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Duck Key in the Florida Keys

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Duck Key Mecca of the Americas  

Bryan Newkirk, Duck Key deveoper

Bryan Newkirk,  Builder of Paradise

The Newkirk Legacy

More than 45 years ago Duck Key developer Bryan Newkirk, envisioned making Duck Key into the most luxurious resort and prestigious residential area in the Americas.

Prior to becoming a developer Newkirk was a sales manager for George Merrick, founder of Coral Gables.

Newkirk became wealthy by invested his money in oil wells and Canadian gold and silver mines. A native of
North Carolina he went to Canada in 1933 and later chose to became a Canadian citizen.

Bryan Winslow Newkirk was born Dec 18, 1888 at Wilmington, NC, and died in 1966 in London, United Kingdom. He married Lucille Rebecca King on June 18, 1913. Lucille died in 1984.

Bryan Winslow Newkirk

More than 50 years ago Duck Key developer Bryan Newkirk, envisioned making Duck Key into the most luxurious resort and prestigious residential area in the Americas. "Duck Key is the same size as Prince Ranier's kingdom of Monaco," Newkirk liked to tell guests touring the island. His plans for Duck Key seemed just as fabulous. After one such visit in 1959, a guest reporter from the Florida Keys Keynoter headlined the front page,

Coral Gables Developer Wants

Duck Key Mecca of the Americas.

To this end Newkirk devoted his time and efforts unceasingly. The task was formidable and Newkirk's efforts prodigious. Newkirk spent many millions on his vision in the Keys, and the island of Duck Key became the place to which people wanted to go.

Newkirk's involvement with Duck Key began on the golf course of the Riviera Country Club in Coral Gables.

"I was playing with Ted Semple, the City Attorney for Coral Gables," Newkirk told the Miami News, " and he kept harping on this property in the Keys. He was really putting the heat on me to buy it. I couldn't concentrate on my game. Finally, in order to get around the course before dark, I told him to quit talking about it and I'd buy it sight unseen. We agreed on a price of $47,000 and finished the game."

Newkirk visited the uninhabited coral rock island and saw beauty in Duck Key and the possibility for establishing a complete island community. He had his engineers change the natural contours of the island. Low spots were filled with a million cubic yards of fill from the sea bottom and nearby Tom's Harbour. Five small islands were formed and four miles of canals excavated. The rock from the canals was used to brace the outer edges of the fill and to make a ten mile road network.

Newkirk named a number of streets and the yacht basin after family members. The yacht basin sometimes referred to as Yacht Harbor was given the name Lake Lucille after Newkirk's wife Lucille.

Newkirk's Legacy

Bryan Newkirk not only saw the beauty of Duck Key but enhanced it. Newkirk's legacy to Duck Key remains. He gave the island its landscaped stone entranceway, its marvelous arched bridges with their balusters and urns, and its original buildings with their West Indian architecture. It was his idea to build a lagoon for those resort patrons that favored the salt water of the Atlantic in addition to a fresh water pool. He built canals which are free flowing and cleansed with the change of tides, and he surrounded the residential islands with a moat like canal protecting the island homes and vessels from ocean storms by constructing a 60 to 70 foot wide waterway behind a rock revetment or low breakwater.

1958 - The Newkirk Home on Duck Key

Below is the earliest photo of the Duck Key home of Bryan and Lucille Newkirk.

One of the first residential buildings to be constructed on Duck Key was the home of Bryan Winslow Newkirk. The home was designed by architect Alexander Lewis. Images of the the Newkirk home "Trinidad House" and the Administration Building on Duck Key appeared in The Architectural Digest magazine, Volume XV, Number 3 in the fall of 1958. Issues of the The Architectural Digest magazine were not dated in the belief that many ideas in decorating and design would be of "valuable use not only today, but for years to come."

Architectural Digest both then and now deals primarily with interior design, and much less so to the field of architecture. Describing itself as "A Pictorial Digest of Outstanding Architecture, Interior Design and Landscaping", the magazine is published for readers in the upper income brackets and style-conscious.

