Timeline: Tropical Audubon Society and the Doc Thomas House

Note: Content set in italics provides historical reference.

Compiled by Dan Jones

1785: John James Audubon (1785-1851) is born on April 26 in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, later known as Haiti. Original name was Jean Rabin; in France, he is renamed Jean-Jacques Audubon. (In the U. S.A. he becomes known as John James Audubon.)

1831 - 1832: John James Audubon travels in Florida, visiting Saint Augustine in Winter 1831 and the Florida Keys/Cape Sable in Spring 1832.

1896: First continuously-operating Audubon Society is established in Massachusetts (now known as Mass Audubon).

1900: Florida Audubon Society is formed. Kirk Munroe, of Coconut Grove, is a founding vice-president.

1901: Florida Legislature passes the state’s first bird protection law. National Committee of the Audubon Societies is established.

1902: Upon the recommendation of Kirk Munroe, Guy Bradley of Flamingo is appointed to the position of game warden/Monroe County deputy sheriff to enforce Florida’s new bird protection law in the Everglades area. Bradley’s position is eventually funded through the National Association of Audubon Societies.

1905: Guy Bradley, in the performance of his duties, is shot and killed at Oyster Keys by Walter Smith. Bradley was attempting to arrest Smith’s son, Tom, for killing plume birds in the Oyster Keys rookery. Monroe County accepts Walter Smith’s claim of self-defense although Bradley’s gun had not even been fired.

Thirty-five state Audubon societies incorporate as National Association of Audubon Societies for the Protection of Wild Birds and Animals (Simplified to National Audubon Society in 1940.)

1915: On April 16, Coconut Grove Audubon Society (originally spelled Cocoanut Grove) is born at a meeting held in the auditorium of the Coconut Grove public school. Kirk Munroe chairs the meeting. His wife, Mary Barr Munroe, is elected the society’s first president, a position she holds until her death in 1922. This is the first local Audubon society in Dade County and the direct antecedent of Tropical Audubon Society (TAS).

1916: Royal Palm State Park is established, a longtime goal of the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs and a project of the recently formed Coconut Grove Audubon Society. This site will become the nucleus of an eventual Everglades National Park.

1918: A Miami Audubon Society is formed on January 7; the two local societies often collaborate with each other on projects and social activities. A few women were members of both groups. Each organization was affiliated with the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs, Florida Audubon and the National Association.

1925-1926: Arden Hayes Thomas (1887-1975) moves from Indiana to the Larkins/South Miami/High Pines area in 1925; opens his O. K. Drug Store in 1926 on Sunset Drive (technically, in Coral Gables) and later adds a feed and seed business. He becomes known in the community as “Doc” Thomas.

1931-1932: Doc Thomas commissions Robert Fitch Smith to design a frame house for his High Pines property; house is completed in 1932.

1939: A second Miami Audubon Society is established on June 17 as a chapter of Florida Audubon. (The original Miami Audubon Society had apparently become defunct at some point.)

1941: Doc Thomas finishes moving his stores to S. Dixie Highway.

1942-1946: Due to the United States’ involvement in World War II, the Coconut Grove Audubon Society becomes inactive.

1946: Miami Audubon Society changes its name to Miami Bird Club on November 18.

1947: “On January 21, 1947, a group of [33] conservation-minded men and women gathered at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Marvin D. Adams in Coconut Grove for the purpose of forming a new branch of the National Audubon Society. This infant organization became the Tropical Audubon Society ... Mrs. A. B. Wade, last president of Coconut Grove Audubon Society, turned over to Tropical the funds and valuable library of the pioneer organization.” (Florida Bird Life, 1954, by Alexander Sprunt, Jr.)

The Everglades: River of Grass, by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, is published.

On December 6, President Truman dedicates Everglades National Park.

1968: TAS supports U. S. Congress’s creation of Biscayne National Monument to protect lower Biscayne Bay. It is signed into law by President Johnson in October, effectively blocking the proposed SeaDade and Islandia projects. (In 1980, Biscayne National Monument becomes Biscayne National Park.)

1968-1969: TAS is one of the founding members of the Everglades Coalition.

1972: President Nixon declares federal protection of Big Cypress Swamp, which prevents continued construction of the Everglades Jetport. Joe Browder, a former TAS vice-president and regional representative of National Audubon Society, leads this effort. (Alice Wainwright serves as TAS president during many of these critical, environmental battles of the late 1960s and early 1970s).

1973: FPL completes construction of a large-scale, closed-cycle cooling canal network adjacent to Turkey Point nuclear plant. TAS had supported this action to further protect lower Biscayne Bay.

1974: Arden Hayes “Doc” Thomas wills his 1932 wood frame house and 2.2 acres of his High Pines property to TAS in a life estate deed. Thomas executes the deed on December 30; TAS representatives accept and co-sign the deed on December 31.

1975: On December 31, exactly one year after the life estate deed was executed, Thomas passes away.

1976: Tropical Audubon Society occupies the Doc Thomas House and property. On March 30, TAS dedicates a memorial plaque honoring Guy Bradley at Flamingo in Everglades National Park.

1977: Following the May 15 annual meeting, a plaque in memory of Arden Hayes Thomas is dedicated at the Doc Thomas House.

1982: Doc Thomas House is identified as a Dade County Historic Site.

2001: After years of public debate, TAS and other conservation groups succeed in preventing the conversion of Homestead Air Reserve Base into an airport for commercial aviation. Both the United States Air Force and Department of the Interior agree that the adverse environmental impacts would be too great.

2012: The Alan Steinberg Nature Center is dedicated on the TAS grounds. The center includes remnants/re-creations of both pine rockland and subtropical hardwood hammock ecosystems.

2014: In June, the Doc Thomas House earns a coveted listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

2015: On April 16, TAS celebrates the Centennial of Audubon societies in Miami-Dade County with a program at HistoryMiami Museum.

2016: An official Florida Historical Marker is approved and placed in the front yard of the Doc Thomas House, now designated a Florida Heritage Site. The marker dedication/unveiling ceremony is held on October 14.