I didn’t write about it. I wasn’t writing about much of anything. But, for reasons that even I don’t understand, I saved that Mad King Trump tweet for posterity . I was minding my own bidnezz, cowering from The COVID, with enough Writer’s Block to build a concrete canyon down Grand Avenue (which is what will eventually happen, BTW, but that’s another story for another day), when I got a phone call from someone I had not heard from in years. They started telling me about a particular story about Miami Corruption and — JUST LIKE THAT! — I was interested in writing again.
Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!
I had to learn how to write all over again. Writing is a muscle that can atrophy. I was rusty as hell. Furthermore, it DID NOT HELP that the WordPress software under the hood at the NNS Newsroom had been updated and the editor no longer did things I used to count on when I needed to count. There was a learning curve to the website software that I’m still working on.
That could be sooner rather than later. Suddenly sources have been sending the Not Now Silly Newsroom documents on Miami Corruption that others have only hinted at over the years. Now I have more Miami Corruption to look into than you can shake a FOI at.
Meanwhile, with about 60 days to go until the election, I’m hoping to write more about my opinions of Mad King Trump. He needs to be stopped. I’m old enough to remember the 1967 Detroit Rebellion and the other riots of the era. Following the murder of George Floyd the entire country has righteously erupted.
I don’t condone violence or destruction, but I understand the language of the dispossessed. I know how loud ‘the rabble’ has to get before any needed reform is even hinted at. In 1966 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told Mike Wallace:
I contend that the cry of “black power” is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.
Everything old is new again. We’re just calling it #BLM, or Black Lives Matter, but Black folk are still trying to make their voices heard. Were it not for the fact that people are now carrying video recorders in their pockets, so many of these murders at the hands of police would not be known.
I’ve watched, just during my lifetime, how the fight for true equality in ‘Merka has been two steps forward and one step back. The country never makes it to the finish line.
When I was growing up I couldn’t get my parents to drive me to school. Now 17-year old children are being driven across state lines to murder peaceful protestors with more firepower than police carry.
In Mad King Trump‘s ‘Merka, brownshirts taking over city streets with their pick-up trucks — jacked up to compensate for their cuckold-follow-the-pack lifestyle — shooting people with paint balls. Rich White Fucks with boats (or huge loans on their boats) are taking over ‘Merkin waterways.
Not only won’t Mad King Trump condemn the violence done in his name when asked outright, but he encourages it from the sidelines in tweets. He sees unhinged rallies where MAGAts wave the TRUMP 2020 flag, but only sees the support, not the this-is-so-bad-for-the-country-it’s-off-the-charts. Because, Mad King Trump has only ever seen the flags.
Which brings us full circle, dear reader. Just as I was getting ready to publish this update from the Not Now Silly Newsroom, I popped into Twitter to see if there was anything I wanted to roll into this post. There, right at the top of my timeline, as if daring me to screenshot it, and make fun of it, was the latest tomfoolery from Zircon & Burlap.
I don’t see this as a compelling argument to reelect a monster.
One of the first pictures I ever took of the
E.W.F. Stirrup House – August 26, 2009
This is the inevitable finger-pointing now that the sad, almost decade-long, purposeful campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT on the once-historic E.W.F. Stirrup House has ended.
SPOILER ALERT: In the end rapacious developers got what was wanted and needed. The once-historic house E.W.F. Stirrup House is no more, replaced by a reconstruction — or re-creation — which will be much easier and cheaper to bring up to the current building code.
The developers were given permission by the Miami Historical Board to destroy the historic structure and replace it with an exact duplicate because the building was too far gone from termite damage and wood rot to restore. Those are the exact same conditions the developer allowed to be exerted on the house during the nearly decade-long campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT.
City of Miami By-Law enforcement
officers discovered the E.W.F. Stirrup
House before I did – August 26, 2006
This reporter has been documenting in pictures and video the E.W.F. Stirrup House for more than 7 years. The thousands of pictures I’ve taken of this building over the years — which was designated a historic structure — proves how the all-wooden house was left open to the elements for most of that time, pointing to an unmistakable campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT.
What’s more, there will be no penalty whatsoever and the developers may have even received grants to do what they did.
[This grant business is still being researched. As usual, a city department pledged to get this information to me weeks ago and has yet to do so. I knew I should have gone with a FOI request, as opposed to a personal promise.]
Who is responsible for this travesty? There’s enough blame to go around. Let’s name names.
Gino Falsetto/Aries Development
Click to enlarge
It all starts here.
However it happened (and I heard a doozy of a story that I was never able to confirm) several lots on Main Highway, at the corner of Franklin Avenue, were purchased and combined for development. So far, so good. Plans were drawn up. So far so good. Before building permits were issued there were objections that had to be satisfied from 3 different community groups, as the story goes:
On the opposite side of Main Highway are several incredibly exclusive gated communities. How exclusive? The houses start at about $2 million and go into the stratosphere from there. The closer you get to Biscayne Bay, which is only 1000 feet away from the formerly-historic E.W.F. Stirrup House, the more you pay exponentially.
These rich NIMBYs were concerned that their sunsets would be spoiled by a huge building to the west. While it’s unknown what height the developer originally proposed, eventually it was agreed to lower it to 5 stories and step it back from Main Highway, so that it would not create a huge edifice. However, that 5 story wall was instead presented to the rear of the E.W.F. Stirrup House.