The images were taken by Ezra Stoller (now deceased) who is recognized as one of the leading American architectural photographer of the 20th century.



The interior of the Newkirk's Trinidad House was decorated by Virginia Costello of Richard Plumer-Miami.

Richard Plumer-Miami (now Richard Plumer Design, Inc. of West Palm Beach, Florida) began in 1925 as a small drapery shop located on NE 40th Street in the Miami Design Plaza. It became a one of the preeminent interior design firms in Florida.

 The Newkirk House changed hands several times after after Mr. Newkirk's death. In the 1980s it was acquired by Brown and Root and was owned by KBR (Kellog, Brown and Root) which joined with Halliburton. It is now the property of Halliburton, and is used as a conference center for Executives.

The Duck Key Halliburton property was rented out to Arnold Schwartznegger  and family during the making of the movie "True Lies". Jamie Lee Curtis stayed in a penthouse in the Indies Inn at Hawk's Cay , and Tom Arnold stayed in one of the Indies Condos.


Newkirk Family and Bryan Newkirk II

Picture to the left are Newkirk's daughter-in-law Mrs. Bryan M. T. Lumpkin Newkirk II and two grandchildren, Eleanor and Elizabeth. The Winnepeg Free Press announced in December 1961 that Granddad Bryan was shopping for a department store to give to his granddaughters for Christmas.

Newkirk's son, Bryan Newkirk II was active in the development of Duck Key until his death in 1955.

A memorial garden was built on Duck Key by his mother, Lucille Newkirk in memory of her son. According to Newkirk's granddaughter, Elizabeth Newkirk Pitts, the garden was behind the nursery building located near the Administration building. The nursery building still exists. It is now used for storage.

The granddaughter related in email in 2005

"Sometime ago I received a call from a resident of Duck Key saying that my dad's memorial garden had been torn for the space to make a profit. That was sad to us. . . .  
    My grandmother, Lucille, and I last visited Duck Key around 1979. In the 1960's we moved around a lot between North Carolina, camp in Georgia and Duck Key via an airplane my grandfather had. He put a landing strip on Duck Key. I spoke to my Uncle - Ed Lumpkin - today and he might be able to add information and he started working on Duck Key early on. He's 86 now but still remembers more than I do about a lot of things."

Ed Lumpkin

A newspaper account from the 1954 January 4 Kingsport News reported that Ed Lumpkin, along with Lucille Newkirk went fishing in the Keys and failed to return.

Three persons reported missing all night in a small boat in the Gulf stream were found safe Thursday by the Miami Coast Guard. The rescued trio — Mrs. Bryan Newkirk, a Coral Gables socialite.
Maj. (retired) Edwin Lumpkin of Athens, Ga., and a servant identified only as John — failed to return Wednesday from a fishing trip in a 14 foot skiff. They were picked up Thursday morning by a commercial fisherman and taken to Grassy Key. . . .


Bryan’s Garden

On Indies Island adjacent to the resort’s employee housing was what appeared to be the vestiges of the garden built as a memorial to Bryan Newkirk II, son of Lucille and Bryan W. Newkirk, developers of Duck Key and the Indies Inn in the 1950s. Bryan contracted polio and died in 1955. Work on Duck Key came to a halt while the Newkirk family grieved and gave serious thought about selling Duck Key. Upon reflecting on all the work their son had done and the vision Bryan had for the island’s future, the Newkirk’s decided to continue building.

Below is a photo possibly of the altar.

Lucile Newkirk and Robert Gene Otto, a well known Key West artist who was interested in architecture and tropical plants, designed the garden and placed a small altar there with a plaque that read:

The kiss of the sun for pardon
The song of the birds for mirth
One is nearer to God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.

The altar remained in a garden setting, but was moved to the tennis garden with the building of the Hawk's Cay villas and an additional resort pool in that area. The plaque was not part of the altar when surveyed in 1991.

