Marjory Stoneman Douglas House Declared National Historic Landmark
By Jodi Mailander Farrell
Almost 68 years after Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ “The Everglades: River of Grass” changed the popular conception of the Everglades from worthless swamp to treasured ecosystem, the Stoneman Douglas house in Miami’s leafy Coconut Grove neighborhood will be designated a national historic landmark.
During his first visit to Everglades National Park in April 2015, President Barack Obama declared the protective designation for the conservationist’s modest 1926 cottage at 3744 Stewart Ave.
No plans have been announced yet for opening the stucco-covered, wood-frame Stoneman Douglas house to the public, although fans still can go by the historic one-story home, now surrounded by million-dollar mansions. Preservationists and environmentalists have argued for years with neighbors over the fate of the bungalow and concerns that turning it into an education center or attraction would overwhelm the area with traffic and violate residential land use codes. A plan to move the house three miles from its South Grove location to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden was scrapped in 2006.
The Stoneman Douglas house and property have been owned by the State of Florida and since 2007 has been maintained by the Florida Park Service as a lasting memorial to a remarkable "woman who saved the Everglades."
As a 34-year-old divorced woman living with her father, buying her own house represented independence to Douglas. In her autobiography, “Voice of the River,” she wrote about her desire to have a place of her own.
I didn't need much of a house, just a workshop, a place of my own. All I wanted was one big room with living quarters tacked on. I knew an architect, George Hyde, who drew up some plans. He mostly built factories, which was fortunate, because I hoped my little house would be as stout and as sparse as a factory with not much to worry about.
Because she never learned to drive, the house had no driveway (or air conditioning, electric stove or dishwasher). Part Tudor Revival and part Medieval Revival in design, the house, created by well-known architect George Hyde, is noted for its hip roof, half-timbering, post-hurricane wood floors, elegant detailing, and cast bronze hardware.
Starting out as a young writer working for her father at The Miami Herald in 1915 following her brief marriage, Marjory Stoneman Douglas eventually produced more than 100 short stories for popular magazines.
“River of Grass,” published in 1947, was her most influential work. Later in life, she became a relentless crusader for the natural preservation and restoration of the nature of South Florida. She recognized that the Everglades was a system that depended not only on the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee into the park, but also upon the Kissimmee River which feeds the lake. To add a voting constituency to her efforts, in 1970 she formed the Friends of the Everglades, and was active as the head of the organization.
Dubbed the “Grande Dame of the Everglades,” she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Upon her death at the age of 108 in 1998, The Independent in London stated, "In the history of the American environmental movement, there have been few more remarkable figures than Marjory Stoneman Douglas.”
Today, Everglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, protects over 1.5 million acres. It’s the third-largest national park in the lower 48 states, behind Yellowstone National Park and Death Valley National Park.
There are three ways to access the park by car. The main entrance in Homestead connects visitors to the Royal Palm Area and the Flamingo Area of Everglades National Park. The Shark Valley entrance is in Miami and the Gulf Coast Entrance is in Everglades City.