Miami is a typical American city but unique in many ways. It began as a frontier town in the American tropics in 1896 when Henry Flagler extended the Florida East Coast Railroad all the way south to the Miami River. Warm winter weather, tropical beauty, and a luxury hotel helped to attract well heeled guests and winter visitors many of whom eventually became permanent residents. Agriculture, real estate and tourism built the economy. Miami boomed and busted more than once. Hurricanes played their part in the story. Air conditioning made it tolerable for millions of new residents to move here in the 1950s and the population grew. It became a refuge for Cuban exiles in the 1960s who eventually became permanent residents too. Today Miami is an international gateway where cultures and customs briskly intermingle and international commerce, politics, arts, architecture and design flourish beneath the warm Florida sun.

Miami is also a city of contrasts. It’s an American city with the highest percentage of foreign born residents of any city in the world. It has one of the highest concentrations of millionaires in the country but also a distressing number of people living near poverty. And it is a city passionate about preservation with an economy dependent on development and continual disagreement over land use issues. Miami is still very young and is just beginning to mature in many ways. It changes fast and often leaving outdated perceptions spread all over the world. It is one of the great American stories of the 20th century and If the first century was any indication the 21st century should be interesting. Stay tuned.