Bryan, the son, and Robert Gene Otto are credited with designing Duck Key’s arched Venetian bridges that grace our canals. The bridges with their columned balustrades and matching stonemason-carved railings were topped with concrete ornamental urns, pineapples, and baskets of fruits. According to the minutes of the Duck Key Property Owners Association, the association had to replace 23 bridge ornamentals in 1972.


Early Times on Duck Key

   Granddaughter Elizabeth in an earlier email wrote in the summer of 2005

"My sister and I were present at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of the causeway. My family lived on Duck Key on the weekends after the Administration Building opened and in Coral Gables during the week. It sure was hot and miserable there without air-conditioning and lots of mosquitoes. We lived in several homes on the island until building our home. We were on Duck Key the night of Hurricane Donna because we didn't get information to evacuate until it was too late. Our home was terribly damaged. Along with all the people left on the island, we moved to the Indies House for shelter. Most of the glass was broken out of the walkways between buildings allowing water to pour into the hotel. I can remember going down into the office areas and having to stand on desks to stay dry. That was an unnerving experience . Growing up on Duck Key was a wonderful experience. My brother and sister and I had golf carts to go all over the island . My grandfather got us a pony with a cart. There were many beautiful peacocks which were lost in Hurricane Donna."



One year before Newkirk had his fatal heart attack he was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in New York for income tax evasion involving the sale of $5 million in stock in several Canadian mining companies. Newkirk who had taken on Canadian citizenship refused to answer the endictment. The Winnipeg Free Press quoted Newkirk, "They can go to hell. I'm a Canadian citizen and they can't touch me. I ... won't pay them a penny. This Is character assassination. I couldn't care less about the charge except it smears my

1983 - Lucille Newkirk, wife of Duck Key devloper Bryan Newkirk

Lucille Newkirk survived her husband until 1983. She was 83 years of age and according to the November 17, 1985 Miami Herald lived behind a coral rock wall in a big white house located on seven lots in Coral Gables at 1418 Salzedo St.

The Miami Herald ran an article entitled "GARDENER, GRANDSON VIE FOR INHERITANCE". The substance of the article was that the aged Lucille Newkirk had willed half of her estate to her faithful gardener Purless Merrell. The problem was that Lucille and her husband Bryan had previously signed a trust agreement in 1955 leaving the property to grandson Bryan "Buzzy" Newkirk III. The property was to be turned over to the grandson in 1969 when he became 21 years of age and Lucille could continue to live there.

In 1983, before Lucille Newkirk died she filed suit against her daughter-in-law and an accountant to reclaim the Salzedo property. The suit claimed that Lucille owned the property and that she lost her control of the trust through trickery and fraud. Lucille's attorney also challenged the gifts to the other grandchildren.

Gardener Purless Merrell who Lucille called "Purlie" had been with Lucille for 34 years and tended to her garden, house and property. With age Lucille grew dependent on Purlie and according to Purlie Merrell who was quoted by the Miami Herald

"She'd say, 'This is our place. I can't do without you, Purlie.' And I'd say, 'Well I don't know what I'd do without you,' " Merrell said. . . .

"She asked me to move my family here and live in the garage apartment. But back then, Coral Gables had a law that no black family could stay on the premises with children. So that killed that.

"I used to go everywhere with her. She always introduced me as her family. When she went to the mortuary to make some plans, they asked her who her next of kin was. She said Purless Merrell. That got quite a reaction.

The Miami Herald wrote that as Lucille aged she relied on the gardener to take her everywhere, doctor and lawyer appointment, trips to the hairdresser, and to the grocer.

The attorneys for each side presented their arguments and in 1987 the judge ruled that the grandson Bryan Winslow Newkirk III was the rightful claimant to the property.

The grandson gained the Salzedo lots and home, and other property such as several lots on Duck Key, and a parcel of land in Wilmington, N.C. went to two other grandchildren.

