Julia Tuttle: the ‘Mother of Miami’

Brooklyn-born, Argentina-raised Julia Tuttle could not have known, when she moved to Miami Beach in 1958, that she would one day be, among many more titles, the “Mother of Miami”. There was no slum…

Brooklyn-born, Argentina-raised Julia Tuttle could not have known, when she moved to Miami Beach in 1958, that she would one day be, among many more titles, the “Mother of Miami”. There was no slum clearance to educate these kids; the aim was to make sure they were fed, educated and integrated. Tuttle launched the Boys Club in 1960 as one of the first, and largest, city-sponsored residential youth centres in America.

“A lot of kids had never seen a field trip,” recalls Tuttle, now 92. “They’d just been shoved into going to school on time. They were trudging along the road, it was raining or sleeting and [Miami Beach police officer] Jimmy Simmons – who had been one of our unpaid mentors back then – said ‘You know, if you’re guys, all you have to do is walk down Ocean Drive, down to Lincoln Road, run a few blocks here, and there are a thousand buildings and fields, and you can always be in a new place if you have a new suit and a new tie.’”

With that seed planted, the Boys Club expanded to its current 26 acres by the early 1970s. By which time, Tuttle had become one of the most respected non-profit activists in the country. The Boys Club produced successful entrepreneurs and became widely recognised as the premier youth-development institution in the region. And, for those arriving years later, the Boys Club became a legacy – and a fortress – for Tuttle’s adherents. “They think it is our city,” says Tuttle. “Because we have so many of them, they want to thank us and give thanks.”

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