By Paul S. George
Bay Point is one of Miami’s first walled communities, a picturesque, upscale neighborhood with gently curving streets, it stretches from Biscayne Boulevard east to the shores of Biscayne Bay and north from Northeast 39th Street to 50th Street. Although Bay Point was created at the outset of the 1940s, the land comprising it has hosted an interesting array of settlers since the mid-nineteenth century. They include Michael “French Mike” Sears, who hailed from Alsace-Lorraine, on the border of France and Germany, and was a squatter who, along with his family, built a home, dock, and coontie mill, which he employed in grinding the root of a cycad into starch. Even more colorful than Sears was William H. Gleason, a rapscallion who became the political boss of Reconstruction-era Dade County, and who took legal control of the land under the terms of the Homestead Act of 1862. The act awarded 160 acres to any citizen who remained on the land and developed it.
In the early 1900s, Charles Deering, an industrial titan who headed International Harvester, the world’s largest manufacturer of farm equipment, purchased the Gleason property and additional acreage north and west of it. A man of culture and achievement, Deering planned to build a beautiful Spanish-styled estate there, before falling in love with the wonderful foliage and fauna found on his property. Accordingly, Deering turned to renowned naturalists and scientists to catalogue and inventory the natural environment there. But Deering tired of the noise and the rampant development around his property, prompting him to sell it and acquire hundreds of acres of land in deep South Dade where he built a beautiful estate.
Miami’s great real estate boom of the mid-1920s spurred an effort to develop the Deering property into Miami Plaza. The great subtropical hammock was razed preparatory to development. But the boom collapsed in 1926 and the land lay fallow until Bessemer Properties purchased it and homes began arising there in 1940. Today, Bay Point represents one of Greater Miami’s finest neighborhoods.