As for gardener Purlie Merrell, one of the attorneys stated Purlie would get around $60,000 in cash. According to the grandson's attorney Lucille Newkirk had already given Purlie title to several oil wells, jewels valued at $25,000, a car, a $25,000 certificate of deposit for one of Purlie's daughters. Purlie is quoted in the Miami Herald as stating that Mrs. Newkirk had given him over the years some "old family linen, mismatched silver now and then, and once, Merrell said, $22,000 in cash she had hidden in a broken television set."



1989 - Newkirk Home in Coral Gables at 1418 Salzedo St.

The Newkirk home on Salzedo Street was demolished in1989. It was built in 1924-25 in an area now designated as the historic “Coral Gables Plantation District.” This district area consists of approximately one hundred blocks in the northern half of the City and encompasses the original Merrick family citrus plantation. The Salzedo Street home was built when Bryan Winslow Newkirk was treasurer of the Coral Gables Corp., the company started by Coral Gables city founder George Merrick.

In 1989 the Miami Herald printed several stories about the Newkirk home. One story entitled, " HISTORIC GABLES HOME'S DEMOLITION LOOMS" described how Newkirk's grandson, Bryan Newkirk III, had made all sorts of attempts to find a buyer who would restore the decaying Spanish colonial revival home that was one of the oldest buildings in Coral Gables. The two story home was surrounded by a large garden, and local historians thought the building had a number of unique architectural elements that warranted preservation. The city and Bryan Newkirk III had negotiated, but Newkirk was forced to sell to a developer who planned to put up apartments on the site.

Bryan Winslow Newkirk's grandson, Bryan Newkirk III, stated he could not pay the taxes on a home in which he didn't reside, and that the Salzedo home would cost between $45,000 to $65,000 to restore.


More about Bryan Newkirk

Duck Key developer Bryan Newkirk, was born in Wilmington, N.C. in 1888. His first job was running errands for a real estate office. Later he worked for the Atlantic Coastline Railroad in the traffic department.

For a time he was an ad solicitor for The Atlanta Constitution. In 1915 Bryan Newkirk moved to the
Montgomery Journal to become Advertising Manager. Newkirk was a popular and successful ad man
in the city of Atlanta. He began in the "classified" department and quickly became one of the ablest
ad salesmen in Atlanta.

Bryan Newkirk in 1915

He moved to Coral Gables, Florida to become part of an automobile agency. In the mid-nineteen twenties, he joined Coral Gables land developer George Merrick and profited from the Florida real estate boom. By 1928 Newkirk had made a fortune. Rather than join Merrick in a move to incorporate their real estate interests Newkirk decided to take his millions north to Canada. In Canada, Bryan Newkirk began promoting mining and mining stocks.

Newkirk lost a considerable part of his fortune during the 1929 stock market crash, yet continued to operate on a reduced basis until 1932. His fortunes improved when he found backers to finance Giant Yellowknife Goldmines, Ltd., one of the richest gold mines in the Northwest Territory.

Bryan Newkirk became a Canadian citizen in 1935.

In 1937 Newkirk again suffered financial losses during another stock market crisis. He started to regain his losses in 1942. It was then that Newkirk started accummulating mining company stock of mining properties in the East Sullivan area of northwestern Quebec. Newkirk became a sponsor of East Sullivan Mines, Ltd. The New York Times quotes Newkirk, "We took it for gold, and after the gold ran out we began looking for copper . . ."

In 1946 Newkirk interests found a rich copper vein and Quebec Copper was born. When copper ran out Newkirk started mining lithium.

In 1947 and 1948, Bryan Newkirk started buying leases in the oil fields of Saskatchewan. The large oil companies were afraid the Saskatchewan oil fields would be expropriated by Government and did not risk buying leases in the area. Newkirk was able to buy the leases cheaply. In 1949 Newkirk obtained a written statement from a friend and high official in the Saskatchewan that there would be no expropriation of oil fields. Publication of the Saskatchewan official's solemn promise caused the worth of Newkirk's oil leases to ascend markedly.

