V. The 20th century and modern French connections

24. Isle of Normandy, Miami-Dade County

After building a chain of movie theaters in Cincinnati, Alsace native Henri Levi (or Levy) moved to Miami Beach in 1922. In 1926, he undertook a two-year project to create Normandy Isle from the natural swampy land mass in Biscayne Bay west of 71st Street (Warner-Meade Island). Levi was also instrumental in the construction of the 79th Street Causeway. Most streets on Normandy Isle were named after French cities and historic architectural landmarks, such as Marseille Drive, Rue Vendome, and Versailles Court.

Isle of Normandy (photo, courtesy of the French Consulate in Miami).

25. The French Heritage Society

Since 1982, the French Heritage Society has been dedicated to protecting the French architectural legacy both in France and the United States, with particular emphasis on raising funds for preservation and education.
The society fosters long-established French-American relationships through cultural exchanges as it strives to ensure that the treasures of our shared heritage will survive to inspire future generations.

Its 13 chapters in the U.S., including one in Palm Beach, have supported the restoration of nearly 500 buildings and gardens. The French Heritage Society organizes unique student internship opportunities in both countries and offers enriching cultural trips in France and the US for its members.

26. Winthrop-King Institute for Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, Florida State University, Tallahassee

Funded by a generous bequest from the estate of Mrs. Ada Belle Winthrop-King in 1997, Florida State University's Winthrop-King Institute for Contemporary French and Francophone Studies is a center for interdisciplinary scholarship on France and the wider French-speaking world. Through its programs of distinguished guest speakers, visiting professors and conferences, together with undergraduate and graduate scholarships, the Institute offers outstanding opportunities for the study of intellectual, artistic, cultural and political developments in France and other French-speaking countries.

The donor, Ada Belle Winthrop-King, was born in 1900 in the small town of Lyons, Georgia. She came to Tallahassee in 1928 to teach Spanish and French at Florida State College for Women. She taught at two different times until 1938. After earning a master's degree at Vanderbilt University, she went to Paris on a scholarship and studied at the Sorbonne. In later years she established the Ada Belle Winthrop-King Endowed Memorial Fund to help students in FSU's Department of Modern Languages experience similar discoveries through travel abroad and other forms of support enriching the French studies program.

27. Institute on Napoléon and the French Revolution

The History Department of Florida State University has been home to an active graduate program in Revolutionary and Napoleonic studies since the early 1960s. The Institute on Napoléon and the French Revolution was formally established in 1990. As an interdepartmental and inter-collegiate program, it has affiliated faculty in the departments of History, Art History, English, Geography and Modern Languages, as well as in the College of Social Sciences, the School of Music, and the Schools of Theater and Visual Arts. Through the Institute's Scholarly Council, graduate students in the program also have access to some of the finest Revolutionary and Napoleonic authorities in the world.

To advance the study of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras, Dr. Ben Weider - author of numerous publications on Napoleonic topics - granted the Institute a major endowment in 1998. Thanks to these funds, matching support from Florida State University, and additional private bequests, students in the program are eligible for full fellowships (including stipend and tuition waiver), as well as funding for research and conference travel in the United States and abroad.

28. '40 and 8 Merci Boxcar'

Originally, the '40 and 8' Merci boxcars were railroad wagons named after the number of men (40) or horses (8) that they were able to carry during WWI and WWII. In 1947, Drew Pearson, a popular newscaster at the time, initiated the rendering of aid to the peoples of both France and Italy. This project produced some $40 million in relief funds, resulting in 700 '40 and 8' rail boxcar loads. This was known as "The American Friendship Train."

As a token of appreciation, the National Headquarters of the French War veterans decided to gather gifts to fill 49 of these '40 and 8' boxcars and send them back to the United States. On Feb. 3, 1949, boxcars for each State and the District of Columbia arrived in New York. Today, Florida's original French '40 and 8' Merci boxcar still stands in the area known as 'The Memorial Box Park' in Holly Hill, Volusia County, and serves as a proud memorial to those who served.

A model of the '40 and 8' merci boxcar (Courtesy of the Holly Hill Historic Society)

29. Florida WWII Monument

This monument at 229 Lake Ella Drive in Tallahassee is actually a marker from "Liberty Way" road in Brou, France, which was included in the '40 and 8' Merci rail boxcar received on Feb. 11, 1949, by Florida Gov. Fuller Warren. The inscription on one side of the monument reads "Merci aux soldats et au peuple Américans" (Fr. "Thank you, soldiers and people of America"). The Sauls-Bridges Post 13 of the American Legion placed the "Liberty Way" road marker at this location in 1998.

Memorial Merci aux soldats et au peuple Américans at the Sauls-Bridges Post 13 of the American Legion, Lake Ella (Photo by Eman M. Vovsi)

30. Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart

The Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart is a Catholic college preparatory day school for girls founded in 1961 in Coconut Grove, Miami, on the site of El Jardin, which was originally built in 1918. It is part of a network of schools organized by Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat (1779-1865), a French founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart (est. 1800). Her follower, Saint Philippine Duchesne, in 1818, became the first missionary of the Society to come to the United States and helped to found the first six Sacred Heart schools. Today, Carrollton educates to an informed lively faith, critical thinking and service to others.

31. Lake Wales National Park

St. Anne des Lacs was a rural shrine built around 1923 by French-speaking Catholics on Lake St. Anne, located about six miles east of Lake Wales, Polk County. The shrine once included the church and an elaborate set of statuary which made up the Stations of the Cross. A statue of St. Anne stood in the Lake itself on a raised stone platform, creating a very solemn, peaceful scene.

32. EPCOT – a little piece of France

The France pavilion (World Showcase within Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort) is themed to look like a Paris neighborhood somewhere near Montmartre or the Haussmann Boulevard, with fountains and a view of the Eiffel Tower at a distance. Most of the shops on the streets are actual shops, selling French goods, such as freshly baked bread and pastries, the famous Cognac "Napoléon" and Chardonnay wine (Les Vins De France), the parfume (Plume Et Palette) and other items. The pavilion also includes several eateries – Chefs de France, Bistro de Paris and Au Petit Café, serving primarily exquisite French cuisine.

33. Modern architectural designs

The French-American architect, Yann Weymouth, who worked with the famous Ieoh Pei on the Louvre glass pyramid in Paris, designed expansions for the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art (Sarasota), built the Alliance Française building (2008, Miami), and the Salvador Dali Museum (2011, St. Petersburg).

Related links:

  1. Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution

  2. The French Heritage Society

  3. 1940s Merci car boxes

  4. Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart http://www.carrollton.org/page.cfm?p=425

  5. Henry B. Plant Museum

  6. Polk County (St. Anne des Lacs)

  7. HOK article on the Alliance Française building in Miami

Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources
Tallahassee, 2012