Carl Fisher: Father of Miami Beach
Fisher Park, on the bay side of Miami Beach on Alton Road at 51st Street, holds a small monument to the fascinating Carl Fisher, the man most responsible for turning Miami Beach from a mangrove swamp into America’s favorite resort. Before building up Lincoln Avenue into Miami Beach’s first commercial district, Carl Fisher had played an important role in America’s early automotive history. Called the “P. T. Barnum of the Automobile Age,” Fisher made millions through the Prest-O-Lite company, which in the early 1900s developed the first functioning car headlight. Around 1910, he invested this fortune in building and promoting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, then went on to plan and publicize both the Lincoln Highway, America’s first transcontinental road, and the Dixie Highway, the first main north-south route in the eastern United States. He invested heavily in Miami Beach property but was ruined by the Great Depression and the sudden drop in land values. He died here, nearly penniless, in 1939, just as the economy was rebounding and the art deco hotels of South Beach were bringing new life to Miami Beach.