The first notice by Europeans came when a group of anonymous Conquistadores came back and published a map of their exploits in 1516. There, at the bottom of Biscayne Bay where the Florida Keys popped out of the water like turtles, was a spot on the mainland. A little symbol indicating a spring of fresh water was all that was notable in the area, but it was very important. Wandering minds dulled by days at sea might dream of gold and other riches, but the tongues always thirsted for fresh water first.
The land had been known to the Tequesta, a rough group of natives who like their island cousins the Taino led an easy life. They weren’t a people who built large permanent settlements but instead preferred to roam up and down the ridge of coral that was 10 feet higher than the sea and no more than a mile wide. It stretched more than 60 miles down the Florida coast, a thin strip between the Everglades and the bay, an island of its own. The Tequesta had little need for the swamps, and the sea was little more than a source of fresh meat. When the Conquistadores asked them questions about the riches of their land, it certainly must have been puzzling; to Tequesta, the land was riches enough. They grew and hunted whatever they thought they needed all year.
What the Tequesta didn’t know was that the lack of valuables like gold wasn’t enough to save them. In time, the paler people would learn the value of this land.
For the time being, however, the lack of anything valuable kept life pretty simple. The next time this spot on the map shows up in history books is around 1690, the waning days of piracy in the Caribbean. That is when Black Caesar, an escaped African slave started operations in this corner of the world where no one would bother looking.
Black Caesar himself was said to be impressive, a huge man who spoke little and acted easily and violently. He came to the area after escaping, drawn by the stories of fresh water and the promise of an easy life. His crew was assembled in time, drawn mostly from other slaves escaping from Jamaica and Haiti. From their base they preyed on whoever started out riding the Gulf Stream from its creation in the Straits of Florida and on home to Europe. All the ships of the Caribbean passed this way, so it was only a matter of picking the easy targets. The riches of Florida that had eluded the pale people were discovered by a black man who was primarily looking for freedom; those riches were what the whites brought to the area, not from it.
What Black Caesar got from Cutler, however, was more valuable than gold. It was freedom.
The stories become a bit murky, as any good legend must. Supposedly Black Caesar had a harem and an army to protect them on Elliot Key, housed in great stone buildings. They were unchallenged as long as they stayed there, with no navy willing to risk running aground on the 3-5 foot deep waters of Biscayne Bay. There are two problems with this story, however – there are no remnants of stone buildings on Elliot Key, and there is no fresh water there, either. It is more likely that Black Caesar bragged about the size of his band of free men and lied about their location in order to keep everything secure.
Black Caesar is the Founding Father of Cutler in the sense that not only did he create the first settlement but also the mythology of the place. The strip of land between swamp and bay is a place of great freedom for people who find that not caring about the finer details of life suits them well. The sea provides both food and easy marks full of treasure if you are as patient as a fisherman.
Eventually, Black Caesar and his men joined up with Blackbeard and sailed north to Virginia. There, they were eventually caught and hanged. Up there, freedom is a little tougher – and the color of your skin matters just a bit more.
The land went back to being ignored for a long time afterward, which suited the natives well enough. It was little more than a watering stop for wayward ships.
In the 1820s, the Creek Indians of the Carolinas were forced to relocate westward in what would be known as the “Trail of Tears”. Some of them refused to go, and broke off to form their own band known as “Seminole” – the Creek word for “Renegade” or “Runaway”. They chose to fight. Eventually, the forces of Andrew Jackson beat them back in the First Seminole War, and they escaped into the swamps of the Everglades. No one was willing to follow them, so they were allowed to live in peace. The Seminole were very welcoming, and a number of escaped slaves and even a few whites chose to join their band. Most of the Tequesta joined up as well. The Seminole didn’t just live in southern Florida, they became it.
In 1832, the US Government tried to force them out. Taking the arrival of Haley’s Comet as a sign, the Seminole attacked. On of their first acts was to take a fort and kill everyone there, including the commander Francis Langhorn Dade – for whom Dade County is named. When their chief, Osceola came under a flag of truce to negotiate, he was captured and ultimately hanged. The war become more fierce as the Seminole demanded revenge.
