Biscayne National Park | STILTSVILLE

Bay Chateau, one of six houses still standing in Biscayne National Park's Stiltsville

Bay Chateau, one of six houses still standing in Biscayne National Park’s Stiltsville

Stiltsville is a collection of houses built on stilts in Biscayne Bay. It is located in the northernmost section of Biscayne National Park, much closer to Miami than to the Dante Fascell Visitor Center in Homestead. If you don’t have a boat, you can still visit Stiltsville on the Stiltsville Guided Historic Tour operated by the Biscayne National Park Institute. The tour is held on Thursdays through Sundays during the winter tourist season. Check out the Guided Tours and Excursions web page here on National Park Planner for more information on this and other tours offered.

Back in the 1930s, some people had the idea to build houses on stilts about two miles out into Biscayne Bay where the water is really shallow. This grew into a big tourist attraction with restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, many of which were running illegal services. Some guys even dragged old barges and yachts out to the shallow waters and grounded them, turning them into clubs. Starting in the 1960s, Florida put a stop to new construction in the bay, and over the years all but six houses have been wiped out by disasters. At the high point there were 27 buildings standing at one time.

Starting in the 1980s when Biscayne National Monument was enlarged to include the land occupied by Stiltsville (the monument’s name was changed to Biscayne National Park at this time), the National Park Service resolved to have the remaining houses removed by 1999. However, the houses were owned by wealthy and well connected individuals, and a political battle unfolded that took the rest of the century to resolve. An agreement was finally reached in 2003 that allowed the houses to remain provided the owners allowed them to be used for civic and educational functions such as hosting school and scout groups. The Stiltsville Trust was set up to oversee the issuance of permits, and today anyone can get a permit to hold an event at one of the houses. See the Stiltsville Trust website for information on getting a permit.

Stepping foot on any of the houses at Stiltsville is illegal unless you have a permit. However, this does not stop people from doing so (most likely due to ignorance), and there are often boats docked at the various structures. When the actual owners are visiting, they fly a flag. No flag means the people there are trespassing.

There was one caveat in the agreement to let the houses remain: if a structure is damaged by more than 50 percent, it must be torn down and all remnants removed at the owner’s expense. After Hurricane Andrew hit the area in 1992, there were only seven houses remaining. There are now but six; the Leshaw House was destroyed by fire on January 11, 2021. However, the damage assessment is not limited to the house itself, but to the entire structure, including the pylons that the house was built on. Thus, if the pylon structure makes up more than 50 percent of the total structure and it can still support a house, it is possible that a new house can be built. At the time of this writing (March 2021), no decision on the fate of the Leshaw House has been made.

Remains of the Leshaw House in Biscayne National Park's Stiltsville

Remains of the Leshaw House in Biscayne National Park’s Stiltsville

Below are photos of the remaining six houses at Stiltsville.

A-FRAME HOUSE

The A Frame House has an equilateral triangular pylon structure that supposedly makes it more stable. It is the second oldest house still standing, so perhaps there is some merit to its engineering design. It was built using lumber salvaged from the Quarterdeck Club, a popular gambling club that burned down in 1961.

A-Frame House at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

A-Frame House at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

BALDWIN-SESSIONS HOUSE

Baldwin-Sessions House at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

Baldwin-Sessions House at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

BAY CHATEAU

Bay Cheteau was built in the 1960s.

Bay Chateau at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

Bay Chateau at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

HICKS HOUSE

Hicks House at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

Hicks House at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

JIMMY ELLENBURG HOUSE

Jimmy Ellenburg House at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

Jimmy Ellenburg House at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

MIAMI SPRINGS POWER BOAT CLUB

The Miami Springs Powerboat Club is the largest and oldest structure remaining at Stiltsville. The original club was built on a sunken barge in 1951, but after it was destroyed by Hurricane Betsy in 1965, it was rebuilt using concrete pylons. This is the structure that stands today. The club was founded by the police and fireman of Miami Springs.

Miami Springs Power Boat Club at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

Miami Springs Power Boat Club at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

Miami Springs Power Boat Club at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

Miami Springs Power Boat Club at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

Back to the Top


With a few exceptions, use of any photograph on the National Park Planner website requires a paid Royalty Free Editorial Use License or Commercial Use License. See the Photo Usage page for details.
Last updated on November 2, 2023
Share this article