The second group accommodated were the Taurus’ customers. They argued that their historic drinking hole should be saved because it was old. The Taurus was a longtime Hippie Hangout, celebrated in story and song. One of the reasons it still was the place to drink in 2006 was because it was the only joint in the area that had a free parking lot. [We’ll ignore the implications of drinking and driving.] The rest of the Grove had parking meters or lots before you could go drinking.
So, The Taurus was saved. One story says it was moved a few feet.
Another says it was always right where you see it. But, it was saved.
TO BE FAIR: The Taurus is an old building and one could argue that it should have been saved after all. I have found references from 1906 in which it was a Tea Room. However, it’s not as old as the E.W.F. Stirrup used to be before it was recreated.
Then comes the once-historic E.W.F. Stirrup House.
Some of the people of West Grove — the Black neighbourhood fanning out immediately west of the E.W.F. Stirrup House that would not have existed had not Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup built it with his own 2 hands — were worried the Stirrup House might not be saved.
Old Man Stirrup, as some called him, was the patriarch of the neighbourhood, one of Florida’s first Black millionaires, and a man who thought that home ownership was important for the Black families arriving to become the service industry for south Florida’s nascent tourist trade. His 2-story house, in a area of small 1-story Conch and Shotgun houses represented the legacy of the neighbourhood, which is why old-timers were concerned about its potential destruction.
The developer made a commitment to the citizens of West Grove: The E.W.F. Stirrup House would be saved. However, that’s where the stories diverge. Some people remember that what was promised was a historic museum and resource center. The other story goes that this was the promise made by another group for the Mariah Brown House, a few doors to the west, and that a Bed and Breakfast was always what had been proposed for the once-historic E.W.F. Stirrup House all along.
The recreated Mariah Brown House at 3298 Charles Avenue
IRONY ALERT: The Mariah Brown House was once the oldest house on Charles Avenue. When it was recreated, that honour then went to the E.W.F. Stirrup House.
No matter. What eventually got approved and built at Franklin and Main is officially called the Grove Gardens Residence
Condominiums, at 3540 Main Highway. Unofficially (in the Not Now Silly
Newsroom) this structure is known as The Monstrosity. It’s also a blockbuster, in
an older sense of the word: the building that busts the block; the building
that future developers will point to and say, “But you’ve already allowed
this kind of density, height, and development in this community. Why not me?” [Prediction: eventually the Coconut Grove Playhouse restoration (or will that be another reconstruction?) will point to The Monstrosity to show what’s been allowed. But, as usual, I digress.]
This picture is from February 22, 2013. I had already been
photographing these open windows for 4 years at this point.
It’s crucial to keep this in mind as you continue to read about this travesty:
Once Aries Development got its grimy hands on the E.W.F. Stirrup House, it did nothing. It didn’t even bother to seal the house. It didn’t bother to close the windows. For the better part of a decade the house was open to the elements.
This is not how you treat a structure you are committed to saving. This is a structure undergoing a clear and purposeful campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT. What more proof is needed?
In fact, it was only recently (within the last year) that boards went up on the windows pictured above, but other broken windows and open windows were left alone.
E.W.F. Stirrup’s Descendants
Heretofore I have been careful not to criticize the Stirrup Family, but that ends now.
This picture from July 17, 2012 shows how invasive vines
were allowed to grow up the back of the house, over part
of the roof, and directly into the windows and wood on
the east side of the house. See below for the after pic.
The 5-story Monstrosity looks down upon the jungle.
When E.W.F. Stirrup died in 1957, he left it in his will that the house had to remain in the family in perpetuity. While I had always thought codicils like that could be challenged, to the family’s credit this one never has been.
The house is currently owned by Stirrup No. 1, LLC, a company owned by the grandchildren of E.W.F. Stirrup, which includes E.W.F. Stirrup, III. The Stirrup grandchildren, through this company, entered into a business arrangement to turn the Stirrup House into a Bed & Breakfast.
Here are the broad contours of this business deal:
The Stirrup descendants, who also owned two properties on the north side of Charles Avenue immediately across from the Stirrup House, agreed to a complicated swap. Aries would trade 2 brand new condos in The Monstrosity to the Stirrup grandchildren for
those 2 properties on the north side of Charles, a 50-year lease on the
formerly-Historic Stirrup House built with their grandfather’s own hands, and $10.00 to make it all legal. Which is how Aries got its hands on this cultural treasure, which it proceeded to destroy by a decade-long campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT.
Once the deal was done, it appears as if the Stirrup grandchildren turned their backs on the Stirrup House, now literally in their own backyard. If the condos they were given are on the north side of The Monstrosity, they were able to look down upon the disaster that their grandfather’s house had become during this purposeful campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT.
IRONY ALERT: Whenever the city cited the property for non-compliance, it didn’t cite Aries Development, which had a 50-year lease on the house and was responsible for its upkeep. The city fined the company owned by the Stirrups for all infractions because it was the owner of record.
It’s impossible to know what was happening behind the scenes, but if this were my grandfather’s legacy, I would have been jumping up and down to get the developer to do the right thing by him — to save the historic E.W.F. Stirrup House, the oldest house on Charles Avenue, from a campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT.
It’s also impossible to know what motivated the Stirrup grandchildren to enter into a business agreement with Aries Development to turn the house into a B&B. Was it money? Were they sold a bill of goods by Aries? Were they blindsided by the horrible treatment the house received at the hands of the developer? However, as [silent?] partners in this business deal, some of the blame has to go to them for being terrible stewards of their grandfather’s house and his legacy.