Dr. Henry Perrine had been granted a piece of land in the area, originally on Cape Sable at the end of the Everglades. He was a botanist who wanted to find out what productive plants could grow in the area, with a special interest in quinine that was used to fight malaria. Having spent time as the US Console in Merida, Mexico, he knew the value of tropical plants and the riches they could provide.
Perrine was hoping that the land could provide more than a quiet subsistence living that Florida promised, but his plans were in disarray. He waited out the war on Indian Key, hoping he could get in and explore his grant. But the war continued on into 1840, a stalemate between the guerilla tactics of the Seminole and the heavy forces of US soldiers unsuited to the swamps. Perrine transferred his claim to the shores of Biscayne Bay, including the area of Cutler, where the high ground appeared safer. Just after he did this, however, he was killed when Indian Key was stormed.
In 1840 he newly renamed Dade County then stretched from Lake Okechobee south to the keys, but had only 18 free white men – that is, people who could legally vote – left living in it. It was Seminole territory. The Seminole to this day remain the only native nation that has never signed a peace treaty with the US, and proudly call themselves “unconquered”.
The US gradually lost interest in the Seminole, especially when the Civil War broke out. The people of Key West learned that Florida had seceded from the Union when the Navy sailed in and told them they were under military occupation. This became the center of operations of the Blockade, an attempt to seal off Florida from all trade that would help the rebel cause. More than a few rebels fled northward, and found that the place with fresh water at the bottom of the Bay was an excellent place to conduct a blockade running operation. Like Black Caesar before them, they lived as they could off of the gentle land, smuggling in guns and food and whatever was valuable on their side of the wall of Navy ships.
Their settlement grew to include over 400 houses, each one tied to the operations that brought war material over to the rebel lines. It was a perfect place to operate as a smuggle, just as it had been perfect for piracy. The shallow bay prevented deep water ships from coming in too close, and the nearby islands of Soldier Key and Elliot Key made for perfect clandestine rendezvous. All it took was a shallow pram steered by the moon and the gentle breezes off the bay to get out to the deep landing and back.
After the war, Henry Perrine Jr. became interested in reclaiming the land he felt he had inherited. It wasn’t until 1876 that he asserted his rights to the area, and by then the squatters camp that had started as a smuggler’s haven had grown considerably. In the case to have them all evicted, the squatters came to be defended in court by a mysterious Floridian known as Dr. William Cutler, who is the stuff of legends himself. One story has him running away from his family in Ohio to seek his own way, and one story has him the son of rebel blockade runners. Whatever the cause, the squatters won the case and incorporated as a town – duly named Cutler for the man who defended them. Civilization had finally come to this part of the world, for better or worse.
From this time forward the history is well documented and preserved. But in these misty swamps, there is always room for a romantic mind to forget a few details and elaborate a few others. What we do know is that in 1896 Henry Flagler built his Florida East Coast railroad down to Miami, and the city was founded. In 1902 a road was built south to Cutler along the coral ridge that is still known as Old Cutler Road. The details of how people made a living in this part of the world are murky, but legends of smuggling and even a little piracy persisted well into the 1920s. At that time, the cheap rum of the Caribbean suddenly became valuable through Prohibition, giving Cutler another good source of income. When the restaurant Black Caesar’s Forge was built, it was said to be a favorite stop of Al Capone and other mobsters who were seeking to get away from their own speakeasy in Miami, Tobacco Road.
The most important change in the area came in 1926 when Charles Deering, the an inheritor of the International Harvester fortune, bought up much of the land and walled it off with coral rock. His estate was south of his brother’s more elaborate Viscaya, and much less prominent. But the landing that was the soul of Cutler was taken away in this process, leaving only a small dock at the north often called the “Tomato Dock” by locals. Supposedly, the produce that had come to dominate the area was shipped north to Miami in shallow draft boats from this location. Cutler was pacified. The spring that had made the Spanish maps was privatized on the Deering Estate.
