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How’d a grapefruit farmer end up getting a major Miami road named after him?

We know the story behind some of Miami’s best-known streets, like Flagler Street and Brickell Avenue. Others, we drive on for decades without ever knowing the story.

When reader Rafael Ciordia asked us who Le Jeune Road is named after, we had no clue. So we decided to look into it.

It turns out that the street’s namesake is Charles Le Jeune, a Belgian immigrant who moved to Florida in the early 20th century. Here’s what Miami’s resident historian, Paul George, had to say about him.

WHO WAS HE? A farmer whose main crop was grapefruit (because Florida). He grew more than 100 acres of crops, mostly in southwest Miami-Dade. Other than that, Paul said historians don’t know much more about his personal life or what brought him to Miami all the way from Belgium.

WHAT DID HE DO IN MIAMI? Le Jeune settled into what’s now Coral Gables and owned more than 100 acres of land. He caught the attention of George Merrick, the visionary founder of the Gables, who eventually purchased about 160 acres of land from Le Jeune to develop for his own crops.

WHEN WAS THE NAME ESTABLISHED? Southwest 42nd Avenue has been named after Charles Le Jeune since the 1920s. According to Paul, Merrick was the main person pushing for the designation. In fact, Merrick’s support might have been all about business. “I really think part of the [land] deal was he told Charlie Le Jeune, ‘I’m gonna name this road after you,” Paul told us.

A NOT-SO-FUN FACT: Despite all his success, and his big land sale to Merrick, Charles Le Jeune didn’t really hold onto this wealth.

Paul told us that Le Jeune sent much of his profit back to his family in Belgium and that he actually only ended up with about half the money that Merrick promised to pay him from the land deal. “He lived and eventually died in a hotel on what is now Miracle Mile,” Paul said.

Got other questions about random landmarks in Miami? Is there anything else you’ve always wondered about? Nothing’s too random. Email us at [email protected]

By Lance Dixon
Lance is the Storytelling Producer for The New Tropic