Marjory Stoneman Douglas saved Florida's Everglades, but was impoverished, blind and deaf in old age. Friends seeking to help persuaded the state to buy her property for a museum, letting her stay till she died; now the state wants to sell the land.
On New Year's Eve, nearly 100 protesters calling themselves the Marching Marjorys and dressed as Marjory Stoneman Douglas did during her Everglades crusading days, will high-step in Miami's zaniest parade, the King Mango Strut. They are protesting what an increasing number of Miamians think is a strange idea. The state, which owns the 80-year-old cottage where Florida's most famous conservationist lived and died, has all but decided to chop the bungalow in two and move it from the exclusive Coconut Grove neighborhood to a more accessible garden and tourist attraction in another city. To pay for the cottage's upkeep as a museum, state officials would sell the small parcel that Douglas bought in 1925 to the highest bidder, likely making way for another of the million-dollar homes that now surround her humble home.
"It's a nutty idea," said Glenn Terry, a Grove activist and co-founder of the Mango Strut. "And to think a group of preservationists is behind it."
"It's scandalous," said William 'Toby' Muir, Douglas's personal attorney. "You can't pack history like a suitcase and carry it to another site." Muir is one of the few residents of Stewart Avenue, a narrow, winding street where Douglas wrote her classic book on the Everglades who would like her house to stay right where it is. Historic significance aside, many of Muir's neighbors have spent the last 8 years fighting what they consider a 'grandiose scheme' to turn the cottage into a museum and the adjoining parcel into a research center and office for the Land Trust of Dade County. Not surprisingly, the closer Stewart Avenue residents live to the bungalow, the louder their opposition.
"They can tear it down or move it. I don't care, as long as it's gone," said businessman Richard Grossfeld, who estate across the street is valued at nearly $1.8 million. "This is a residential street, and I do not want an influx of buses or students or an influx of any kind. Would you?"
Thanks to Sheryl Stolzenberg