Stiltsville is a group of wood stilt houses located one mile south of Cape Florida on sand banks of the Safety Valve on the edge of Biscayne Bay in Miami-Dade County, Florida. The structures stand on wood or reinforced concrete pilings, generally ten feet above the shallow water which varies from one to three feet deep at low tide.History

Most sources claim the first stilt shack was built in the early 1930s, but some Dade County historians say that there were a dozen shacks in “the flats” as early as 1922.[1]

Crawfish Eddie

“Crawfish” Eddie Walker built a shack on stilts above the water[2] in 1933, toward the end of the prohibition era, allegedly to facilitate gambling, which was legal at one mile offshore. Crawfish Eddie sold bait and beer from his shack and was known for a dish he called chilau, a crawfish chowder made with crawfish he caught under his shack. Thomas Grady and Leo Edward, two of Eddie’s fishing buddies, built their own shack in 1937. Shipwrecking and channel dredging brought many people to the area and more shacks were constructed, some by boating and fishing clubs. Local newspapers called the area “the shacks” and “shack colony”. Crawfish Eddie’s original shack was destroyed by the late season Hurricane King of 1950.[1]

Calvert Club at Stiltsville

 Calvert Club

The first social club built at Stiltsville was constructed during the late 1930s and named the Calvert Club.[3] The Miami Beach Rod & Reel Club was organized in 1929 and held its first official outing at the Stiltsville Calvert Club in August, 1938. A club picture was taken in front of the club, which was popular enough to have picture postcards printed with its image.

Quarterdeck Club:

In 1940, Commodore Edward Turner built a large house on a barge and pilings near Crawfish Eddie’s and named it the Quarterdeck Club. When it opened in November, membership cost $150 by invitation only and the club became one of the most popular spots in Miami. The club’s popularity grew after an article about the club appeared in Life magazine on February 10, 1941. The article noted that this was an

“extraordinary American community dedicated solely to sunlight, salt water and the well-being of the human spirit”. The club was described as “a $100,000 play-palace equipped with bar, lounge, bridge deck, dining room and dock slips for yachts”.[4]

The local newspapers began running stories and photographs of parties with celebrities. The Quarterdeck Club was viewed by tourists as a “must see” attraction at Miami Beach, Florida.[1]

Rumors of gambling persisted, and the club was raided in 1949, but no evidence of gambling was found. Businessman Walter Freeman purchased the club in 1950 and envisioned it as a high class operation. The structure was renovated and expanded, only to be heavily damaged by Hurricane King late in the season. Dejected and broke, Freeman sold what remained.

The club was rebuilt, but never regained the popularity of its early years. Hurricane Donna in 1960 damaged most of the structures in Stiltsville, including the Quarterdeck Club, then the building was completely destroyed by a fire in 1961 that burned all the way to the pilings. The rumor was that the owner’s wife set fire to the club after a jealous fit. Karl Mongelluzzo, the last owner of the Quarterdeck Club, was denied a building permit in 1967.[5]Party Central

Stiltsville may not have looked like much, but in the 1940s and 1950s, it was the place where lawyers, bankers, politicians, and other moneyed, well-connected Miamians came to drink, relax and kick back. Law enforcement periodically visited the area, looking for vice activities.[6]

Jimmy Ellenburg house

Florida’s Governor LeRoy Collins (1955-1961) was a frequent visitor during the 1950s, a guest of Jimmy Ellenburg at his house in the flats. Ellenburg established his barge near Crawfish Eddie in 1939 and was known as the unofficial mayor of Stiltsville. A handwritten note from the Governor to his host read:

“Jimmy Ellenburg, When the time comes when I say so long to this life, I hope the great beyond seems alot [sic] like your cabin in the sea – Roy Collins”[7]

From the 1950s to the 1960s, Stiltsville’s style matured from ramshackle to lodge, some with architectural styles, including the “A-frame” house; the Leshaw House, with its distinctive Mansard roof; and the uniquely shaped Baldwin, Sessions & Shaw House, which was featured in a national ad campaign for Pittsburg Paints. These three houses, as well as the Ellenburg house, were among the seven buildings included in the 2003 Stiltsville Trust. Nearly all of the structures included full wrap-around porches. At its peak in 1960, there were 27 buildings.

 Miami Springs Power Boat Club

In the late 1950s, twelve blue collar workers in the Miami Springs Power Boat Club purchased a sunken barge for $1, re-floated it and towed it to Stiltsville, where they grounded it on a mud flat and built a structure and docks for use by their club. Hurricane Betsy did considerable damage to the barge in 1965, so club members invested in concrete pilings, which still remain in place. Thousands have visited the “Springs House” over the years, including Boy Scout troops and Optimist Clubs. Several television commercials have been filmed there, also.[8] It was one of the seven remaining structures named in the Stiltsville Trust of 2003.Stiltsville has been the setting for scenes in the Les Standiford novel, Done Deal; three Carl Hiaasen novels: Skin Tight, Stormy Weather and Skinny Dip, the Susanna Daniel novel, Stiltsville: a Novel; several episodes of Miami Vice (1984-89) and Sea Hunt (1958-61); featured in the 2003 film Bad Boys II, Around the World Under the Sea (1966), the made-for-TV adventure-pilot, The Fantastic Seven (1979), and Absence of Malice (1981).[16]

Stiltsville has been the setting for scenes in the Les Standiford novel, Done Deal; three Carl Hiaasen novels: Skin Tight, Stormy Weather and Skinny Dip, the Susanna Daniel novel, Stiltsville: a Novel; several episodes of Miami Vice (1984-89) and Sea Hunt (1958-61); featured in the 2003 film Bad Boys II, Around the World Under the Sea (1966), the made-for-TV adventure-pilot, The Fantastic Seven (1979), and Absence of Malice (1981).[16]

Information form Wikipedia. most of all I treasure my visits to Stillsville on my  Father’s boat to marvel at the little houses on the water!

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