History of Association
Since 1968, the Sky Lake – Highland Lakes Area Homeowners Association has promoted the quality of life for residents as a volunteer, membership organization. Some of our accomplishments include: The purchase of land by Miami-Dade County Parks & Recreation to create what we now know as Highland Oaks Park; The installation of sound barriers between I-95 and our Highland Gardens subdivision; The covenant that maintained the golf course and created what we now know to be the single family home community of Presidential Estates as opposed to high density condominiums; Stopped a theme park from being built on the old Ojus landfill; Advocating for the County and School Board to acquire a site for a new area park and school complex. Dr. Michael M. Krop High School now stands on that site; Advocating for new school construction to address overcrowding in the Feeder Pattern schools. The annex at the old K-Mart site in the California Club Mall and Aventura Waterways K-8 schools were constructed to relieve the overcrowding at the Elementary schools in the neighborhood, Highland Oaks Middle School and Dr. Michael M. Krop High School; Addressing the traffic issues that come with all of the schools located in the neighborhoods.
Our community is located at the Northern border of Miami-Dade County where Interstate 95 meets Ives Dairy Road. Ives Dairy Road is the main Interstate access road for the City of Aventura and the oceanfront Cities of Sunny Isles Beach and Golden Beach.
The Homeowners Association is open to all homeowners residing in the area between County Line Road to the north, Miami Gardens Drive to the south, I-95 to the west, and to the east W. Dixie Highway. There are many smaller neighborhoods that fall within the boundaries of the Association, such as Oak Forest, Enchanted Lakes, Coventry and the private communities of Presidential, The Chateau, and Oak Hammock.
The following lakes located throughout the community: Highland Lake, Sky Lake, Sunswept Lake, Greyknoll Lake, Enchanted Lake, Raintree Lake, Sparling Lake, Oleta Lake, Highland Oaks Park Lake and the Oleta River.
The Ojus Focus is a part of a larger area described here as the Sky Lake – Highland Lakes Area, which is bounded on the north by County Line Road, on the south by Miami Gardens Drive, on the west by NE 18 Avenue and on the east by the F.E.C. railroad tracks. A portion of this Ojus Focus Area extends slightly beyond the southern boundary of the larger Ojus Area encompassing an area of approximately 76 acres bounded on the north by Miami Gardens Drive, on the south by the intersection of the Oleta River and the F.E.C. railroad tracks, on the west by the eastern shoreline of the Oleta River, and on the east by the F.E.C. railroad tracks.
OJUS: A HISTORICAL OVERVIEW
Ojus is a Seminole term meaning Place of Plenty. Accordingly, to lore, Albert Fitch, who farmed in Ojus in the late nineteenth century, gave it that name. Historically, the area/settlement known as Ojus stretched from County Line road in the north to Miami Gardens Drive south, west to northeast Eighteenth Avenue and east to the sparkling waters of Biscayne Bay. Today, its borders are constricted, especially on the east with the tracks and right-of-way of the Florida East Coast Railway, lying between the West Dixie Highway and Biscayne Boulevard, serving as the eastern boundary. Just east of there is the upscale municipality of Aventura, hugging the precious area that once represented Ojus’s window on the bay.
According to archaeological evidence, the Tequestas Indians inhabited the area which today comprises ojus as early as 500 BC. The chief waterway of these hunters and fishermen in the North-East part of the county was the Oleta River. This river allowed them passage into the interior from Biscayne Bay.
The Oleta River is the primary physical feature of Ojus. Meandering in a northwesterly direction from Biscayne Bay into the former westlands that a few miles west of Ojus, the Oleta River served as a major drainage basin, and was a year round entry into the swampland for Indians and other travelers. Tequestas lived along the banks of that waterway.
Historical information on Ojus is sparse until the era of the Second Seminole War, fought between American forces and Seminole Indians, members of the Creek Nation, who entered Florida at the outset of the eighteenth century at the invitation of the Spanish. By then, Florida had been a Spanish possession for nearly 150 years. More than one century later, the United States purchased Florida and began preparing it for statehood. The Second Seminole War, the longest, bloodiest war between Native Americans and the United States, was fought primarily over the issue if Indian removal to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River to Indian County, a region corresponding to today’s Oklahoma and a portion of Arkansas. After the United States Army moved into Ojus, it was renamed Big Snake Creek. American forces used Big Snake Creek to travel south into Miami-Dade County from Loxahatchee and other points north of there.
