Founded by Miami pioneering women in 1947, Bay Oaks has been exceeding expectations and setting the highest standard of service to seniors for 71 years.
Our unique residence was envisioned before Medicare was introduced or retirement planning was common when a group of strong, pioneering, civic oriented women decided to create a safety net to meet the needs of Miami’s elderly.
Founding leadership formed the Miami chapter of the all-women Soroptomist Club to oversee the project and included such prominent professional women as Ethel Ernest Murrell, attorney, author, lecturer, and drafter of the Florida Married Women’s Emancipation bill.
The Soroptomists’ founding Board President and Bay Oaks co-founder, Mary Sorenson Moore, was also a co-founder of The Miami Woman’s Club, the Dorsay Library, the Flagler Memorial Library, the Miami chapters of the YWCA, The American Red Cross, and The American Cancer Society.
Other Miami pioneers who helped lead Bay Oaks in its early days include Edna Stevens, Mildred T. Rhodes, Rosalind Garfunkel, Jane Natt, and Maryland B. Byrne, among others.
These Soroptomists funded and acquired approximately ten parcels of land steps from Biscayne Bay where they built Bay Oaks. This legacy of female governance has continued for over seven decades and makes this not for profit organization the oldest charity of its kind in South Florida.
In 2015, under the leadership of CEO and Administrator Kathryn Kassner, Bay Oaks Historic Retirement Residence was historically designated by the City of Miami, securing its preservation for Miami’s citizens as the founders had envisioned. Bay Oaks remains an oasis in the heart of Miami – a beautiful and historic stronghold against the ever burgeoning condominium towers of Edgewater.
Our designation champions our founders, architect Robert Fitch Smith (known also for the Museum and Garden House at the Fairchild Tropical Garden and the National Register-listed “Thomas Arden “Doc” House” in South Miami), and our more prominent former residents, including environmentalist and activist Gloria Maguire Calhoun and former Tuskegee airman Jefferson Friday.
Bay Oaks is significant as a tribute to the effectiveness of women in addressing a need within the community and the quality of life that can be ever improved when individuals are given the space and support to live fully through their senior years. It is a historic landmark that has been home to city founders and artists, military heroes and designers, royalty and icons of industry, activism, the arts, Miami and world history, and more.
As the advancement of elder care in America has progressed and developed, Bay Oaks remains at the vanguard. Our success is a result of a progressive and innovative passion for offering the best retirement residence in the United States. We are proud of our herstory and work to honor it as we serve our residents every day.
“Since 1947, it is our privilege to be of service.”