Since having its heart taken, Cutler fell on hard times. In 1962 Canal C-100 drained this corner of the swamp to the bay, exiting just south of Cutler. The spring dried up with the pressure from the fresh water behind the coral ridge. The land to the west gradually became farms and then suburbs. Much of the history still left was washed away when a 30 foot tall wall of water came in with Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the worst of the storm known to hit Cutler. In 2002 it was re-incorporated along with the suburbs as Palmetto Bay, a generic name that speaks to realtors more than real pirates.
Today, there is little to mark Cutler. The Old Cutler Inn is a dive bar on the site of Black Caesar’s Forge. The Deering Estate is open to the public as a park, making it a lot less fun to sneak into. The legends of pirates and smugglers remain, but are known only to the older people who like to tell the stories while relaxed on a lawn chair.
The spring that put it on the maps as long as 500 years ago has finally been conquered. The land proved valuable to the pale people not as a way station for passing ships or as a home that brought an easy life. The riches that the Conquistadores were seeking were finally found in real estate. In a sense, the Tequesta were right all along – it was the land itself that mattered.
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I lived on Royal Palm drive , a block away from Black Caesar’s Forge (Ludlam & Coral Reef Dr.) in the 70’s (went to Palmetto Jr High & Palmetto High)… definitely had fun sneaking into the Deering Estate back then! Old Cutler Inn is at least a mile from the site of the restaurant….
I worked at Black Caesor’s Forge as a busboy in my last year of high school and first year of junior college in 1972-73. The restuarant was large and was not easily visible from the main road. You had to know it was there and it was an exclusive place. It was a large building of several levels. Built of Coral. There was a wine celler where they kept expensive wines. All the interior walls were also made of coral. In 1975, the Taurus Steakhouse in Coconut Grove purchased the restaurant and because of its inconspicuous location became some sort of an underground location for gays until someone burned it down. The owner of the original restaurant went by the name of Mrs. Jones. They had the best food in Miami. The restaurant was known for their resin baked potatoes that were wrapped in brown paper and then dropped into what looked like a witches cauldron of very hot resin until they floated to the top. The resin sealed in the flavor. They served Key lime pie and Irish coffees for desert which they lit on fire in front of the cusomer and they extinquished the flame with whipped creme while it was burning. The waiters were Bahamian and had entertaining personalities. One waiter had a drinking problem and the busboys had to watch him and keep him on his toes. More information on request …
I would love to hear from you! Doing research on this location and the private home that now sits there…
This message is for James Baldwin and Hal Feldman, who posted earlier, as well as anyone else who might have information on Black Cesar’s Forge. I am also doing a little research on the restaurant, and I am curious about a few things. Particularly, when did the restaurant open, what is the basis for believing that Al Capone went there, and are there any artifacts remaining from the restaurant? I found the cover for the menu referenced somewhere, but I have not seen the remainder of the menus. Thanks!
Black Caesar’s Forge was at Coarl Reef Dr and Ludlam Rd. The Old Cutler Inn was at Old Cutler Rd and Richmond Dr. I remember how up until about the late 1980’s a couple of the circa-1920 2 story stucco homes with their screen porches still lined the west side of Old Cutler Rd just north or Richmond Dr. They were torn down for a new subdivision.
It was the Cherokee Indians that were removed, NOT the Creek Indians. Black Caesars was located at the corner of s.w. 67th avenue (Ludlam Road) and s.w. 152 street (Coral Reef Drive). Old Cutler Inn was Located on s.w. 168th street and Old Culter behind the Farm Store. Old Cutler Inn has since been bulldozed and there is only a vacant lot. There also used to be another establishment there that was famous. “Snowden’s Package Liquors”. The bridge just south was called “Snowden’s bridge”. Local teens used to dive of the bridge and dam.
Very interesting. I live in Palmetto Bay and my wife worked near the location of Black Caesar’s Forge next to Westminster Christian School on 152 St.. Do you know who bought the property at the intersection of 152 and Ludlum.
