolhouse and Bauer-Neill- Mitchell House were funded by FEMA.

After Hurricane Andrew, Chris Rollins, the Park’s current Manager replanted the park with an ethnobotanical approach so now the park is laid out by tropical, geographical regions.

The Fournier and Summers properties were acquired by the Fruit & Spice Park in 2007. The Redland Citizens Association, Commissioner Katy Sorensen and an enlightened Miami-Dade Park & Recreation Department team up to secure the land east of the Park. These 6 acres brings Fruit & Spice Park to a total of 37 acres.

The Fruit and Spice Park has exciting plans for the future, we hope you come and enjoy it.