About the Doc Thomas House
The Doc Thomas House, home of Tropical Audubon, is located at 5530 Sunset Dr. just east of Red Road.
History of the Doc Thomas HouseHistory of the Arden Hayes “Doc” Thomas House
The house was built in 1931 at a cost of $4,500. It was designed by Robert Fitch Smith, the first chairman of the Department of Architecture at the University of Miami. The interior and exterior walls are red tide-water cypress. The living room floor consists of random-width boards decoratively pegged with mahogany and separated by walnut strips. The floors in the kitchen, breakfast nook, and bedrooms are Dade County pine. The fireplace incorporates both kinds of limestone found in South Florida: key stone and oolite. Keystone, so named because it underlies most of the Florida Keys, is fossilized coral containing the remains of sea fans and other marine animals. The very porous inorganic limestone, called oolite, underlies Dade County. It is the location of the Biscayne Aquifer, the sole source of our drinking water in South Florida.
Arden Hayes Thomas moved to Dade County in the 1920s from southern Indiana. He was a graduate of Indiana University where he completed his degree in pharmacology and which is the origin of his nickname “Doc”. He initially opened the O.K. Drug Store and the O.K. Feed Store on the north side of Sunset Drive just west of the location of the house. He later moved these to U.S. 1, where the O.K. Feed Store is still located.
Doc Thomas lived in the house, first with his mother Margaret until her death, and then alone until his death in 1975. In 1974 he donated the house and almost 3 acres of surrounding land to the Tropical Audubon Society with the restriction that they be preserved and used for environmental education purposes.
Our environmental education department is now located on the south end of the property. This is the area where Doc originally kept his horses. It was also the headquarters of the South Miami Riding Club for many years. Many children who grew up in this area visited Doc and his horses. They, and his former employees, remember his kind, generous nature and his interest in people. He was also interested in birds and shells and during the latter part of his life became a world traveler. Many of his books and the detailed map of his travels remain, but few of his original possessions.
The restoration, which required the efforts of a ship's carpenter, is completed and contains the headquarters of the grass root organization Tropical Audubon Society Inc., a chapter of the Audubon of Florida and the National Audubon Society. It is a Dade County Historic site.
Each year thousands of visitors enjoy the property. The Environmental Education programs are given to school classes, scout groups, garden clubs and others in the presentation area and in the chickee in the environmental education area. Birthday parties and weddings are also held there.
Tropical Audubon Society intends to maintain the house and to continue the restoration of the grounds so that the wish of Doc Thomas will be fulfilled. It was his desire that they be used for the education and enjoyment of area residents and visitors to South Florida. If you would like to help, donations marked “Doc Thomas Fund” may be sent to Tropical Audubon Society, 5530 Sunset Drive, Miami FL 33143. Call (305) 667-7337 for membership information.