I believe the current owner, or most recent owner at least was the fellow who developed the company Atari, who made video games, this is what I’ve heard. The entrance to Black Caesar’s Forge (commonly confused today with The Forge restaurant on Miami Beach) was on the north side of 152 street. The driveway approach is still there but has been walled off with a c.b.s. wall; however, the pavement still exists coming off 152 street. As I recall this was the only entrance. The parking lot was on the westerly side of the restaurant structure and had somewhat limited parking. The las time I was there was in 1974. I am interested in how much of the original structure still exists and if anyone has photos of the restaurant. It was truly a unique location because the location was rather remote for a restaurant. I own part of the original bar, which fell into my hands by incredible luck of fate. I do not know exactly when the restaurant closed but I want to say 1982.
I lived around the corner from the 3 ac site of the restaurant from 79-83, while they were building the house. It was owned by a wealthy couple with 9-10 young kids with a herd of maids to care for them and the kids. The lot behind the house was beautifully landscaped with a bridge or two crossing a man made stream and a paved path winding through it to take the babies for walks in their strollers. One wing had a long hall with a row of small bedrooms and connecting baths for each of the kids. It was a single story so was huge. I just looked at the site on google satellite view and the house is gone. The site appears to have been taken over by Westminster School, which is just parking trucks on it, along with the Congregational Church’s lot, too. My kids went to Alexander School, and neither Westminster nor the other school were there at that time. That means those structures were torn down for the new buildings. That’s all I know about it, as I left Miami in 83.
Sorry, I was working from another comment, so I left out some details. To clarify, the restaurant burned down before we bought our house around the corner in Jan 1979. It was just an empty lot for several years, and the couple with all the children and staff bought it, building the house there. I got to wander through it before the wall and gates were up and locked. After it was completed, nothing was visible from the roads or the gates. I can’t believe that large house is gone.
Fascinating read, thanks for posting. I grew up surrounded by all of the places you’ve mentioned.
I’m quite curious about the spring. Does anyone know exactly where it was and how large it was? I know in the now-fenced-in woods between 168th and the canal on the east side of Old Cutler there are several large, round caves with mounds built up around them that once had huge live oaks surrounding them, which would lead me to believe they may have been springs. We used hang out in them, and they seem very similar structure-wise to the springs I’ve dived in in Northern Florida—I never put two and two together until now!
The cluster of beige wood frame houses between 168 St and 164 St were literally around the corner from me, and I grew up with them. They were the homes of the Deering Estate’s staff, who lived in them until the family donated the house to the county in 1976, I want to say. I believe there were eight in total, with a barn in the center.
They may have also had their own fruit grove. Deep in the woods between Old Cutler and the Deering Estate (sadly ravaged by Andrew; they’ll never recover), there was a small patch fenced off with ancient barbed wire. In it were very mature fruit trees; the grapefruits were the size of bowling balls. As a kid we’d pull a few off, climb up into the canopy of the huge ficus, and sit in the treetops, eating the fruit and gazing out to the bay. Really a magic time.
I wish the @assholes with Miami-Dade County would spend less time endlessly patrolling and fencing and instead open up this land to the public and build a trail network so people could explore some of the amazing, beautiful scenery.
I do not know just where the spring was, but like you I can imagine where it was. There is one sinkhole / cave that is bigger than the others that may be what the Spanish found so intriguing, but I’m sure that they noted all of them.
I remember those frame houses and all of that area before Andrew. It was paradise. I had similar experiences sneaking into the estate as a kid in the late 70s / early 80s that I treasure beyond words. Somehow, they only show up in my life in contrast now that I’ve moved so far up north.
Best to you, brother! As long as we have the memories no one can keep us out of those walls. 🙂
By any chance, are you related to Liz Hare who lived in the area and went to Palmetto?
I am not! I have not heard of her, but I did go to Palmetto way back in 1983
You must’ve been there with Bezos. I graduated in 1963, the first class when Palmetto was 10-12 only, and the year Palmetto Jr. opened. In 1979, I lived around the corner from BC Forge, and watched the house being built on that land. Looks like Westminster School is using the land and that of the Congregational Church that was next door.