LaTasha and LaToya Stirrup pointing to
E.W.F. Stirrup – One Grove mural unveiling.
This collaborative effort was born in the social media space following an inspired Facebook discussion among a few family members. While aware that our family story is already in the public domain and has been for some time, we acknowledged that the telling of our family story varied greatly and was regrettably unknown to many– particularly to those most needing to hear it. We came to an agreement as a family and decided to act–as a family, for our family.
We agreed that our family story is a classic American immigrant tale; one that is deeply rooted in the American dream.; one that is both exemplary and extraordinary; one that deserves to be told; and one that should rightfully be told by the Stirrup family.
All I’ve ever wanted was to restore the legacy of E.W.F. Stirrup, whose story I accidentally discovered. I became fascinated with the man and what his life meant for Coconut Grove, a place that proves the exception to the rule in Race Relations in this country. As the only person writing about him over the last 7 years, I welcome their inclusion. His is a story that needs to be told widely.
At a Coconut Grove Collaborative meeting (described below) is when I first met SFL’s LaToya Stirrup (and her sister LaTasha). They had read my articles on their great grandfather and thanked me for keeping the legacy alive. We started up an email conversation that ended abruptly. I was told through sources that, although they were not of the side of the family that gave up the 50-year lease on the Stirrup House, they were told by the family to stay away from me because I was criticizing the Bed & Breakfast deal.
However, if we’re going to tell E.W.F. Stirrup’s story, let’s tell it correctly. The Our Patriarch page reads:
Stirrup constructed more than 100 homes in his lifetime, providing an opportunity for newly arrived Bahamians to actually own their first home. Many of the houses built by Stirrup remain, and are concentrated around Charles Avenue (originally Evangelist Street) close to the present-day Coconut Grove Playhouse, and the heart of the Bahamian community. Stirrup’s own home is at the head of Charles Avenue, and has survived as a legacy to its builder.  Over the years, many across Miami have continued to honor the legacy of Stirrup by keeping his memory alive in books as well as naming buildings around the city after him, like E.W.F. Stirrup Elementary in West Miami , The Stirrup Townhouses , and the Stirrup Senior residences in Coconut Grove . His residence, which still stands today, [see 1] as well as the street he cleared to serve as the major thoroughfare for the community, Charles Avenue, were both designated Historic Sites by the City of Miami.
 Not any more, as this entire post proves  The E.W.F. Elementary School is named after E.W.F. Stirrup, II, not the patriarch  If this refers to Stirrup Grove, on Franklin Avenue, that is the only thing I’ve ever discovered actually named after the patriarch  Also named after E.W.F. Stirrup, II
J.S. Rashid of Coconut Grove Collaborative Development Corporation
Before I throw shade at Rashid, a man I happen to like, let me praise him. Two years ago I covered the Gibson Plaza Groundbreaking ceremony in A Grand Day For Grand Avenue. Rashid spearheaded this project, which is right across Grand Avenue from the cute little Conch-style house that holds the Coconut Grove Collaborative Development Corporation. Gibson Plaza is now completed and a happening thing.
February 22, 2013 — six more months of growth on those
vines pictured above — when landscapers (and I use the
term loosely) ripped away the vines that had grown into
the siding and windows. This ruined the side of the house.
S’funny story: I was in Coconut Grove that day to attend
a Historic Charles Avenue Committee meeting at the
Collaborative Development Office at which I knew the
E.W.F Stirrup House was on the agenda. This clearing of
the lot was, as predicted, brought up as an example of
all the good things that were were taking place at the
Stirrup House by Aries.
This landscaping is the only thing that ever happened,
not counting the illegal removal of the old trees.
Rashid is also the force behind the Kroma Gallery, the only place along the west end of Grand Avenue that White folks will go to. He has also worked diligently for the infilling of lots in the West Grove with affordable housing, although property values have skyrocketed so much lately that the “affordable” part is now a pipe dream.
If anyone has been waving the flag for West Grove, it’s J.S. Rashid, a community organizer out of Chicago that’s managed to get some things done despite the uphill battle.
But, Rashid is a deal-maker. A community organizer. A go-along-to-get-along guy. However, I think he bends over backwards for developers.
F’rinstance: when Aries Development needed to get the zoning on the E.W.F. Stirrup House changed from single family dwelling to commercial to accommodate a Bed & Breakfast, Rashid was there to support the project, appearing on the tee vee tubery and everything. While the video has been disabled, CBS Miami produced this report in May 5, 2011, two years after I started my lonely campaign to SAVE THE E.W.F. STIRRUP HOUSE. Quoting from Land Fight Brewing Over Historic Coconut Grove House:
The developer that owns the condo’s behind the Stirrup house has taken out a 50 year lease on the property and is proposing rezoning the area for adaptive use that mean it can turn it into a business like a bed and breakfast or a cafe.
Community Activist Jihad Rashid was against the idea but he now calls the plan a win-win.
“With the protection that comes with that rezoning, the community can maintain its character and enhance our property and lifestyle and showcase our history,” said Rashid.
The developer has agreed to leave a one foot residential zone around the property to prevent other neighbors from wanting to turn their land into commercial zone. It has also agreed to restore the Stirrup house to its original state and in case of a natural disaster it would build a replica of the building.
