Fire Destroys One of Stiltsville’s 7 Remaining Homes

Meghan Overdeep
·2-min read
Stiltsville, Florida
Stiltsville, Florida

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A fire has claimed one of Stiltsville's few remaining homes.

Flames consumed the Leshaw House, one of seven homes the make up the historic community of elevated houses built in the middle of Miami's Biscayne Bay, early Monday morning.

Firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze within 10 minutes, but not before the iconic home was destroyed.

"It was made of mostly wood on concrete pilings," Lt. Pete Sanchez, a Miami Fire Rescue spokesman, told the Miami Herald. "The wood caused it to burn quickly and intensely, and there was a lot of wind."

After a search of the structure and the surrounding area, firefighters determined no one was inside the house or in the water. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation by Miami Fire Rescue and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Stiltsville is a famous South Florida landmark accessible only by boat. The homes, situated at least a mile from the shore, stand concrete pilings in the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay.

The homes that are left were originally part of a larger community-at-sea that boasted 27 structures at its peak. The first house at Stiltsville was built by a fisherman named "Crawfish" Eddie Walker in 1933. He reportedly used it to sell bait and alcohol during the prohibition.

According to Atlas Obscura, "fires, hurricanes and too much partying all took their toll on the buildings" and only seven were left standing after Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992.

Today, the remaining structures are cared for by the Stiltsville Trust as part of an agreement with the federal government, which took possession of the bay bottom in 1985. The current owners of the structures are called "caretakers" and they can only improve and fix them. Once destroyed, the homes cannot be replaced.

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Access to the Stiltsville homes, which are popular for weddings and events, requires a permit from the trust.

Bertram Joseph "Chico" Goldsmith Jr., one of the caretakers of the Leshaw House, characterized its destruction as a loss for South Florida.

"I used to take my kids out there, and now my son takes his kids out there," Goldsmith told the Herald. "It's a beautiful place to be."