Time machine: a Belle Isle mansion at a bargain price

The Adams estate made way for Belle Towers and Belle Plaza.

The Adams estate made way for Belle Towers, Belle Plaza and Costa Brava.

Ever plumb through the historical magazines and newspapers at the Sunday Lincoln Road market?

One of our neighbors from Belle Towers found a gem Sunday.

“I walked up to talk to the magazine lady at the flea market and this guy asked about this house. He lives in Belle Meade and thought this was a mistake! I said no its where I live. He was buying it. I said can I buy it? Lol. He said no. So I took a picture at least.”

You can click on the photo to read the description, but the highlights are: The main house had 11 bedrooms, eight baths, a 75×35 foot music room with a Aeolian pipe organ, and an eight car garage. Oh, and 650 feet of water frontage. All for $350,000. Such as deal!

The Adams estate on the southeast end of Belle Isle.

The Adams estate on the southeast end of Belle Isle.

Joseph Adams owned a big chunk of Belle Isle back in the day. His sprawling estate covered the property where developers built Belle Tower (16 Island Ave., in 1958, Belle Plaza (20 Island Ave., 1962, and Costa Brava (11 Island Ave., 1972).

Adams was a millionaire who came to Florida in 1924. He was an author and inventor who developed something known as the “oil-cracking process,” a way of making larger volumes of gasoline from crude oil by applying continuous heat and pressure. In 1919 and 1920, he obtained patents for the process and machinery that were sold to the Texas Oil Company (which became Texaco) and Standard Oil. He later had a $1 million tax battle with the IRS over income from the patents.

He was one of the founders of the University of Miami, and the boathouse on his Belle Isle estate was the first location of UM’s Rosentiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. He willed it to UM in his estate (he died in 1941 at age 74).

This photo shows the Joseph Adams and JC Penney estates

This photo shows the Adams and Penney estates

When President-elect Herbert Hoover stayed at the J.C. Penney estate (now 9 Island Avenue) for four weeks starting on Jan. 22, 1929, some 30 staffers and journalists stayed at the adjacent Adams estate, thanks to an agreement between Penney and Adams.

Hoover stayed on Belle Isle before his inauguration (back then, presidential inaugurations were in March), and went fishing on Adams yacht, the Amitie.

The house briefly served as the home of Miami Beach’s first Episcopal Church (All Souls, now on Pine Tree Drive), which was allowed to hold services in the massive music room after Adams death in 1941.

 

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2 responses to “Time machine: a Belle Isle mansion at a bargain price

  1. who would have the vision

  2. Iam interesting in this history. Belle Isle is so beautiful and now I know more.

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