Little is known of the Ojus area in the decades immediately after the conclusion of the Second Seminole War with the possible exception of road building activity, as a portion of the Military Road, which connected Fort Dallas on the Miami River with the New River in Fort Lauderdale, was constructed through the region. In the last two decades of the nineteenth century, farmers were cultivating a wide variety of crops all along the east coast of southeast Florida, one of the nation’s last frontiers. Many were homesteaders who acquired 160 acres from the federal government for a nominal sum. At that time, many persons were farming along the Oleta River in today’s Ojus. One of their principal crops was pineapple. Additionally, white settlers were trading with the Miccosukee Indians who lived in the nearby Everglades. One of the prime venues for this trade was an Indian trading post located near today’s Greynolds Park. The Indians traded Alligator eggs, skins, and meat, as well as egret plumes, otter hides, and coontie starch to the trading post in exchange for manufactured items.
The fortunes of Ojus and all of southeast Florida changed dramatically with the entry of Henry M. Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) into Miami in 1896. Henceforth, farmers possessed a regular conveyor to move crops to market. The FEC Railway built a depot south of today’s Miami Gardens Drive. It served as an important pickup point for produce area farmers were sending to market.
By 1898, Ojus contained a general store operated by J.W. Ives, one of the community’s leading members, a school, and a growing number of farmers. One observer noted that Ojus, at that time, came into prominence as a vegetable and fruit growing station. J.W. Ives boasted No section in the east coast of Florida has a brighter future than Ojus. Certainly there is no section that can boast of better fruit or vegetable lands. Pinelands and praries, both sand marl, are equal to the best growing vegetables.
Ives store became a center of Ojus. In 1904, in fact, it contained the communitys one telephone. It was also venue for trade, socializing, and the issuance of the latest information on community activities, as well as those of settlements north and south of Ojus.
Joining agriculture, as a major enterprise at the dawn of the new century was a county convict camp sitting midway between Ojus and Fulford, located about one mile south of the former. The appearance of the convict camp coincided with an epidemic of road building throughout Miami-Dade County, an activity assisted by the passage if a bond issue for $100,000. Since may considered the limestone found in Ojus to be harder, and therefore superior, to that found anywhere else in Dade County, The settlement became attractive to business there. Ethan Blackman held that Ojus rock differed from rocks in the other parts of the county. It has become the most popular rock for road building,said Blackman. And it is used largely for surfacing roadways.Indeed, crushed rock, quarried by convict laborers, was employed in numerous county road building projects, even finding its way as far north as West Palm Beach.
Rock quarrying and farming continued to dominate the economy and much of the activity in Ojus in the early decades of the twentieth century. At the same time, dairies, situated west and northeast of the community, appeared; many were located in former Everglades swampland, as drainage of the River of Grass, beginning in the early 1900s, freed up large tracts of land. A major element in the economic development of Ojus was E P Maule Company, which moved to the community from Palm Beach County in 1913. Maule Lake, the companys rock quarry , eventually spread over 174 acres of eastern Ojus. Two hundred men were employed with Maule, which shipped fifty to sixty carloads of rock daily to market by train. Maule created a company town that included apartments for employees, a general store, and movie theatre. Making travel easier between Maule Lake and a growing number of rock quarries that followed its opening was the completion in 1915 of the West Dixie Highway, which coursed through Ojus on a parallel path to the railroad tracks. The highway connected Florida and other parts of the South with the northern and Midwestern United States; in the years that followed its entry, the West Dixie Highway became a major access highway for visitors to the Sunshine state.
At the outset of the Roaring Twentie Ojus counted 538 residents, a figure significantly larger than that of the nearby communities of Fulford and Arch Creek. The 1920s brought more business, most connected with rock and concrete block manufacturing. By the mid-1920s, eight block plants were in operation in Ojus. The development of port facilities in the City of Miami and in parts of Broward County created an increasing demand for building supplies. While stone quarrying was important to the communitys economy, farming remained its mainstay, although the drying of the prairies led to a sharp decline in truck farming. Tomatoes, red clover, corn and oats represented crops, as did various citrus fruits, and pineapples.
