by Miami Pioneer Historian Darlene Crum
additional information provided by Seth Bramson
John Edgar Lummus was one of the original 14 charter members of the Miami Pioneers historical society.
J. E. Lummus was born in 1867 in Marion County, Florida. A civil engineer, he arrived in Miami to fulfill a contract with the Florida East Coast Railway in connection with building the extension to Miami. After moving to Miami, he and his brother, James Newton Lummus opened a dry goods (now known as a department store) often referred to as “Miami’s first store.”
A great civic booster, he served as mayor of what would shortly become “The Magic City” from 1901 till 1903.
The Lummus brothers played a prominent role in the development of the Miami Beach, which was first incorporated as a town in 1915. The “birth” of Miami Beach is inextricably tied in with J. E. and J. N. among other notable historic figures.
In 1912 the brothers purchased 605 acres of swamp land from what would become Lincoln Road south to Government Cut on the south end. The development of the mangrove sandbar island on the east side of Biscayne Bay, eventually in concert with John S. Collins, Thomas J. Pancoast and Carl G. Fisher, would lead to the use of several names for what would become Miami Beach, including “Ocean Beach,” “Alton Beach” and “East Miami.”
In concert with Avery Smith and Jim Warr, who owned and operated Smith’s Casino on the south end of the beach, the Lummus brothers operated small passenger boats from the foot of 12th Street (later Flagler Street) across Biscayne Bay to a pier on the west side of the beach for visitors. The ticket price was five cents each way.
It is certainly both inspirational and historically important to know that those men saw promise in the early years of the development of Miami Beach. They clearly foresaw the possibilities of a resort city and ably assisted each other financially to keep the dream alive.
J. E. Lummus became president of the Bank of Bay Biscayne while J. N. would become president of Southern Bank and Trust Co.
J. E. had an impeccable reputation and with his tremendous energy and perseverance, was diligent about completing every task he undertook.
An honest and hard working man, he eventually retired from banking and partnered with his brother in “The Ocean Beach Reality Company,” which built Lummus Park for public use in 1909 on the Miami side.
Today Historic Lummus Park, named for the brothers, is located at 404 N.W. Third Street in Miami.
In addition, J. E. and his brother turned over the beachfront on the Miami Beach side which today runs from 4th St. and Ocean Drive to 14th Terrace to the town for an extremely modest price, a very small down payment and only a few thousand dollars a year for twenty years. It was possibly the best deal that any municipality has ever made.
Although J. E. died in 1955 his legacy lives on through his only living grandnephew, Walter Metz, who lives in Boynton Beach and is a close friend of our Club president, Seth Bramson.