Thank you for your research and posting. This is a very detailed writing of this most interesting and unknown area of South Florida. I grew up at 13601 Old Cutler Road on the USDA plant introduction Station. My father was the superintendent from the late 1950’s to 1980. That 360 acres were not only a working governmental station but a tropical wilderness and historical haven. The property was once used as a blimp base during WWI along with a communications station. The house that I grew up in was built by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, the WWI fighter ace and later head of Eastern Airlines. Our house was built of 13 inch poured concrete walls and quarried coral rock. There was a fireplace, red brick floors without the home and an eastern most sleeping porch. The Banyan tree that covered the majority of the house kept the house cool in the summer. I was told that it was the second largest banyan tree in the state next to the tree on the Thomas Edison Estate in Fort Myers. I do know that it was the hiding spot and forts of many kids who explored it’s expanded limbs and canopy. My family were also tomato and strawberry farmers in the Perrine area between Franjo road and Old Cutler just north of Eureka road. I can remember as a child that this area was vast farmland with a few scattered houses in between. We were at times over run by land crabs and lived amongst the elements of heat, insects and rapidly changing and growing urban development. I miss the old Miami, yet I look upon the city now and realize that my family played an important part of what it is today.
Thank you so much for your stories! I miss the old Perrine as well. It was a magical place.
Thank you all for posting. I have asked around for years and no one ever knows what I am talking about when I mention the restaurant. I used to go there with my boyfriend in high school. Would love to see photos. Also…does anyone know any ghost stories about the place or property? Thanks again,
I had my first really grown up date at Black Caesar’s back in the late 1960″s. I don’t think I was really old enough to drink but my date was so I never got carded. I remember the steaks were heavenly and the baked potatoes and Caesar salad were the main event. I was dessert. The restaurant’s hidden location was part of its mystique. What a wonderful memory!
i think the spring is about a half a mile west on richmond drive .it is between two houses and filled in with concrete there are also caves around there with big iguanas living in there
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My Grandfather and Father built and ran a lodge on Elliott Key (Ledbury Lodge) from the 1920’s until WWII, when they both left to serve in the war.
Before the war, my Dad worked at Black Caesar’s Forge while attending the U. He worked there for a short time after the war as well before returning to active duty in the military until after Korea. He told stories of several dignitaries visiting the Forge, including Gen. Claire Chenault, commander of the famed Flying Tigers in which my uncle was a fighter pilot. They had the resin pot for potatoes, had a wine cellar, were the first restaraunt in the state to sell Mateus Rose wine. One of the offerings was that customers would bring whatever meat they wanted, and the restaraunt would prepare it for them and provide the salad, potato, and beverage, hard or soft. He told me that customers would sometimes bring him crazy stuff, like sea turtle, crawfish (spiny lobster for you yankees), rabbit to just name some of it, and Dad would have to figure out how to prepare on the open grill. No matter what it was.
My Grandfather was Southeast Representative of the National Audubon Society, founder of the Tropical Audubon Society, and close friend of the Deerings. I visited the estate several times with him while the family lived there and saw the Indian shell mizzens, burial mounds, and remains of the Indian village on the property, among other things. Supposedly they had guard dogs that ran free on the property at night to ward off scavengers.
The original Old Cutler Road ran through the Agricultural Station, down part of Ludlum Road, and then through the Deering property, before they diverted it.
From what I was told, the Black Caesar’s Forge name came from the fact that the Pirate had an actual forge in the area that he used for making parts for repairs on his ship and weapons.
He made use of the fresh water spring as well as the many hard woods that grew in the area.