In 1957 Newkirk filed a prospectus for a stock company with the Security and Exchange Commission delimiting his plans for the Florida-Southern Land Corporation development of a "luxury-type island resort community" at Duck Key. The SEC approved the creation of Florida-Southern Land Corporation with 5 million shares with Newkirk owning 60 % of the shares.shar. Four million of the shares were on the over-the-counter market in 1960.

Bryan Newkirk had bought the isle of Duck Key for $25,000 in 1950. By 1960 his company had built more than 9 miles of road and pumped in over 2,500,000 cubic yards to reclaim lowlands. Four miles of canal waterways were dredged out and coral breakwaters created so that ocean facing properties could accommodate yachts. With the dredging of the canals five small islands with many canal front and waterfront properties were also created. These isles, (Harbour Island, Center Island, Plantation island, Yacht Club island and Indies Island) Newkirk connected with high, curving coral rock bridges with ornamental balustrades. The property was platted into residential lots with large sections of Duck Key set aside for country club and yacht club development. Initial plans also called for building a motel on Indies Island and apartment construction on Harbour Island.

Newkirk built himself a home, Villa Trinidad, on Duck Key. He also built an administration building which initially had guest quarters. Later he erected three guest houses for prospective buyers.

In 1958 in Toronto he announced hls decision to resign from active management of almost 60 companies, including the presidency of Faraday Uranium mine which had a thirty million dollar contract with the Canadian Government. He explained ill health as his reason for resigning.

In January of 1960 the Indies House Hotel on Duck Key open. It was built because Newkirk believed he needed a focal point that would draw wealthy folks to look over his properties. To build the Indies House Hotel Newkirk formed the Duck Key Construction Company which employed 400 workers in its construction. The Indies House Hotel was constructed in three section which were connected by glassed-in breezeways. The center section had three floors and the two side wings were two stories high.

The Indies House originally had 100 guest rooms. There were two penthouse apartments. Each guest room had a veranda, brass bedsteads, and paneled walled. The floors of guest rooms were paved with blue and white Cuban tiles and crystal chandeliers hang down over marble tables. The hotel used a color scheme of shades of blue and green which was accented with splashes of orange and white. The lobby had walls hung with bamboo as well as rough woven cloth. See MORRIS LAPIDUS.

Rates for the opening season through April were $20 to $35 a person per day, double occupancy. A single person could obtain a room for $36.

A writer for the Herald Tribune wrote in 1960 describing the pools, "A PLAIN old square pool is a pleasant switch, after a rash of building swimming tanks like kidneys, livers, lungs, and surrealist dreams. Next to it the dredgers have experimented with a giant oval pool with a natural bottom, 20 feet deep, that allows it to fill and empty with the tides." In 2007 the new owners of the" Indies Hotel" now known as Hawks Cay replaced the square pool with a free form configured pool.

Indies House also had tennis courts built by tennis great Don Budge, and there was 9-hole long-iron golf course on hotel grounds. The hotel offered docks, a solarium, a gymnasium, steam and message rooms, a beauty parlor, barber shop, post office, shops, restaurant and a lavishly decorated cocktail lounge.

Guests could get hotel transportation to and from Miami. Greyhound Busses were available every two hours from Miami and National Airlines had a flag stop (plane would stop only on an as-needed basis, that is, only if there are passengers to be picked up or dropped off) in Marathon. For a time Indies House has its own plane and its own air strip. Newkirk would fly his family in and it is believed Roy Cohn used a plane as well on his visits to Duck Key.

The original developer of Duck Key, John Newkirk, through his corporation Newkirk Realty Corp. conveyed all of the property on Duck Key to the Florida Southern Land Corp. as of August 31, 1956. Newkirk was President of Florida Southern Land Corp.