It turned out to an unnatural disaster that destroyed the house: a decade-long campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT.
Had Rashid remained opposed to this rezoning, it’s doubtful the house would have been turned into a Bed & Breakfast. However, to be fair, it probably wouldn’t have changed the campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT that had started years earlier.
However, had Rashid been more proactive, some of this might have been prevented. At the meeting I described above, when the representative of Aries Development stood up to give a progress report, and mentioned the recent landscaping I stood up gave him a blast, saying that not only was it the only thing done to the house, but it also managed to destroy part of the house when the vines that had grown into the wooden siding were just ripped away.
Rashid, who chaired the meeting, shut me down immediately by saying, “We’re all looking forward. We’re not looking back,” which is an insidious way of blame dodging I’ve written about before (under very different circumstances in my rant Treacherous Double-Dealing).
Bottom line: Over the years I tried to warn Rashid several times that things were rotten over at the E.W.F. Stirrup and nothing ever changed. The Community Activist was active elsewhere.
City of Miami Historic and Environmental Protection Board
The HEP Board ultimately approved the plans that allowed this property to be used as a Bed & Breakfast. While there were all kinds of protections in place, the developer was able to get away with nearly a decade of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT because once the HEP Board approved the plan, it never bothered to check on what was happening to this structure — even though it was designated a historic site by the City of Miami.
And, the protections seem inadequate or written with loopholes you can drive a cement truck through. F’rinstance: In the approval documents the developer needs to get a Certificate To Dig before it can dig a hole. This needs to be signed off on by an archeologist. Once I realized I had had lost the fight to turn the E.W.F. Stirrup House into a Bed & Breakfast, I shifted my focus to agitating for an archeological dig of the Stirrup property.
The property is a huge double lot which has been owned by the same family for more than 120 years. Who knows what artifacts, buried just below the surface, could be discovered in an archeological dig? An archeological dig could reveal how life was lived by Bahamian immigrants in Coconut Grove at the turn of the last century.
Trench and rebar – February 3, 2016
On a recent visit to the Stirrup House, I discovered a backhoe digging a 2 foot deep trench all around the house despite the HEP Board calling for an archeological dig. So, I quickly called Megan Schmidt, Chief Preservation Officer of the City of Miami City of Miami Historic Preservation Office (see below) to see if they had a Certificate To Dig.
Days later, after the trench had already been dug, rebar inserted into it, and the whole thing filled with cement, I FINALLY got my return call. Apparently the developer did get a Certificate To Dig, but — GET THIS! — the archeologist doesn’t actually sign off on the project until the whole thing is finished.
Then what’s the purpose of the HEP Board requiring an archeologist to sign off on it after the fact if there is no archeology done? I’ll wait.
TO BE FAIR: The trench was dug to place a concrete footing all around the house so that they could slide massive steel I-beams from one side of the house to the other to support it during the work. However, that was all wasted effort and money, since they could have just razed the house and rebuilt it, as opposed to replacing the house one board at a time until nothing of the old house was left. And, with the scaffolding they put all around the house, most people I spoke to were fooled into thinking it was a renovation. After I told them to take a closer look, they realized exactly what I was talking about.
City of Miami Historic Preservation Office
The foundation trench has been dug, cemented, and
the steel i-beams slung underneath the house, but
before the house got jacked up. February 24, 2016
To her credit Megan Schmidt, of the City of Miami Preservation Office, is one of the few people in Miami government to return my phone calls, even though it takes her days to do so. Also to her credit, she agreed to meet with me once and opened up the entire Stirrup House file to me, which was surprisingly thin. [The reason being, she said, is because each city department keeps its own files.] She also shared the plans on file that merely showed the exterior elevations. I wrote about this in Shocker!!! E.W.F. Stirrup House Plans Are Finally On File.
However, at that same meeting she grossly misinformed me. I specifically asked whether the developer had the required building permits to start work. She told me they didn’t. Months later she said that either I misunderstood her answer, or she misunderstood my question. As it turned out the approval from the HEP Board (above) was all the permitting needed to begin the renovation. That precluded my last opportunity to stop the project.
At the time we met I shared with her my research on the house and my suspicion the rapacious developer was allowing it to undergo a purposeful campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT. She thanked me for my interest and told me her office had to rely on people like me because they were so understaffed. But, was that just lip service? It’s hard to know.
I begged her to keep an eye on the house and she said she would. However, nothing ever changed and the developers were able to pull the wool over her eyes. The Historic E.W.F. Stirrup House is no more.
This is the elaborate web of scaffolding erected all around the Stirrup
House. While it provided stability to the structure, it also disguised what
was going on behind the scenes. In this picture, along the bottom of the
Stirrup House, note the new metal sill plate all around the house.
Also many of the horizontal support beams have already been replaced.
April 27, 2016
When I recently called her to say the entire house was being replaced, she tried to argue the point with me.
She claimed the scaffolding surrounding the house was only there to protect the house during renovation. I asked if she had been there recently and she said she had in the last few weeks. I said she needed to go back ASAP to see how little of the old house was left.
I also told her that the contractor informed me that it was all going to be replaced, board by board. I further informed her that the scaffolding actually was disguising that fact, either accidentally or by design.
However, Megyn Schmidt didn’t seem at all surprised or shocked that this project had become a reconstruction, saying casually that sometimes that’s the price of Historic Preservation.
