In Belle Isle Blog’s research into the JC Penney estate, we uncovered a set of photos from a graduate student who researched Penney in the late 1970s. Her photos are part of the J.C. Penney papers at the DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Mary Elizabeth Curry’s work brought her to Belle Isle in 1979, to the gates of the old estate. By then, the estate was gone, and the only evidence of what had been known as 8 Belle Isle was a crumbling concrete wall and the view of the Flagler Memorial.
The empty, overgrown lot was flanked by Costa Brava (11 Island Ave., built in 1972), and Island Terrace (5 Island Ave., built in 1967). In the next two years, the Simkin family built Nine Island Avenue on the estate site.
Curry’s snapshots show views that should be familiar to Nine Island and Belle Isle residents — but also a sense of how different the island looked before the last few tracts were filled in with high-rises.
The construction of Nine Island in 1981 filled out the south side of Belle Isle. In a 1975 view of Belle Isle, you can see the empty lot between Costa Brava and Island Terrace, the old Penney site.