Black History Month

Bahamian Business Pioneer Helped Build Futures in Coconut Grove Neighborhoods

Through hard work, business savviness and dedication to family and community, E.W.F. Stirrup built a legacy that still lasts to this day

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Coconut Grove has gone through many changes over the years since Miami was officially incorporated as a city in 1896. At the time, the population was just over 300 people and many Bahamians where immigrating to America.

Coconut Grove was becoming a destination where they would move. 

There was one Bahamian who came to Coconut Grove with little to nothing. His name was Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup. Through hard work, business savviness and dedication to family and community, he built a legacy that still lasts to this day.

Nestled in the heart of Coconut Grove in Miami stands a two-story yellow and white home along Charles Avenue. This was Stirrup’s home that he built by hand in 1897. 

Stirrup came to America at age 15 in search of a new life. Unable to read or write, he learned carpentry. According to his granddaughter, he worked the pineapple fields during the day and at times was given land in exchange for his work.

“He began building homes on that land,” said Carol Byrd, Stirrup’s granddaughter. “Because he thought the Bahamians coming over to work should be able to bring their families.”

Stirrup built more than a hundred homes, offering affordable housing for African Americans and Bahamians immigrating to South Florida in the early 1900s.

“He did not believe in apartments for individuals,” said Byrd. “He believed that everyone should have their own home.”

Stirrup became a fixture in the community as the first Black developer in South Florida, an entrepreneur and leader.

“He had many other business ventures,” said Byrd. “And it wasn’t about him making money. Wherever he saw a need, he tried to provide that need for his community.”

There is so much history in Coconut Grove and if you look closely, you can start to see some of that past come to life. All around the area are the names and pictures of some of the people who helped make Coconut Grove into what it is today.

“The work that he started still continues,” said Byrd. “There is a family business, Stirrup Properties, and they still own and rent quite a bit of land in Coconut Grove.”

Today, Stirrup’s name can be found on a Miami-Dade public elementary school. His home on Charles Avenue has been designated a historic landmark. 

Just down the street is the Charlotte Jane Memorial Park Cemetery, named after his wife. His seven grandchildren, 25 great grandchildren, 29 great great grandchildren and 11 great great great grandchildren continue his legacy.

“This was a Black man that basically came here with nothing, but still was dedicated to the community and family,” said Byrd. “When he died, he was a millionaire, he was a philanthropist just as much as he was a business person.”

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