We always stopped at Snowden’s on our way to Key Largo and Plantation Key, Judge Snowden and his wife were friends of my Dad and Grandad. My Grandfather owned property on Plantation as well as Windley Key, and was part of the salvage group that salvaged the HMS Winchester on Careysfort Reef. Hugh Matheson was one of his partners and the cannon that stand in front of the old Matheson house on Lignum Vitea Key came from the Winchester. There still is a Coral Castle on Windley Key that was built by my Grandfather and another of the salvage partners, Art McKee, originally to show artifacts from Winchester. I grew up in the south Grove area, but spent a lot of time down in the Cutler area. In the 60’s and 70’s my Uncle had a home in Kings Bay not far from the power plant, when you could tie your boat up right behind the house.
Thank you very much. This takes me back to my childhood, when some of this was still around.
As a native Miamian, I’m thrilled and fascinated to read recollections of Black Caesar’s Forge, What a treat dining and drinking there. It was the only underground restaurant in
Dade County, Steeped in legends and so charming with Bahamians serving the meals,
My father, Malcolm MacNeill, bought an acre of property in an area called, “Town & Ranch,” in 1955.(On S.W. 133rd St. between Chapman Field Drive and S.W. 62nd Ave) Old Cutler Rd. was on the bay side, with about 50 acres of Florida Palmetto hammock in between his property and Old Cutler Rd. He built a home where our family lived until 1970. I went to Westminster Christian School on Ludlam Rd. from 1964 until 1970. At that time FP&L had their Cutler Power Plant that burned gas in the day and oil at night. When FP&L tried to get the Dade County Commission(final say-so on zoning) to triple the size of the plant, my Dad was against it. He quickly got together a group of property owners to keep it from happening. He put a full page ad in The Miami Herald, having to go over the editor’s objections straight to Jim Knight, the Herald’s owner to get it approved. (My Dad was a member of The Orange Bowl Committee, along with Knight) It took a year before the final outcome was that FP&L ended up building the Turkey Point Power Plant, instead of enlarging the Cutler Plant.
My first “romantic” date was at Black Caesar’s Forge in 1977(18yrs.old) I loved the Cutler area as a kid. We would take our bikes and spend all day at the USDA Plant Introduction Station riding around and playing where the old blimp base was and in the woods. We built a 2 story fort in the woods behind our house. Basically on weekends, my brother and I would leave in the morning to go hang with our buddies and not come home until dark(dinner time). Life was so much simpler then, nobody worried about their children being hassled like now.
Being born and raised in what is now The Village of Pinecrest, ( and having routinely snuck into all the large estates on the east side of Old Cutler road when I went “exploring”, armed with my wooden sword and garbage can top shield😎) I enjoyed better learning the history of that area.
I had no idea other people would be posting comments here too. I went to Pinecrest Elementry in the 50’s, Palmetto Jr and Sr in the 60’s and loved it all. I too recall how in the rainey’s season, literally millions of land crabs would be forced out of their holes and ‘march’ around. There were times when people couldn’t drive their cars anywhere because the streets (and yards) would be completely covered with crabs which would naturally raise their claws when a car approached, inevitably puncturing the tires as they were ‘squashed’.
That part of Dade County (down South Bayshore Dr. – Main Highway, across the Gables Waterway Bridge at “the circle” where Sunset ends into Old Cutler Road, all the way down it to Cutler Ridge, are by far the best neighborhoods in Dade County, perhaps the entire state.
My father (Walter S. Van Poyck, Google him and 82nd Airborne of which he retired in 1945 as a Major, 504th Regiment) helped Eddie Rickenbacker (I called him Uncle Eddie) build Eastern Airlines, Rickenbacker (the Allies foremost ace in World War I with 28 kills in 16 months, awarded Congressional Medal of Honor, a truly exceptional man) actually creating and owning EAL with my father being Vice President of Personnel, meaning he hired and fired all who worked there from 1945-72. Check out my Facebook page under Jeffrey Van Poyck to learn about me and the book I’m composing about my life growing up then and there during the 60’s and 70’s when it truly was “us” (the longhairs) and/against “them” (Nixon-Agnew-Mitchell and anybody with them) but here’s a little south Dade County history those from there may enjoy.