No! The price of Historic Preservation is to preserve the building!!!
The developers AVOIDED the costs of Historic Preservation through its deliberate, almost decade-long campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT. That’s my whole point. They benefited by destroying this historic house, important to the Black community.
Schmidt was also the one who told me, two months ago, that to the best of her knowledge the City of Miami gave the developer a grant for the Stirrup House, which would have gone through the District 2 Commissioner’s office. When she said she would get the paperwork on this grant for me, I jokingly asked whether I should file an Freedom Of Information request, or should I just trust her to get it to me? I’m still waiting.
On May 11, 2016 only the roof and a small
section near the front of the house remains.
I knew should have filed under the Florida Sunshine Law, not that it ever gets me anywhere.
TO BE FAIR: She has called me once in the interim to tell me that she may have been mistaken about the grant coming from the District 2 office, but she still remembers a grant and she was still looking for me. Yet, I have called her office and left messages several times since. She has not returned those calls and I know nothing more than I did when she offhandedly mentioned she believed there had been a grant.
I’ll update this grand business when I know more. However, that the developers may have received taxpayer dollars to destroy the E.W.F. Stirrup House really sticks in my craw.
Peter Gardner/Sabal Hill
Peter Gardner is the least culpable person on this list. He’s the newest developer to sign onto the E.W.F. Stirrup clusterfuck, only within the last year.
When I recently heard that he was now involved in the Stirrup House Bed & Breakfast my interest was piqued. I had heard his name, and that of his company Pointe Group (now Sabal Hill) as being one of the developers who wanted to gentrify Grand Avenue. This is a 6 block project that’s been bandied about for years and years and years.
Here’s the scaffolding coming down on June 20, 2016
There are two ends to Grand Avenue, the east end and the west end. The east side has CocoWalk and all the new development. From the east end you have access to Biscayne Bay and, more importantly South Bayshore Drive and Main Highway, both with their multi-million dollar estates.
Looking west down Grand Avenue from Margaret. This
model shown to me at the Sabal Hill offices makes it
appear as if Grand Avenue will become a gentrified
concrete canyon, despite Peter Gardner’s protestations.
The west end of Grand Avenue, from Margaret Street on, is the West Grove ghetto with the fabled US-1/Dixie Highway at the far west end. However, this entire end of Grand Avenue has gone from being the thriving Black Business District — when segregation gave this stretch of stores a virtual monopoly with the Black community — to the depressed area it is in now. The very same systemic racism as existed in every city in this country also exerted itself on this stretch of Grand Avenue. There was virtually no urban improvement in West Grove for more than 50 years, until Rashid built Gibson Plaza.
The biggest problem with this stretch of Grand Avenue is that these properties — which could once be had for a song because the neighbourhood was blighted — have been flipped too many times by speculators and developers. It’s still blighted, but now the land is too expensive to build anything that won’t create a concrete canyon along that stretch of Grand. Land is a machine that has to pay for itself. Only massive development will allow this land to pay its own way in the future.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT’S DUE: I met with Peter Gardner a few weeks back, surprised that he’d even talk to me after all I’ve written about the Stirrup House and the rapacious developers who got their grimy hands on it. None of the other developers involved ever replied to me.
I told Peter Gardner I was heartbroken over what happened to the Stirrup House at the hands of his current partners, Aries Development. Now that I no longer have to watch the Stirrup House I was going to start investigating Grand Avenue.
For his part Gardner kept talking about the fact that he’s a born & bred Coconut Grove boy who only wants what’s best for Coconut Grove. However his definition of what’s best for Coconut Grove is diametrically opposed to what I think is best for Coconut Grove. I don’t think wholesale gentrification will be good for the people in West Grove. Gardner tells me it could still be 2 years before the first shovel goes into the ground for these Grand Avenue developments. Let’s hope cooler heads prevail before then or, at the very least, plans are made for all of the current residents living in relative poverty to be relocated to affordable housing.
Something that greatly troubles me is how Sabal Hill has also acquired those two empty lots across the street from the Stirrup House (see above). He’s betting those 2 properties will become more valuable once the Stirrup House Bed & Breakfast and the Coconut Grove Playhouse are finally re-opened. Gardner paid $1,000,000 for those lots that are zoned for Single Family Dwellings. He will never be able to make his money back by building single family dwellings. He will need a zoning variance to build duplexes, apartment buildings, or a business.
There had been houses on those properties before Aries Development got its grimy hands on them. However, they were torn down so those lots could be used as a marshaling yard for the construction of The Monstrosity. In fact, those 2 lots are just some of the affordable housing knocked down to build that ugly thing.
The community needs to appose any change of zoning for those two properties, otherwise — ONCE AGAIN — the developers will get what they want by pulling the wool over the eyes of the City of Miami Planning and Zoning Department.
The Black Residents of West Grove/Apathy
It has to be said: The residents of West Grove are an apathetic lot. Whenever I talk to folks in West Grove about the E.W.F. Stirrup House, I get a big shrug. The Old Timers, who are old enough to remember Mr. Stirrup in his lifetime, have expressed little concern for the building. Younger people don’t even know who the hell E.W.F. Stirrup was and why his legacy is so important.
Looking south across the two lots acquired by Sabal Hill, to the
E.W.F. Stirrup House, dwarfed by The Monstrosity behind it.
