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To conserve and restore South Florida ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats.

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“Doc Thomas House” Florida Historical Marker festivities distinguished by an overflow crowd & blissfully balmy weather


Miami, Fla. - In contrast to Hurricane Matthew's blustery brush with South Florida, Mother Nature cooperated for the rescheduled October 14 “Doc Thomas House Florida Historical Marker Ceremony & Florida Heritage Site Celebration.” Clear skies, a balmy breeze and rising moon brought out 100+ guests to witness the marker's unveiling and lift a glass of bubbly in honor of the late Arden Hayes “Doc” Thomas. The South Miami-area pioneer and owner of the O.K. Drug and Feed Store gifted his 2.2-acre property and charming High Pines cottage to Tropical Audubon Society (TAS) in a life estate conveyed upon his death on December 31, 1975. Attendees filled every available seat and stood 2 to 3 deep among the native flora and butterfly gardens to pay tribute to his legacy.

Introductions were made by TAS President Jose Barros and TAS Historian and Advisory Board member Dan Jones, the latter of whom steered the marker application process and stewarded its physical installation. Distinguished speakers included Miami-Dade County Office of Historic Preservation Chief Kathleen Slesnik Kauffman, Dade Heritage Trust Executive Director Chris Rupp and Division of Historical Resources Historic Preservationist Michael Hart, whose Florida Department of State office oversees the marker program.

“Florida Heritage Site” status is awarded only to those applicants that meet specific criteria and stand out as a unique site rich in Florida history. For the Doc Thomas House to be so designated, its 2014 listing in the National Register of Historic Places and its 1982 Dade County Historic Site designation were considered, as were its distinctive architectural elements.

In addition to enjoying San Giuseppe Prosecco and Miami Brewing Company craft beer, attendees grazed on Whisk Gourmet hors d'oeuvres, toured the historic house with Jones, took a dusk Bird Walk with guide and TAS Board member Brian Rapoza, and drank in the award-winning 2016 Audubon Traveling Photography Exhibit, on display through October 27 in the home's impressively scaled period parlor.

Located in unincorporated Miami-Dade County at 5530 Sunset Drive, the rustic-style wood-frame structure was commissioned in 1931 when Thomas engaged noted master architect Robert Fitch Smith. Built chiefly from native cypress, Dade County pine and oolitic limestone, the house was completed in 1932, and since 1976 has served as TAS headquarters.

That the Doc Thomas House now also functions as a living “museum” nested amidst the Tropical Hardwood Hammock and Pine Rockland that comprise our Steinberg Nature Center campus is significant. Tucked between Coral Gables and South Miami, this “green island” is a sanctuary for native and migrating birds and other wildlife, and is an environmental education venue for students, scouts and inquisitive visitors of every age.

EVENT PARTNERS: Azienda Agricola San Giuseppe, Community Newspapers, Dade Heritage Trust, Florida Department of State, Miami Brewing Company, Miami-Dade County Office of Historic Preservation, the Quigley Family, Republic National Distributing Company & Whisk Gourmet