Town History

It's hard to imagine it now, but what is a lovely community of homes, apartments and a small business district was once a sand-bar in Biscayne Bay.

The Town of Bay Harbor Islands grew from the foresight of Shepard Broad, who came to America from Pinsk, Russia in 1920 at the age of 14. Seven years later, he held a degree from the New York Law School. Mr. Broad practiced law in New York until 1940, when he brought his wife Ruth to live in South Florida.

  Bay Harbor Islands 1959

Young Shepard Broad 1920's

In 1945 Broad acquired two undeveloped mangrove swamp islands, located between the beach barrier island and mainland North Miami. With his own funds and with down payments on the sale of lots, Shepard Broad filled in the islands and watched as Bay Harbor began to spring up. He was joined in the venture by a prominent businessman, the late Benjamin N. Kane, for whom the Town's main thoroughfare was named.

In 1947, the Town of Bay Harbor Islands was incorporated. In 1953, the present municipality was chartered by the Florida Legislature and later that same year approved by the voters of the Town. It is operated under a Council-Manager form of government with seven elected Council members each serving for $1 a year. Shepard Broad was elected the first mayor of the Town and served in that position for 26 consecutive years until his retirement from office in 19


On June 15, 1947, the first building permit was applied for. Within four years, the Town had a population of 550 citizens living in 46 private residences. Today, the Town's population is approximately 5,100. Following through on the concept of zoning Shepard Broad brought to the islands, the 103-acre West Island remains open only to single-family unit development. The 150 acres of the East Island contain multiple-family dwellings and also a small business district to provide Bay Harbor residents with a complete selection of goods and services. In 1951, the Broad Causeway was opened, joining the islands with the mainland of northern Dade County.

Shepard Broad died November 6th, 2001 at the age of 95 in his home on Bay Harbor Islands..