Towards the end of WWII a decision was made to compromise race restrictions on recreation by designating a “colored-only” beach on Virginia Key. Local politicians negotiated the establishment of the “Virginia Key Beach, a Dade County Park for the exclusive use of Negroes,” (today, the Historic Virginia Key Beach Park). It opened on August 1, 1945.
There are several urban myths about the selection of Virginia Key by county officials, each with a kernel of truth – but there was an historic connection of at least several decades’ standing. A 1918 survey map of the “Abandoned Military Reservation” on Virginia Key located a “Negro Dancing Pavilion” on the island’s southeastern shore of the “colored-only” beach. From 1945 to 1947, Miami’s Blacks traveled to the beach exclusively by boat – public and private. The opening of the Rickenbacker Causeway in 1947 connected Virginia Key and Key Biscayne with the mainland and vehicular travel began.
The new Park enjoyed instant popularity. For a time, county government honored the “separate but equal” status of Virginia Key Beach with its white counterpart, Crandon Park on Key Biscayne. The original temporary buildings were replaced by permanent construction, a miniature railroad carried beachgoers around the park, and a seaside merry-go-round whirled riders of all ages. Still, Crandon Park was over 800 acres with two miles of beachfront and Virginia Key 82 acres with a half-mile of beach.