Statue of Miami's First Lady, Julia Tuttle, may be birthday present
By Jacquelyn Weiner
After years of fundraising and a search for the perfect design, a 10-foot bronze statue of Miami founder Julia Tuttle may be unveiled in July on the city's 114th birthday.
Designed by California-based Daub & Firmin Sculpture Studios, the statue's home at the south end of downtown Miami's Bayfront Park near the children's playground was approved by the Bayfront Park Management Trust last week, said local historian Arva Moore Parks.
The aim is to unveil the sculpture July 28 — Miami's birthday, Ms. Parks said.
It is "about time that we had a statute to Julia Tuttle," she said, "being that people have talked about doing it since the time of her death in 1898."
Ms. Tuttle was a major Miami landowner in the late 1800s and is credited with convincing Florida East Coast Railway tycoon Henry Flagler to extend his railroad to Miami in 1896, leading to the city's incorporation.
A freeze had damaged much of the citrus in northern Florida, and the story goes that Ms. Tuttle sent Mr. Flagler an orange blossom to prove that the freeze had not reached Miami.
Fittingly, an orange blossom is to grace the hand of Ms. Tuttle's statue.
"She was definitely a leader," Ms. Parks said. "Flagler himself called her the "Mother of Miami.'"
Talks of erecting a statue in Ms. Tuttle's honor began in 1996 during Miami's centennial, Laura Morilla, executive director of the Miami-Dade County Commission for Women, wrote via e-mail.
About $30,000 was raised at the time, but then the project was "put on hold for a few years," Ms. Morilla wrote.
The county's Commission for Women and the City of Miami Commission on the Status of Women picked up the initiative again in 2005, raising $200,000 for the statue.
"We went on a binge of fundraising," said Allyson Warren, chair of the City of Miami Commission on the Status of Women.
The final price tag for the statue was $180,000, Ms. Warren said.
The extra $20,000 is to be used for related costs like landscaping, Ms. Morilla said in an interview.
Initially, the statue was to be placed on the river walk next to The Related Group of Florida's One Miami condominium, but the plan was nixed after disputes with the condominium association, Ms. Warren said.
Related Group founder and CEO Jorge M. Pérez donated $10,000 toward the statue, she said.
The artists behind the Julia Tuttle monument, Eugene Daub and Rob Firmin, were selected by a panel of judges that included then Mayor Manny Diaz, historian Ms. Parks, county and city arts representatives and area gallery owners, Ms. Warren said.
The artists' designed was chosen mostly for their unique take on showcasing the history of Miami's founding, Ms. Parks said, illustrating it in a relief on the statue's skirt.
Images include everything from alligators and plants to Seminole Indians and a picture of Mr. Flagler, said Ms. Parks, who worked with the artists on the historical images.
"You'll actually be able to walk around her skirt and kind of touch it," she said.
The artists are no strangers to creating historic works: their resume includes a monument to explorers Lewis and Clark in Kansas City, MO, and a statue of "Abraham Lincoln as a Boy," in his birthplace of Hodgenville, KY, according to the company's Web site.
In addition, Daub & Firmin was selected to create a statue of Rosa Parks for the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, DC, Ms. Parks said.
It's about time the vision of a monument for Miami's female founder came to fruition, Ms. Morilla wrote: "Julia Tuttle deserves her statue and her recognition."
And Bayfront Park is the perfect place, as it used to be part of Ms. Tuttle's property, Ms. Warren said.
"In a time when all of us here in the city need an extra thing to smile about," she said, "this is a biggie."