In August of 1960 Newkirk sold the Indies House and 8 adjoining acres to Stacato Enterprises. Joe Stacato was a real estate investor in Los Angelos and Las vegas and also one of the largest importers and distributors of accordians in the US. Newkirk leased back the resort and Stacato's company took over real estate sales. Newkirk's involvement ended shortly thereafter.

After Hurricane Donna damaged the Indies House, the Florida-Southern Land Corporation began to have financial problems.

Sometime around this time Roy Cohn's involvement with Duck Key began.

In 1961 the directors of Florida Southern Land Corp. adopted several resolutions. One of which was to to increase the capital stock of five million shares of a par value of ten cents per share to ten million shares at ten cents per share. Another resolution was to change the name of the Corporation to Florida Southern Corporation.

In 1961 the Indies House is leased to E.A. Stephens for $150,000. Stevens, the owner of the famous Tides Inn of Virginia, purchases the Indies House for $2,250,000 along with the rights to sell lots on Duck Key. Several years passed with no success in selling homesites.

In 1963, Duck Key Inc. was formed by Garvis Kincaid and associates. Florida Southern Corp assetts where then bought Duck Key Inc. for $2,076,455.

A trustee of Duck Key, Inc. in September of 1963 sold the Indies House Inn and sewage system, and water system to Canaveral International Corporation.

For more on the island's ownership and the Indies House Hotel go to Historic Highlights


Newkirk returned to the mining business in 1962, saying: "A man of my age has to stay alert. I simply got tired of playing golf and just eating."

Newkirk died from a heart attack in 1966 while on a business trip to Great Britain. He was 77 years old. At the time he was president of two tin companies and Newkirk Security Ltd.


Some Newkirk Geneology

Developer of Duck Key : Bryan Winslow Newkirk II

Bryan Winslow Newkirk II was born in Wilmington, North Carolina on December 18, 1888.

He had five brothers and sisters.

John Abram,
Mercy - born Dec. 18, 1888, fraternal twin of Bryan
Annie Lois - born November 11, 1891,
Arthur -  born March 10, 1894, died Nov. 18, 1954, aged 60 years
Harry Erwin Newkirk - born Aug. 20, 1896.

Developer Newkirk's parents :

Newkirk was named after his father, Bryan Winslow Newkirk
His mother was Florence Mercer of Brunswick County.
Florence died on Dec. 13, 1896, at the age of age 33 years. With the passing of his wife, Bryan Newkirk I remarried in 1898 to Mary K. Roberts of Morehead City. Mary K. Newkirk died May 6, 1939, aged 73 years.

Bryan Winslow Newkirk II was married in Wilmington on June 18, 1913 to Lucille Rebecca King.
Bryan and Lucille had a son, named Bryan Winslow Newkirk III. The son was born June 7, 1918.


Bryan Winslow Newkirk III: son of developer Newkirk

Bryan Winslow Newkirk III: He married Elizabeth M. T. Lumpkin in Georgia on June 18, 1943. Another account dates the marriage as 1942.Bryan contracted polio and died in Toronto, Canada in 1955. He was burIed In Oakdale Cemetery In Wilmington.


Wife of Bryan Newkirk III

Mrs. Elizabeth Lumpkin Newkirk the wife of Bryan Newkirk IIi died in 1998 in the Lower Cape Fear Hospice Center. She was born in 1918 In Athens, GA, the daughter of the late Edwin King Lumpkin Jr. and Elizabeth Dowdle Lumpkin.

Elizabeth's mother. founded the first garden club in America at her home In Athens. Ga. Elizabeth's great-greatgrandfather, Wilson Lumpkin was a Governor of Georgia Wilson Lumpkin named a Georgia city Marthasville after his daughter, and later the name was changed to Atlanta.
Mrs. Newkirk married Bryan Winslow Newkirk III of TOlOnlO, Can· ada In 1942. Mrs. Newkirk moved to Wllmington and lived here until her death.





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