Stiltsville - Atlas Obscura


A community of collapsing homes more than a mile out from the Florida coast. 


Florida is home to a whole lot more than just beaches and Disney World. The state is one of the worst hit by the foreclosure crisis that was considered a part of the recession of 2008-2009. The homes of Stiltsville date back long before those years, but, as abandoned construction projects, they bring the collapse of the housing market to mind.

Head down to Biscayne Bay and look out into the sea. You’ll be able to clearly spot seven different buildings that are hovering above shallow waters having been built on wood or reinforced concrete pilings. This tiny neighborhood is known as Stiltsville and is part of Biscayne National Park. The structures are owned by the National Park Service, and managed by the Stiltsville Trust. “No one who chances upon the phenomenon of Stiltsville for the first time will ever forget the sight of homes that hover above the waters, miles from any shore, like structures from a dream,” the group’s website reads.

The homes that are left were once part of a larger community at sea that comprised 27 structures at its peak, all located at least a mile from the shore. Eddie Walker started Stiltsville back in the 1920s or 1930s during the age of Prohibition. The shacks—they were nothing more than that at the time—served as gambling and alcohol dens for individuals frustrated with state and national laws.

Fires, hurricanes, and too much partying all took their toll on the buildings until just seven were left after 1992’s Hurricane Andrew. Access is by boat only, but docking at and visiting the structures is by permit only, available from the Stiltsville Trust.

Know Before You Go

Visible from the southern tip of Key Biscayne when looking south into Biscayne National Park, but only accessible by boat. Landing on any of the structures is prohibited without a permit.

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