The great real estate boom that swept Miami, south Florida, and much of the rest of the state in the mid-1920s was also felt in Ojus. New subdivisions, with names like bungalow, Springfield, Ojus Park, and Hallandale Park, opened. Many of the homes constructed in that era bore the Mediterranean Revival style of architecture. New businesses, but especially lumberyards, appeared to answer the growing need for building materials during the boom.
On April 29, 1926, Ojus incorporated as a town in a contentious incorporation election. The margin in favor of incorporation was 69-67. The new mayor won by just one vote! At the incorporation meeting, the new municipalitys boundaries were set. Ojus stretched between todays County Line Road (Northeast 215 Street) in the north to Miami Gardens Drive on the south; the eastern border was marked by the Atlantic Intercostals Waterway, found in Biscayne Bay near the shoreline; to the west, the new town stretched to Northeast Eighteenth Avenue. The Ojus Town Hall was located in a two story building on Miami Gardens Drive, just west of the FEC Railway tracks. The building also contained a fire station and a one-cell jail. By then, a town center had developed around the intersection of Miami Gardens Drive and West Dixie Highway.
The boom collapsed in 1926, when prospective land purchasers became scarce and construction slowed dramatically. A mighty hurricane smacked into Greater Miami in September 1926, worsening its economic problems. The entire state was, by then, mired in an economic depression. Like communities elsewhere in Florida, Ojus found itself saddled by debt in that era, leading to its bankruptcy in 1931 and the dissolution of the municipality five years late owing to its inability to collect taxes. Even in the hard times that followed, new subdivisions appeared in Ojus.
Tom Reems, who arrived in Depression-era Ojus in 1934 has described it vividly. The community contained three grocery stores, one hardware store, and two filling (gasoline) stations. It also claimed three churches and a superb baseball team, whose games drew many enthusiastic residents following Sunday services. The baseball diamond stood behind Ojus Elementary School, situated near Miami Gardens Drive and West Dixie Highway. Everyone who was fortunate enough to have a job worked hard at it. FEC Railway trains stopped regularly at the depot southeast of the former town hall, though few tourists exited at ojus. East of the railroad tracks stood a flourishing, segregated community.
The era of the Great Depression was also important in Ojus and nearby areas for the creation of Greynolds park. A.O. Greynolds of Palm Beach County, who owned a rock business, donated 195 acres along the Oleta River to Dade County for a park in 1933. Two years later, H.B. Graves donated another fifty-six acres. In 1935, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) created a park on this acreage. The CCC covered the sites old abandoned machinery, which included a rock crusher to create the popular mountain which remains a singular feature of the park.
The postwar era, however, brought with it construction of may new residential subdivisions, as the region and the entire nation experienced a great boom. Building throughout Ojus remained steady in the decades that followed, though condominium construction increased dramatically in the late 1960s. In recent decades, Ojus, which is nearly completely built out, has grown more slowly than other areas of Miami-Dade County, and, in a sense, it has been consumed by the megalopolis that is todays Greater Miami-southeast Florida. Indeed, its population has declined from the more than 17,300 to just 15,500 in the decade between 1980 and 1990. Additionally, the historical eastern sector of Ojus has been transformed in the upscale communities of Aventura and Williams Island, among others.
Todays Ojus possesses little of its rural past, yet it contains hints of the small, independent community that it once was, especially around the intersection of Dixie Highway and Miami Gardens Drive. Even with this loss, Ojus can still claim a rich history, one that will, hopefully, remain even after its small number of pioneer-chroniclers, pass away. This richness stems from the fact that it was a separate, distinct community, which with its farming element, was similar to countless other homesteading/railroad communities. Ojus flourishing rock excavation industry, however, set it apart from other homesteading communities. The countys present plans for Ojus will, it is hoped, enhance it economically, while underlining its historical uniqueness and, thereby, instill a renewed pride in the settlement by the Oleta River.