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Fort Dallas
Miami, Florida, United States
Miami FL Lummus Park HD plantation slave qtrs01.jpg
Barracks constructed in 1844, moved from Fort Dallas in 1924
Type Barracks
Site history
Built 1836 (1836)
In use 1865
Materials Stone

Fort Dallas was a military base during the Seminole Wars on the banks of the Miami River in what is now Downtown Miami, Florida, United States.


Old Fort Dallas was established on the plantation of Richard Fitzpatrick and William English in 1836 as a United States military post and cantonment (and not as a fortification, although it is more than probable that there was a stockade surrounding it in its early days) in southern Florida during the Seminole Wars. In 1836, the U.S. Navy established patrols on Biscayne Bay to prevent trading between the Seminoles and traders from Cuba or the West Indies. Fort Dallas was established to support the Navy's efforts, but more pointedly, “for the purpose of harassing the enemy.” It was named in honor of Commodore Alexander James Dallas, United States Navy, then in command of the United States naval forces in the West Indies.

The first commandant was Lieutenant F. M. Powell, who remained in command about two years. Another noteworthy commander was U.S. Army Colonel William S. Harney (1839-1840) of the 2nd Dragoons who led an attack against Seminole chief Chakaika in 1840. From 1836 to 1857 it was occupied much of the time by troops, but was not a military reservation. Quite a number of buildings were erected, and today only two remain. In addition to these, there were a ten barracks, slave quarters, stables, and a blacksmith forge. The Post Surgeon occasionally took meteorological observations. During the tumultuous Seminole Wars, Fort Dallas not only provided the nervous Miami River settlers with a sense of security during the hostilities, but soldiers from the fort contributed to the development of the area. These early-to-mid-nineteenth century infrastructure expansions included a hospital, a road from Miami to Fort Lauderdale, and a trading post.

Fort Dallas remained in Union hands during the American Civil War and was abandoned afterward. During the war, the place was occupied by refugees from many places, and at the close of the war by a band of desperadoes. Judah P. Benjamin, who served as Attorney General, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State for the Confederacy, made his escape to Cuba through Indian River and Bay Biscayne. In describing the trip, he refers to the rough treatment he received at the hands of occupants of the fort, but, he added that it was a beautiful and picturesque spot, with its white houses and fine parade ground. The interior of the fort has been improved, and care has been taken to preserve the exterior unchanged.

When the soldiers left, the fort became the base for a tiny village established by William H. English, the new owner, which he called Miami. Some of the buildings were razed to the ground and removed to other locations, and in 1872, while the property was occupied by Dr. Harris, all the remaining buildings except the two still standing were burned, the fire originating accidentally in the house occupied by Dr. Harris.

In 1891, Julia Tuttle brought her family to live in a large home on the Miami River that had been in use when Fort Dallas occupied the spot. Tuttle repaired and converted the home into one of the show places in the area with a sweeping view of the river and Biscayne Bay.

The “barracks”, as they are called, served as plantation slave quarters, then as army barracks during the Seminole Wars, and finally as Julia Tuttle's home in 1891. The building remained on the site as the only remnant of the fort until 1924 when an apartment building was slated to occupy the site. The coquina stone building was disassembled in sections and moved to Lummus Park on the north side of the Miami River at Northwest River Drive and North Third Street.

In 1895, following the successful efforts of Tuttle and fellow landowner William Brickell to attract a railroad, Fort Dallas was part of the site of the new city of Miami, Florida when Henry M. Flagler extended his Florida East Coast Railway south from Palm Beach. Perhaps coincidentally, Tuttle, Brickell, and Flagler were all originally from Cleveland, Ohio.


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