The History of El Portal
The Village of El Portal was incorporated in 1937, but it enjoys a much older history that may surprise residents and visitors alike.
The El Portal Archaeological Zone was designated on March 1, 1983, by the Miami Dade County Historic Preservation Board. All the properties located along the north bank of the Little River (C-7 Canal) between the railroad and N.E. 2nd Avenue fall within the boundaries of the El Portal Archaeological Zone. Data recovered from the archaeological sites represents significant scientific information about Native American lifeways and culture, and early Miami-Dade history. The archaeological zone is located on the north bank of the Little River, one of the major freshwater tributaries that connected Biscayne Bay and the Everglades. The zone encompasses at least four known archaeological sites: the prehistoric Native burial mound, a prehistoric Native American village, a mid-nineteenth-century pioneer homesite, and a historic farming settlement.
Dedicated as a park in the 1920s, the El Portal burial mound is the first archaeological site in Miami-Dade County to be recognized and preserved. Radiocarbon dates and archaeological data suggest that the mound was constructed as early as 600 AD or 1420 years ago and the prehistoric Native American village dates to 200 AD or 1820 years ago.
The historic El Portal settlement dates back to 1843. According to documents from the National Archives, Arva Woods filed for ownership of the land, now known as El Portal, under the Armed Occupation Act. Woods may have operated a coontie mill that was once located on the property.
The El Portal House located at 6 NE 89th Street is an example of frame vernacular architecture. Constructed in ca. 1910, it is the oldest known house in El Portal. It was first owned by Charles Finch, who moved to the area in 1911. It briefly functioned as a hospital before returning to residential use.
The Sherwood Forest House located at 301 NE 86th Street is a Tudor-styled house built in ca. 1925. It is an example of the types of homes envisioned by Mr. D.C. Clarke, creator of Sherwood Forest who purchased the property from the Ferney McVeigh Estate for $5000 an acre. In 1898, Mr. Ferney McVeigh purchased the land on the high ridge from Julia Tuttle and transformed it into a garden named “Gardenile.”
El Portal’s Sherwood Forest neighborhood is active in preserving this treasured archaeological zone, with private landowners becoming increasingly aware of their archaeological heritage, and with them the Village of El Portal is seeking ways to restore and protect it through a responsible and sensitive renovation to our parks and through a public education campaign. The Village is following laws specific to archaeology to ensure that appropriate professional standards are followed in investigating archeological sites, that archaeological materials are properly cared for, and that penalties are imposed on those who violate the law.
However, El Portal archaeological site protection cannot be accomplished by regulation alone. We need our residents and visitors to help. Non-regulatory strategies for protecting archeological sites, such as voluntary stewardship program not only help protect our sites, but they also help build a preservation ethic, a sense of community responsibility and pride in the community’s archaeological heritage. These programs also offer opportunities for the public to learn about archaeology and get involved in archaeological site protection activities. Long-term management programs are essential in strengthening archaeological site protection.
An archaeological site can be created over hundreds of years through the gradual accumulation of debris during regular and periodic use of a particular place by generations of humans. Soil layers help archaeologists understand site chronology, or the time periods when different activities took place at a site. Generally, the lowest soil layer represents the oldest activities, and the top-most soil layer represents the most recent site activities.
Archaeological sites possess other values for communities and particular groups of people. These values, often called community values or traditional cultural values, are ascribed by a community, ethnic group, or Native American tribe to archaeological sites and other places associated with its cultural practices or beliefs that are rooted in the community’s history and are important in maintaining the continuing cultural identity of the community.
In 1983, the El Portal Archaeological Zone, El Portal Mound, El Portal House, and Sherwood Forest House were designated as significant archaeological and historic resources by the Miami-Dade County Historic Preservation Board. As such, the Miami-Dade County Office of Historic Preservation manages El Portal’s designated cultural resources.
Any ground disturbing activities within the archaeological zone and mound shall require a Certificate to Dig (CTD) permit. For more information on archaeological resources and permitting, please contact Jeff Ransom at (305) 375-3412 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any external modifications to the designed El Portal House and Sherwood Forest House shall require a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA). For information on historic resources and permitting, please contact Sarah Cody at (305) 375-4438 or at Sarah.Cody@miamidade.gov.
Miami-Dade County is honored to manage these important cultural resources with the valuable assistance of the Village of El Portal and its residents.
Trailblazers in El Portal
Clerow “Flip” Wilson was a well-known comedian and actor. Mr. Wilson became famous while serving in the United States Air Force. He was asked to tour military bases to cheer up other servicemen. His barrack mates gave him the nickname “Flip” stating that he was always “flipped out”.
Garth Reeves was the owner of the newspaper The Miami Times. His home was always known for its beautiful landscaping.
Betty Wright is a soul and R&B singer. Her mother: Rose, her sister Jeanette and brother Phillip are longtime residents of El Portal. The part of Ms. Betty Wright’s song that mentions her mom saying, “I know that you’re not going to sing that song” (“Tonight is the Night”) occurred while Ms. Betty Wright was at home in El Portal.
In December 2002, the Village of El Portal voted to change from a council form of government to a Council-Manager form of government. On January 28, 2003, the Village Council voted unanimously to appoint Newall Daughtrey as its first Village Interim Manager.
The beautiful Village of El Portal values nature and takes pride in being diverse and peaceful. As we move forward, in the 21st century, we’re preparing to face the challenges of a small village and at the same time remain connected to our past and true to the values that make El Portal—“The Gate”.
El Portal in the News
- El Portal: a hamlet haven, right in the city
- Retired Taekwondo instructor creates winning design in El Portal logo contest – Miami Herald
- El Portal: An encounter with nature, the sacred and our past – SFLStyle
- Best Neighborhood to Buy Real Estate (2015) – New Times
- 2015 Public Space Challenge Winner – Nature Trail Community Park