Carmen Petsoules / Mary Brickell Collection
Scope and Contents
The collection consists of materials depicting the role of Mary Brickell as one of the “founding mothers” of the city of Miami, Florida. Documents detail her work as a landowner and real estate developer. The materials balance the personal and professional lives of Mary Brickell and her descendants. The collection demonstrates the growth and shaping of Miami, from the founding documents establishing the city of Miami to modern day developments in the Brickell area. The collection also documents the work of local Miami historian Carmen Petsoules and her efforts to revive public awareness of Mary Brickell and have her officially recognized as one of the founders of the city of Miami. The collection includes appraisal reports, architectural plans, bills, estate records, leases, maps, newspaper clippings, personal papers, photographs, property records, research materials, scrapbooks, silverware, tax records, warranty deeds, and wills.
- created: 1837- 2006
- Other: Majority of material found in 1918-1975
- Other: Date acquired: 12/17/2011
- Petsoules, Carmen (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research use.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright restrictions may apply. No part of the materials protected by copyright may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without written permission from the copyright holder. Researchers are required to seek permission from the copyright holder to reproduce and/or publish materials under copyright, in accordance with United States copyright law.
Biographical or Historical Information
Mary Brickell (1836-1922) was a businesswoman, landowner, real estate developer, and is recognized as one of the “founding mothers” of the city of Miami.
Mary Brickell (nee Bulmer) was born on February 20, 1836 in Little Bolton, Lancashire, England, to Joseph and Catherine Bulmer. She was the second oldest of five daughters, and one of six children. The family moved to Australia in 1839 and later purchased land in Albury in 1855.
Mary Bulmer married William Brickell (b. 1825) in Melbourne in 1862 and set sail for the United States as man and wife the next day. William and Mary arrived in New York in September 1862. The couple and their two children moved to Steubenville, Ohio and would settle in Cleveland in 1865. Mary would give birth to three more children in the next four years; two daughters and a son.
Due to a loss of finances, William wanted to move south and cited Mary’s desire to live in a warmer climate. In 1870, he traveled to Florida and became attracted to its natural beauty and warm climate. In December 1871, Mary and the children joined William in the house he had built. The family was one of few white families in the Biscayne Bay area. William and Mary opened a trading post and post office on the south bank of the Miami River. Mary would often work in the trading post while William was away on business trips. The couple notably served Seminole Indians in the area, making fair trades and establishing long relationships.
William and Mary Brickell, along with Julia Tuttle, contributed their land to Henry Flagler and the Florida East Coast Railway. The railroad was a key factor in Miami’s subsequent rapid growth. The City of Miami was incorporated on July 28, 1896 soon after the railroad opened; with Mary Brickell signing the founding documents. William Brickell saw his vision of a railroad in Miami accomplished, but died in 1908 not fully knowing the profits the land would bring. Mary Brickell would take up her husband’s work and became a shrewd real estate developer and manager. Mary made land available incrementally as the city grew, in keeping with her vision of quality and architecturally-appealing homes.
As a woman in the male-dominated business realm, Mary Brickell was resented by many. She was considered controlling, though some admired her keen mind and business sense. Her work as a businesswoman led to the creation of Brickell Hammock (known as “The Roads”), Brickell Park, Brickell Avenue, and other locations. She was also generous with the citizens of Miami as well, giving interest-free loans to minorities and those who could not get loans from banks. Though many never repaid the loans, Mary took no action against them. In her time, she was a respected leader of the Miami community.
On her death on January 13, 1922, Mary Brickell was survived by her six children – Alice, William, Charles, Belle, Maude, and George. The loss was felt throughout the city at the time. Since her descendants did not promote Mary’s work, historians credited the founding of Miami to Julia Tuttle and Henry Flagler. It is only recently that her actions and role as a “founding mother” of the city of Miami have been publicly recognized.
Carmen Petsoules, a local historian, is known for reviving public interest in the Brickell family and campaigning successfully to have Mary Brickell officially recognized as a co-founder of Miami.
Carmen Petsoules (nee Mirta Vidal) was born in Havana, Cuba, on June 17, 1926. She became a secretary to an attorney after graduating from high school. While visiting Miami on holiday, she met James Emmanuel Petsoules. The two married and she moved to Miami and became a U.S. citizen. In 1968, the couple purchased a home in “The Roads” area. A neighbor, Rosemary Peacock, introduced her to the name of Mary Brickell and spoke of the things she did for Miami that no one seemed to remember.
Petsoules began researching Mary Brickell and collecting documents that belonged to the family. She was also responsible for finding the first photograph of Mary Brickell, where beforehand none were thought to exist. Petsoules moved from researching the Brickell family to campaigning for recognition of Mary Brickell’s work. Her campaign efforts led to a bas-relief being installed on the Brickell Avenue Bridge depicting William and Mary Brickell and the preservation of land Mary Brickell donated for the purpose of a public park. In 2006, the city of Miami dedicated a plaque commemorating the sale of the land now known as “The Roads,” again the result of Petsoules’ activism.
The city of Miami has also recognized Petsoules’ efforts, with Mayor Stephen B. Clark declaring December 8, 1995 “Carmen Petsoules Day.” In 1998, Carmen Petsoules was awarded the Henriette Harris Award by the Dade Heritage Trust, Miami’s largest historic preservation organization. Petsoules hopes that her efforts will be continued by a new generation of historians.
Note written by Miriam Kashem
Language of Materials
The collection is organized into eight series: 1. Personal Records, 2. Property Records, 3. Places and Companies, 4. Objects, 5. General Research Materials, 6. Exibit Materials, 7. Maps, and 8. Architectural Plans and Surveys. Each series is further arranged into subseries. Materials are organized by type and further arranged chronologically or alphabetically, depending on subject and type of materials.
Source of Acquisition
Method of Acquisition
Genre / Form
- Florida East Coast Railway
- Miami (Fla.)
- Miami (Fla.)--History--19th century
- Miami (Fla.)--History--20th century
- Miami (Fla.)--Social conditions
- Miami-Dade County (Fla.)
- Carmen Petsoules / Mary Brickell Collection
- Miriam Kashem
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
- Language of description note