When I was in elementry school I used to go “exploring” all over anywhere east of Ludlem Road/s.w. 67th ave. Old Cutler Road was especially attractive because along it one found the best woods (e.g. The Forrest Trails) and those great estates. My favorite belonged to Arthur Vinning Davis who owned all the land along Old Cutler from Matheson Hammock to Tahiti Beach. Those entire 1,600 acres (now Gables Estates, Old Cutler Bay Estates, etc.) were his yard. He was one of the ten richest men in the world in the early 60’s. When he passed away, he owned right at 28,000 (that’s thosands) acres inside Dade County, virtually all the land east of U.S. I from Sunset Dr. to s.w. 164th st, all the way west to Krome Ave. and those were just his Florida holdings. He had estates and lands in several states and other countries. His ‘estate’ now consists of his original Spanish style home (nothing really large, maybe 6,000 sq. ft) on just five acres just north of the Matheson Hammock Beach road, on the east side of Old Cutler. Last time I looked, it was selling for 10.5 million but anyone who grew up ‘down south’ will also know about the pink tower that rises up out of the estate, easily seen if you’re at said beach and you gaze west towards Old Cutler Road.
Well, Davis’ groundskeepers used to chase me a lot but for three years I got away by scrambling into caves all around that area that those blacks or their dogs (Great Danes, but totally harmless as I later learned) just wouldn’t go into. So they set a trap. The next time I tried to crawl into my favorite cave, they had it sealed off with screening (like around pools) material and that was that. I was pretty scared (second grader that I was) but they were all laughing and telling me “Now we’re taking you to the Old Man” which was scary in itself.
So they took me to the tower and up we went in the elevator to the top which was a really nice room with the veranda windows, bookcases, sofas, a bar, etc. That’s when I met Mr. Davis and all he said was “Gotcha, didn’t we!” with a smile on his face. He gave me a little cordial talk about private property and all that then complimented me about how many times I got away. 🙂 He asked me my name and he recognized it. “You’re Walt’s son?” to which I had to admit, thinking he was going to tell my father (the finest man I’ve ever known, bar none) who I knew wouldn’t hurt me about it – anything – but who I sure didn’t want to disappoint. “Well, we’ll keep this to ourselves. Sit on that chair and we’ll talk this over.” and for the next three years I went there scores of times, mostly up in the tower where Mr. Davis liked to spend his afternoons, and he would tell me stories and tales about “south Dade”, e.g. how Stilltsville (those Dade County Pine ‘cabins’ out in south Biscayne Bay) used to be “gambling dens where the rum runners used to refuel” ,(and some whorehouses too, I later learned). When Mr. Davis died they subdivided his yard into Gables Estates and created ArViDa (Athur Vinning Davis) Real Estare which continues today. He sure blessed me with a lot of fond memories and knowledge about Dade County, other parts of the country and world, and life in general. He was one exceptional man.
And “yes” Capone (and McBride and Lansky, Bugsy Seigel and many other so called gangsters) used to frequent Black Ceasar’s Forge because it was so remote. It was also the closest mainland place to Stilltsville they could control when needed. They had dirt roads going east off Old Cutler to a slew of wooden docks on which they’d unload liquor. Just like we of my generation off loaded all that Righteous herb at marinas or private estates on the water there, and proud of it. Not telling you anything the DEA hasn’t known for decades, “they” just never caught me. To hell with “them”.
O.k., hope all is well with all you Dade Countians 😎 email@example.com.
Well, just realized I mis-spelled Caesar’s….my mistake.
Amazing…I didn’ t proof read my previous lengthy post…mis-spelled Stiltsville too, I put two l’s in stilts instead of one.
And you also referred to the groundskeepers as “those blacks.” Might want to correct that, too.
Remember fondly Black Caesar’s Forge back in the early 1960s. Enjoyed some fantastic meals there and once met Richard Nixon who was leaving the restaurant at the same time we were. Surprised at the time how cordial and friendly he was.
I worked at Black Caesars Forge in the early 60’s as a valet parker. The restaurant was owned by the father of my friend Jimmy Cerniglia. His father was known as the Tomato King.