A Garden Collection in Redland, Florida
The Fruit & Spice Park was the realization of one woman’s vision to create a showcase for the rich agricultural bounty and heritage of the area known as Redland. Mary Calkins Heinlein came from a family of pioneer homesteaders in Redland which got its name from the reddish color of its soil. Redland became the first lasting settlement of South Dade County as its sub-tropical climate created a unique agricultural environment able to produce a wide variety of exotic fruit. An 1896 newspaper stated that farmers in South Dade were producing “avocado pears, mangos, sapodillas, pa paw (papaya), lemons, limes, etc.” These were just some of the sub-tropical fruits and plants Mrs. Heinlein felt would provide a unique garden display.
In 1935, at Mrs. Heinlein’s urging, county commissioners and pioneer Parks Director A.D. Barnes began a series of transactions to purchase an 18-acre parcel of land site on the southeast corner of Coconut Palm Drive and Redland Road in the Redland. County Commissioner Preston B. Bird was instrumental in securing funds and the land was acquired in 1943. With the backing of Parks Director Barnes, Mary Heinlein could finally begin realizing the creation of a garden collection of semi-tropical fruits.
The County’s Park Department contracted William Lyman Philips, landscape architect and designer of the world-famous Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, to develop landscape plans for the newly purchased land. The plans for what was to become the garden park were completed in 1944 and construction began that same year. Parks Director Barnes recognized Mary Heinlein as the driving force that inspired the creation of the park, and appointed her the first Superintendent.
The Preston B. Bird and Mary Heinlein Fruit & Spice Park
Mary Calkins Heinlein (1903-1975) served as Superintendent of what she named the Redland Fruit & Spice Park until her retirement in 1959.
The daughter of pioneer sub-tropical farmers, Mrs. Heinlein was fascinated with the exotic fruits and flora of South Florida. She was an active garden club member and she and her husband Herman owned a small nursery in the Redland.
Following William Lyman Phillips’ landscape plans, Mrs. Heinlein and her husband led a team of laborers and park workers in laying out the plots of collected specimens to plant in the Park. The collection grew and soon a variety of rare fruits, nuts and spices flourished.
In 1980, as a tribute to Preston B. Bird and Mary Heinlein, the Miami-Dade County Park and Recreation Department gave the Park the official name of Preston B. Bird & Mary Heinlein Fruit & Spice Park, but due to the length of the name it is referred to as the Fruit & Spice Park.
Fruit & Spice Park Today
Today, the Fruit & Spice Park is a 37-acre subtropical paradise nestled in the heart of the historic Redland community just 35 miles south of Miami. Surrounded by thousands of acres of tropical agriculture, the Park is a jewel in South Florida’s agricultural community attracting over 50,000 visitors a year to its gardens and festivals. More than 500 varieties of exotic fruits, herbs, spices and nuts from around the world; 180 varieties of mangos; 70 varieties of bamboo; 40 varieties of bananas; 15 varieties of jackfruit trees and numerous other exotic edibles are grown and maintained here.
The only public garden of its kind in the United States, the park is operated by the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department. Visitors can sample fallen fruit (no above-aground harvesting is permitted) and arrangements can be made with the management for collecting seeds and cuttings suitable for planting. A staff of experts conducts classes, workshops and botanical tours on a year-round basis.
Visit our herb and vegetable garden, stroll through the shady banana groves and wonder at the majesty of the African Baobab trees. Spend an hour or an entire day at the Fruit & Spice Park for a tastefully exotic experience.
In addition to the gardens, the Park also maintained and showcased two original historic structures: the original one-room Redland Schoolhouse built in 1906; and a coral rock building built around 1913 as a laboratory for citrus canker research. In 1982, Redland resident Fran Mitchell donated another historic home to the Park. Due in large part to the efforts of Redland resident Robert Jensen, the 1902 historic structure was moved to the Park from its location eight miles away. Named the Bauer-Neill Mitchell House, it was preserved as an example of a typical Redland Pioneer home. The home was landscaped with archetypical plants and fruit varieties.
The Redland area’s significance as a South Dade pioneer settlement was officially recognized in 1981 and the Park, the Redland Community United Methodist Church and several surrounding homes were designated as the Redland Historic District.
In 1992, Hurricane Andrew caused extensive damage to the Park garden and the historic buildings. The storm destroyed tree canopy, planting beds, irrigation, fencing, the nursery and two of the historic buildings. Only the coral rock building survived the storm despite broken windows and roof damage. The Redland Schoolhouse and the Bauer-Neill-Mitchell House were completely destroyed.
Using funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, facsimile reconstruction of both buildings was completed in 2002. The new park store and Welcome Center moved into the schoolhouse and the Mango Café in the Bauer-Neill-Mitchell House was reopened.