A Proud Community is Born of Faith, Strength, and Unity.”
Located approximately 15 miles southwest of downtown Miami, the original Richmond Heights development was created at the end of World War II for returning black veterans by Capt. Frank C. Martin, a white Pan American pilot. Housing for black people was substandard and un-affordable during this time because of racial segregation in the United States.
It is said that Martin served with black soldiers during World War II, observing the many obstacles created for them by war and racial prejudice. After leaving the service, he formed Richmond Development and consulted with a local advisory committee of black leaders about his dream of a housing development. Richmond Heights, constructed between 1949 and 1950, would become the first private development in Miami-Dade County established exclusively for black African-American World War II veterans. It is among the first planned black African-American communities in the nation.
U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Luther H. Wallace and his wife Mary were the first to purchase a home in the newly developed community. However, George and Betty Swain were the first families to actually move into the neighborhood, because Luther was still on active duty, while the rest of the family resided in Coconut Grove. The veterans that purchased a home in Richmond Heights in 1949 were: Walter Bethel, Richard G. Bullard, Barfield Burch, Lee M. Burton, John E. Byrd, Warric R. Ferguson, Johnnie Henderson, Grady Holloway, James C. Holmes, Samuel E. Hutcheson, Livingston James, Willie H. Johnson, Dewey E. Keese, Buchie McCray, Spencer N. Murray, Oliver A. Page, Willie L. Pearson, William R. Phillips, Jr., Henry Prince, Albert D. Sample, George E. Swain, Gladston L. Taylor, Luther H. Wallace, James W. Wanza , Earnest White, Sr., and Stephen Worthy. The original families were mostly working-class people whose skills and community spirit sustained “The Heights.”
They provided the goods and services including barber shops, beauty shops, drug store/ pharmacist, grocery store and a flower shop.
On May 26, 2014, in honor of the 26 families who became the first to purchase property in the new development, The Richmond Heights Pioneers Monument, located on Lincoln Boulevard and Madison Street, was dedicated. Dinizulu Gene Tinnie of Kuumba Artists Collective of South Florida was the artist and Designer.
In January 2015, Lynette Wallace assumed responsibility for seeking historic designation for their parents’ home and several other original houses. She began the process by contacting the Miami-Dade Historic Preservation Office. Historic Preservation Planner Sarah Cody discussed the request with Kathleen Slesnick Kauffman, the county preservation chief. After Wallace’s 2015 request, material from the families was reviewed, staff compiled research, a general survey of the neighborhood made, and properties were evaluated against established criteria. It was then determined that a district would be more appropriate than designating individual properties.
On July 20, 2016, the Miami-Dade Historic Preservation Board passed Resolution No. 2016-08 approving the designation of the Richmond Heights Historic District. The Richmond Heights Historic District is located on Monroe Street and bounded by Carver Drive to the north and mid-block between Graham Drive and Southwest 152 Street to the south.
The historic designation allows the preservation of “cultural heritage and historic resources for future generations; establishes a context for future development; encourages green building practices and sustainable growth, and provides economic development through heritage tourism.
CAPTAIN FRANK C. MARTIN
The Richmond Heights residents are proud to proclaim their heritage and to honor the exceptional leadership of founder and developer Captain Frank Crawford Martin for his efforts in creating a quality housing development for African American World War II veterans in 1949. Capt. Martin was born in Missouri in 1907 but grew up as a cowboy in Wyoming. His family relocated to Miami in 1926 to seek their livelihood in the Florida construction boom. In 1928, he left school at the West Point Military Academy to join Pan American Airways in Miami as a mechanic. Four years later, he became a pilot for Pan Am.
Capt. Martin first saw the Richmond Heights vicinity in 1938 from the air while instructing pilots for Pan Am. After scanning the area while searching for high, dry ground, he secured options to buy the land, picking up pieces one at a time. He cleared 100 acres between SW 117th Street and Lincoln Boulevard on land that was part of his original papaya grove.
In 1948, he retired from Pan Am so he could devote his time to developing the Richmond Heights-a planned community for African American veterans and their families. Building began in 1949. From the start, Capt. Martin demanded quality construction for the homes. He added sidewalks, a water system and helped establish a branch post office, among many other accomplishments. He was also a great believer in education and generously donated land for a school, two churches and parks.
Unfortunately Capt. Martin did not live to see the ultimate fulfillment of his plans. He died in a car accident on May 23, 1951, in central Florida. He left behind his wife, Mary Carroll Martin and a 13-year-old son, Frank Carroll Martin. Eventually, his wife sold the business and construction resumed several years later. Capt. Martin’s goal of an ideal middle-class community for African Americans lives on today in Richmond Heights.