One of my [Black] sources has a theory about this apathy. It starts with many decades of systemic racism. Black folks were used to being ignored at City Hall. It was all they could do to get low-paying jobs, put food on the table, and see their children get an education and stay out of trouble.
Who had time to concern themselves with the house of a rich man? E.W.F. Stirrup may have been one of Florida’s first Black millionaires, but he was also called a slum landlord because some of his rental properties were in pitiful condition. So few people in West Grove know of E.W.F. Stirrup that his reputation hardly matters. However, make no mistake, there is a Black neighbourhood in Coconut Grove due to his efforts.
The White Residents of Coconut Grove/Systemic Racism
This is what 13 decades of Institutional Racism looks like. And, it was no different in Coconut Grove than anywhere else in this country, except for one thing: E.W.F. Stirrup built more than 100 homes and then bartered, rented, or sold them to the growing Black families that were arriving to become the service industry for the nascent tourist trade.
Note the difference between how Commodore Ralph Monroe has been honoured and how E.W.F. Stirrup has not. They were contemporaries and both are considered Founding Fathers of Coconut Grove. Their houses were only 625 feet apart. Yet Commodore Monroe’s house was restored and turned into a Florida State Park called The Barnacle.
The plywood sheeting is going up on June 7, 2016. The last part of the formerly-historic E.W.F. Stirrup House left was the roof. And, as you can see, that’s also been destroyed. It will probably be coming off.
Conversely, the E.W.F. Stirrup House was torn down to build an exact re-creation to be turned into a commercial Bed & Breakfast for Rich White Fucks, as I call them. I wonder what Mr. Stirrup would think about that?
Meanwhile, you can barely find information about E.W.F. Stirrup, his life and legacy online. I have only ever been able to find one photograph of Mr. Stirrup, even though Ralph Monroe was a photographer.
None of this would have happened had E.W.F. Stirrup had been White. West Grove wouldn’t look the way it does now if it were White. The same systemic racism that plagued other cities also worked its devolution on West Grove.
NO CLICKING: I also used to use this monthly essay to beg my readers to click on the adverts here. However, I have been told I can’t do that anymore, even though it only returns a fraction of a penny per click. So I won’t. But, if you’re one of my smarter readers, you are already way ahead of me and clicking on the adverts anyway. You know there is absolutely nothing I can do to stop you.
SO SORRY: I owe my faithful readers an apology. More than one reader (two!) has noticed that I’ve not posted much new material at Not Now Silly lately, other than the regular Headlines Du Jour. I’m truly sorry, folks. While I have been researching a number of topics, nothing has gelled enough yet to be written up. I have also started a number of blog posts, some of which I still need to finish and others which (are crap and) will never see the light of day.
When I first began this blog I was given advice to post something every
day. Do you know how hard that is? Especially if you want a blog post to
have some weight? Especially if that added weight requires hours upon hours of research? Especially if it’s not your full-time job?
Despite that, I have published 583 posts in the last 27 months, not including this one. That averages 21.5 posts a month, a record I’m proud of. I’m also quite proud of many of the posts because I think I am mining important topics. As of this writing the Not Now Silly Top Ten is as follows:
Those one-offs were popular. They can also be pulled out of the archives on the appropriate dates in subsequent years. Conversely, Headlines Du Jour is pretty much stale the minute you read it. Yet Headlines Du Jour gets great numbers. Despite the simplicity, Headline Du Jour is time-consuming to post. It takes me 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours to format, even though the headlines themselves are compiled as they come in over the Not Now Silly Newsroom transom. Headlines Du Jour is the first thing I do when I wake up at 5:30 AM. As the first pot of coffee is brewing I sort the headlines collected since the last time. I decide which are keepers and which I should toss. Then they’re put into a running order that makes sense only to me. Some days, by the time it’s published, I feel totally wrung out and the pot of coffee is finished. However, I’ll try to add to the number of new posts (and pots of coffee?) on a regular basis while I also keep Headlines Du Jour going. My readers have that promise.
TO MY COCONUT GROVE READERS: While I never meant for Not Now Silly to be a blog solely about Coconut Grove, there have been times when it feels like that’s what it’s become. I’m thrilled that so many people in the West Grove have shared their personal stories with me. Oral histories are so important.
I’m still researching The Colour Line and will have new chapters in that series soon. While in Michigan, I will also be visiting the 8 Mile Wall for a blog post on The Colour Line in Detroit, ‘Merka’s first throwaway city. Meanwhile, there has been some news in the Grove, but nothing that seemed to deserve a blog post all on its own. In no particular order some of that is as follows:
I had hoped to go to opening night of the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive In, but the June opening was delayed a month. Now it won’t open until the day after I leave for the 2nd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip For Research. This is actually one of those posts mentioned above, partially written in advance. I started it last month, just before the delay was announced. It would have become a full-blown blog post in the fullness of time. I had even considered delaying my Road Trip 2 days to go, take notes, take pictures, and finish writing that blog post, but, yannow what? I’ve seen The Cocoanuts, the first Marx Brothers movie, so many times I can recite entire scenes by heart. [Same with the 2nd movie in the opening night double feature, The Blob.] So, there’s another draft post consigned to the dustbin of history.
IRONY ALERT II:The Cocoanuts satirizes the utter collapse of the Cocoanut Grove real estate market of the 1920s. Selling Florida swamp land had became such a a national joke that one of the top playwrights of the day, George S. Kaufman, and one of the country’s most famous composers, Irving Berlin, would write a musical about it. The Marx Brothers would first take it to Broadway, where it was a smash hit, and then make it their first movie extravaganza, launching a long career on film.
