On December 17, 2002, the Village of Pinecrest, with extraordinary grant assistance from the Florida Communities Trust and Miami-Dade County, completed the purchase of Pinecrest Gardens, the historic Parrot Jungle property; a magnificent 14-acre botanical garden located at Red Road and Killian Drive. Pinecrest Gardens was dedicated as a municipal park by the Village Council on March 8, 2003. In 2009, it was designated a department of the Village government.
Pinecrest Gardens received historic designation on October 17, 2011 when the U.S. Department of the Interior placed the property on the National Register of Historic Places.
Parrot Jungle Historic District: This scenic property just south of downtown Miami was at one time an oasis for tropical birds and a getaway for tourists. The district encompasses 15 aces and includes original attractions from the former Parrot Jungle habitat and park. Parrot Jungle was founded in 1936 and was home to animal attractions, walkways, and exotic landscape architecture. The park was renamed Pinecrest Gardens when Parrot Jungle and its animal attractions moved to another site. Pinecrest Gardens still features over 1,000 varieties of rare and exotic tropical plants and palm trees in a native tropical hardwood and cypress setting. Parrot Jungle/Pinecrest Gardens is listed in the National Register for its unique landscape architecture, building architecture, and place in Florida’s tourism and recreation/entertainment history.
Parrot Jungle was founded in 1936 by Franz and Louise Scherr and became a world famous tourist attraction, one of the first and oldest surviving in Florida, whose visitors included Sir Winston Churchill and President Jimmy Carter. The idea for Parrot Jungle began after Scherr, an immigrant from Austria who was a former US Army private and contractor, and who owned and operated a fruit and chicken farm and feed and supply store in Homestead, Florida, became intrigued with the idea of building an attraction where birds would “fly free.”
According to author Cory H. Gittner, the “spark of the idea of a parrot jungle ignited all of Franz Scherr’s qualities at a time when the country was pulling out of the Great Depression”. To bring his vision to life, he rented 20 acres of hammock land for a monthly fee of $25. Parrot Jungle was built as a winding nature trail, now an international model for park attractions, dug through the coral rock and hammock land. All the natural plants were left undisturbed. The original entrance was built on Red Road.
The attraction opened on December 20, 1936, to about 100 visitors, each paying 25 cents admission to see and hear Scherr talk about his birds, trees and flowers. The first month’s rent was made in the first day open to the public. By the end of its first year of operations, the already internationally famous attraction had attracted over 10,000 visitors. Scherr bought the land in 1940 for $5,000 and was almost forced to close the park when audiences dropped to less than 6,000 at the start of WWII.
The park flourished through the years and through new ownership , attracting over one million visitors over 66 years at its Pinecrest location—present day Pinecrest Gardens. In 2002, the attraction moved to a new waterfront location on Watson Island between Downtown Miami and Miami Beach. It was relaunched as Parrot Jungle Island and today is Jungle Island.
Pinecrest Gardens is one of the most significant cultural assets in South Florida and it is a beacon for the residents of the small Pinecrest community serving as a model of excellence in preservation, civic engagement and community building for surrounding communities.