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Mary Brickell was instrumental in shaping Fort Lauderdale

Did you know? Mary Brickell was instrumental in shaping Fort Lauderdale
Did you know? Mary Brickell was instrumental in shaping Fort Lauderdale 02:49

MIAMI - Mention Brickell Avenue and visions of the burgeoning condo and financial center on the south side of the Miami River come to mind. But there is another Brickell Avenue and it is in the heart of Fort Lauderdale.

As part of the CBSMiami Women's History Month project, Hank Tester visited with Patricia Zieler, the Executive Director of History Fort Lauderdale. We were looking for pictures of Mary Brickell of which there are darn few.

Zieler handed Tester a large picture of Mary saying, "That is one of the few pictures we have. The Broward connection is what nobody knows about."

The Brickell Avenue in Fort Lauderdale is right downtown, most of what became downtown Fort Lauderdale was purchased by Mary and William Brickell in 1874.

"This one mile and a quarter Brickell Avenue was the Main Street of our town from the very beginning of Fort Lauderdale," said Zieler.

Miami Historian Paul George knows Brickell Avenue in Fort Lauderdale well. Has written about the area over the years and knows Mary Brickell's story.

"So if you look at the original downtown Fort Lauderdale, that is west of Second, West of Andrews Ave, that was all Brickell property," said George

By 1894, Henry Flagler's railroad had arrived in Palm Beach. Mary Brickell and her husband William, an American international entrepreneur, knew that eventually Flagler would expand to Miami which at the urging of Mary Brickell and Julia Tuttle he did. His tracks went right through the Brickell's Fort Lauderdale land, but the land of her choice.

The English-born Mary Brickell was a tough negotiator.

"She pushed him quite far west, away from what she considered prime property," said George.

The land she reserved is now the valuable riverfront property in Fort Lauderdale.

"So she is responsible for Fort Lauderdale being where Fort Lauderdale is in many ways," said George.

Mary and William Brickell never lived in Fort Lauderdale but they had the regional vision and it was Mary who carried it out.

"Their marriage was so cool because they were a true, like a 21st-century marriage, because he left her completely running the U.S. operations. It was she that purchased the land up here, not him, and she managed it," said Zieler

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