IRONY ALERT III: Miami has had several booms and busts since then. “Some people say” the current Miami building boom is just the beginning edge of the next bubble to bust.
IRONY ALERT IV: Bringing movies back to the Coconut Grove Playhouse, albeit outside, would be funny, if it weren’t so sad. When the currently-boarded up Coconut Grove Playhouse was originally built, it was to bring movies and culture to Coconut Grove. The land had been owned by E.W.F. Stirrup and sold to developers to build the Coconut Grove Theater, as it was called when it opened in 1927. It was renovated in the 1950s to become a legitimate theater, with the 1956 premier of “Waiting For Godot” as its first offering.
IRONY ALERT V: Even though the Coconut Grove Theater anchored the east end of Charles Avenue — the oldest neighbourhood in Miami, as well as the oldest Black neighbourhood — those folks had to go north to the smaller Ace Theater on Grand Avenue, which was not segregated. Earlier this month Miami’s Historic and Environmental Preservation Board designated the Ace a historic site. According to the Miami Herald’s Jackie Salo:
For residents in the West Grove, the ACE Theater is a relic of the years of segregation. The movie theater, which was built circa 1930, was the only one to serve the black community in the Grove in the 1950s.
The building has since lost its luster, and stands as a shell of what it once was. The marquee has not lit up for years, and the pink facade that once distinguished the theater was painted white.
Plans to restore the theater never came to fruition and the rooms that housed sold-out audiences remain abandoned.
But the theater, albeit empty, has not been forgotten.
Having walked past the Ace many times, I’ve always thought it would make a great Indie/Revival movie house. Grand Avenue has been struggling for years. Opening a movie house on that stretch of Grand would go a long way towards revitalizing what was once the thriving Black business strip of Coconut Grove.
TROLLEYGATE: Still waiting for a settlement in the Trolleygate Scandal. The last word from my super-duper secret sources was that an offer was on the table and being considered. Consequently, all parties to the lawsuit asked the judge to give them 60 days to see if they could hammer out an agreement. That expired at the end of June, but I’ve heard nothing further. Basically the broad outline of the potential deal is this: A brand new Coral Gables diesel bus garage will be built right where the current Coral Gables diesel bus garage is. This despite the brand-spanking new [allegedly] illegal diesel bus garage built in West Grove. That’s the garage that’s the subject of multiple lawsuits, which even the Federal Department of Transportation ruled contravened the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The only decision left to be made is whether the brand-spanking new bus garage in West Grove can be used for the next 2-3 years while a newer diesel bus garage is built in Coral Gables.
Here’s how small West Grove really is: The [allegedly] illegal diesel bus garage is, more or less, just around the corner from the Ace Theater. Gibson Plaza, which I have also written about, is just across the street from the Ace Theater. Grand Avenue still has a long way to go before one could call this a revival, but it’s another baby step on the road to recovery for a business strip that’s seen better days.
THE JOHNNY DOLLAR WARS: I couldn’t be more thrilled with the progress of The Johnny Dollar Wars up the Not Now Silly Top Ten Hit Parade. It justifies all the time I put into documenting those crazy cyber-stalking MoFos these last few years. Since being published on May 6th, The Johnny Dollar Wars has jumped to become the #4 most popular post at Not Now Silly, with 1,233 hits as we go to press. The only Not Now Silly post that ever rose faster and higher than that has now been relagated to the #5 position. Aries Development Continues To Rape Charles Avenue, about the E.W.F. Stirrup House had a good run, but it’s been leapfrogged in the ratings.
THE JOHNNY DOLLAR DEPRECIATION SOCIETY: I’ve migrated most of my Fox “News” snark from my timeline over to The Johnny Dollar Depreciation Society on the facebookery. I’m open to suggestions on how to make it more interactive. While membership has hit 120 people, only a few interact with the page at all, and only then by clicking LIKE. I’m thinking of holding a contest, but I’ll wait until I get back from Michigan to put that together.
LASTLY: Starting next Monday blog posts at Not Now Silly will be sporadically sporadic. My laptop has bought the farm and I’m not planning to get it fixed before I go away. I may look at a new device when I get back from the road trip, but it’s not in the budget at the moment.
The 2nd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research will be twice as long as last year’s. Last year’s research was productive, but, sadly, I had just a week to drive to Michigan, conduct my research, and drive back to FloriDuh. Despite mining some interesting veins of information, I had to cut the research short because I simply ran out of time. This year I will be meeting with some of the same people who fed me documents last time. I will also have more time to pour over some microfiche that one of my correspondents has uncovered. It may go a long way to provide greater context for the book I am writing.
Be good to your neighbours because you never know when a journalist will come sniffing around for information.
~~~~~Headly Westerfield, The 1st Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip For Research, June 2013
While I may be able to log into certain accounts while I am gone, last year I was unable to log in to facebook from strange computers because I was locked out of everything that wasn’t my home computer or my phone. Hopefully this year I have solved this problem. However, two things to keep in mind: 1). I don’t exactly know where and when I might encounter a computer, not to mention a computer owner who will allow me to take over their computer for a few hours to compose a blog post. Consequently, just like last year, it may just be updates from the Windows Phone. However, I won’t abandon you entirely. Also: Check my Twitter and Facebookery for updates from the road
A couple of people have asked me why I don’t just fly up to Canton, which would give me more time to research my book. There are 2 things that compel me to drive: 1). I love to drive. One of my favourite things to do is to be behind the wheel of a car, heading down the road, with the stereo cranked to 11; 2). It allows me to meet and greet some people that I’ve gotten to know thru’ the innertubes. Getting out, looking people in the eye, and debating the big stories of the day — or bullshitting over a coffee — is just a big bag of fun.
