Musa Isle, the Living Tourist Attraction

 

Located on the south bank of the Miami River just east of NW 27th Avenue, Musa Isle was a tourist attraction started by John Roop in 1907 on property he purchased from A. J. Richardson. In 1919, Roop leased a section of his property to a Seminole man named Willie Willie who, with his father Charlie, developed Musa Isle into a Seminole village attraction. Musa Isle embodied an early entrepreneurial attempt of the Seminoles to participate in the booming tourism economy of South Florida.

The village contained totem poles, a wishing well, and a museum. Native American women hand crafted authentic clothing, beads, and dolls, which they sold to tourists. The village was also home to various animals such as ducks, parrots, flamingos, chimpanzees, and monkeys, all of which seemingly had free run of the grounds. Closer to the river were the alligator pits, where men wrestled the reptiles in front of an awestruck audience. Sometimes visitors tossed coins into the river and young Seminole males would dive in after them.

Musa Isle closed in the mid-1960s, and its native population relocated along the Tamiami Trail west of Miami. A three-story apartment complex eventually replaced the tourist attraction along the river. Other Native American village-style tourist attractions also sprung up in Miami during the Musa Isle era. Presently, the Seminole Tribe of Florida operates several tourism-related businesses throughout southern Florida.

-Ursa Gil

“ChazzCreations Limited .” ChazzCreations, chazzcreations.com/florida_history/the_seminoles.

“Florida Seminoles and Musa Isle,” https://www.floridamemory.com/blog/2012/02/16/florida-seminoles-and-musa-isle/

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