Kenwood's 75th Anniversary: 1929-2004

The Old Crossroads (Herald Neighbors article 2)

The Heart of Old Kendall Lives On
By Albert Harum-Alvarez and Pam Lloyd

This year, Kenwood K-8 Center will celebrate its 75th anniversary. It
was the first school built in what was then an untamed wilderness
known as Kendall. A group of residents working on the anniversary
celebration are compiling photos and stories about the school and the
area, and along the way they have unearthed some lost nuggets of
Kendall history. This occasional column, written by Albert Harum-Alvarez,
will spotlight some of those tidbits and invite readers to participate in a
history quiz.

Virtually every trace of the original hamlet of Kendall is gone,
except for the street grid, a handful of old houses, and the original
four-classroom building at Kenwood K-8 Center. The crossroads at SW
99th Street (once known as Elizabeth Street) and 77th Avenue (Kendal
Avenue) was the heart of old Kendall. And you'll find the Dice House,
Kendall's oldest, right next door. Metrorail and the South Dade Busway
now follow the route of Flagler's railroad and Old Dixie Highway.

But something else remains. Here, in the 1920s, two general stores
battled it out. At that time, two roads crossed the Dixie Highway at
Kendall a short distance apart. And both intersections had a general
store.

Dan Killian, a Dade County commissioner and staunch Democrat, ensured
that a streetlight was installed in front of his store. Kendall had
absolutely no need for a streetlight, given the meager traffic
generated by a community of a few dozen houses. But Killian strove for
every advantage over Walter England, his competitor and a staunch
Republican. Amazingly, both stores did pretty well, and in 1939 a
humorous PTA skit at Kendall School--now Kenwood--memorialized the
battle between the two Kendall founders.

Flash forward to the 1960s and 1970s. Two 7-Elevens stand back to back
near the old crossroads, one facing Kendal Avenue and the other facing
Dixie Highway. Since then, the store names have changed, but the heart
of old Kendall still boasts two convenience stores. Today, both are
Kwik Stops, and they're located almost directly across Kendal Avenue
from one another just north of 98th Street.

Convenience stores in these parts are usually found a mile or two
apart, and almost never on two-lane roads. So why two convenience
stores less than a block apart in East Kendall? Maybe the ghosts of
Killian and England live on at the old crossroads!

How well do you know the history of Kendall?

The answers are below.

Questions:

1. What forest type originally covered Kendall?

2. What role did dynamite play in early Kendall agriculture?

3. Who was the early developer who dreamed of turning Flagler's
Kendall citrus groves into an upscale residential community?

4. Which Kendall resident has held the highest public office?

5. What blew out the entire wall of a local church one August night?

Answers:

1. Sawgrass slough--fingers of the Everglades--flowed eastward through pine rockland at the site of today's Kendall. Towering Dade County pines, surrounded by an understory of palmettos, grew out of oolite, or "coral rock," made of fossilized sea creatures.

2. Citrus farming in Kendall happened only on rocky land, since the
rich black muck of the bottomland was much more valuable for
vegetables. The first challenge was to dig a hole to plant the tree,
and that's where a stick of dynamite came in handy.

3. Flagler Groves was eyed by George Merrick as his next project after
the creation of Coral Gables. He thought that a successful upscale
suburb could be built on the pine rockland in Kendall east of Dixie
Highway. But he was bankrupted by the land bust of the 1920s before the
project came to fruition. Pinecrest, created 70 years later, proved
him right.

4. Janet Reno, who has lived in Kendall since childhood, is the only
Kendall resident ever to hold a post in the President's cabinet. She
served as Attorney General from 1993 through 2000 under President
Clinton. Reno was the first woman ever to hold the post and the
longest-serving attorney general in U.S. history.

5. About 3:30 A.M. on August 24, 1992, Hurricane Andrew turned the
two-story east wall of Wayside Baptist Church, at the northeast corner
of SW 98th Street and 77th Avenue, into a pile of twisted steel and
concrete and blew off its vaulted roof. East Kendall was battered by
the category 5 storm's north eye wall, where embedded mini-tornadoes
packed winds of over 200 miles per hour. Most of the neighborhood's
signature Dade County pines were destroyed, and residents went without
electricity for as long as three weeks. The area's ranch houses, built
in the years immediately following the devastation of Hurricane Donna,
weathered the storm well, as did the neighborhood's older pine houses.

Do you have old photos of Kenwood? We are looking for photos and
stories from all times in the school's history, but especially from
the 1940s through the 1980s. We are also looking for stories about
notable Kenwood/Kendall School graduates. If you have contributions,
please call 305-273-6096 or write Albert Harum-Alvarez at
albert@smallco.

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