Thelma Gibson’s 1st shovelful at the project she helped spearhead
Gibson Plaza, named for Reverend Theodore R. Gibson and Thelma Gibson, will be geared to the 55-and-up demographic, with 56 one and two bedroom units. Among the common amenities will be an exercise room, community center, library and computer lab. However, what has the neighbourhood excited is what’s slated for the ground floor. It is dedicated to providing continuing education, job training and after school programs for the neighbourhood at large.
“It has always been a dream of ours to have affordable housing, continuing education and after-school programs for children running side by side,” the 88-year old Ms Gibson said.
Every speaker who came up to the dais to say a few words (under the white tent in the 89 degree heat) spoke of how this project will lead to a neighbourhood revitalization of a sorely neglected area of Miami. That’s why residents were so upset about Trolleygate when they learned about it. This is a neighbourhood struggling to overcome a century of racism and neglect.
While east Grand Avenue got revitalized with CocoWalk, restaurants, and fancy hotels, the west end of Grand — Black Grove, or Kebo, as the original Bahamian residents called it — has struggled and become blighted over the decades. The non-conforming diesel bus garage is just a few very short blocks away from this development. The reason people were so upset with the trolley garage is because it does not comport with the vision of those who want better for the neighbourhood. Gibson Plaza is the beginning of that revitalization plan.
The two people who came in for the most praise and sustained ovations at yesterday’s ceremony were the two people who everyone acknowledged deserved the most credit for seeing this project through to fruition. First and foremost is Thelma Gibson, who, though the Foundation named after her late husband, helped aquire the 1 acre site, parcel by parcel, and who insisted that any project of this kind simply had to have an educational componant; and Jihad Rashid. President of the Coconut Grove Collaborative Development Corporation, who worked tirelessly to bring all the partners to the table and see that they all understood the vision.
One of the politicians mentioned over and over, by speaker after speaker, is Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez, who fought to get County Commissioners to allocate the $9 million. “On behalf of the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners, and as Commissioner of Miami-Dade District 7, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to be associated with a project that I believe will spur the re-birth of the long neglected segment of our community – The Coconut Grove Village West.” Yet, that wasn’t just promotional bumf.
Thirty years ago Suarez helped set up the Gibson Memorial Fund and he’s been behind this project from the get-go.
IRONY ALERT: Another politician got short shrift in all the speeches. That’s just as well because [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff arrived 10 minutes late and missed the shovel photo-op. His West Grove constituents accuse him abandoning them for monied interests and out of town developers.
Last year when Trolleygate erupted in controversy, Sarnoff staged The Trolleygate Dog and Pony Show to protect the profits of Astor Development and Coral Gables against the interests of his own constituents. After Sarnoff insisted he couldn’t talk about Trolleygate because it was before the courts, he presented a one-sided slide show to insist diesel fumes and bus traffic on residential streets is perfectly safe. However, it’s what he did in the middle of the meeting that Sarnoff demonstrated his despicable side. At one point in this contentious meeting this reporter heard Sarnoff covertly threaten to withdraw support for Gibson Plaza (and other projects) if the community continued its fight against Trolleygate.It was slyly done, but was not lost on anyone in the room.
So, colour me thrilled that Sarnoff missed his photo op — another way to grab credit. Judging from the sotto voce murmurings when he gave his short speech, he’s lucky he wasn’t booed.
Even as the Collaborative’s Jihad Rashid celebrated this achievement, he warned against gentrification.
The slogan on the banner in front of which every speaker spoke read CATALYZE • REVITALIZE • TRANSFORM, which is everyone’s hope for this stretch of Grand Avenue. Immediately across the street from Gibson Plaza is the Collaborative offices. Just to the east of that is the brand new KROMA Gallery, which hosted a lunch for attendees after all the speakers were finished.
While everyone hopes Gibson Plaza leads to a revitalization of the west end Grand Avenue, the fear is that this is just another step along the process of slow gentrification that has been eating its way into West Grove. Even Rashid recognizes the danger. As Nick Madigan in the Miami Herald notes:
After waiting for a standing ovation to die down, Rashid reminded the crowd that there had been a “history of disinvestment and disenfranchisement” in the West Grove, and remarked on the irony of expensive hotels and condominiums perfectly visible only a few blocks to the east. Rashid also cautioned against the danger that the neighborhood’s longtime residents will be pushed out by construction projects and investors looking for profits.
“If they get gentrified out in the name of progress, I don’t think that’s progress,” Rashid said. Still, he concluded, Gibson Plaza is a huge step forward.
Those in the know tell this reporter that due to property speculation along Grand Avenue, nothing less than 5 stories will pay for itself. Nothing taller than 5 stories is allowed by the Miami 21 Plan. This means that only 5-storey high condo buildings will be built along Grand, making it a new canyon for colonization and gentrification. Otherwise, West Grand will continue to undergo Demolition by Neglect, which passes for progress in West Grove. There appears to be no room left for anything in between.