Matheson Hammock opened in 1930 as the first county park of Dade County, a gift of 80 acres to the county from William J. Matheson. Originally administered by the county's first director of public parks, A. D. Barnes, and designed by the landscape architect William Lyman Phillips, today it is owned and managed by Miami-Dade County.
Matheson wanted the land to be used as a park "to preserve the wild and natural beauty." It grew with further donations by the Matheson heirs, purchases by county commissioner Charles Crandon, and other donations to its current 630 acres. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) crews were assigned to Matheson Hammock in 1936 and began to develop the Bayfront park area. Coral stone buildings rose and the picnic area had a coral stone shelter.
Without the use of the inexpensive and skilled labor force under the state and federal assistance programs, it would have been impossible to build the miles of carefully hewn coral stone walls and native stone buildings. The quality of the CCC's work was verified in 1945 when a hurricane resulted in 12-foot waves rolling over Matheson Hammock, causing immense damage to equipment and furnishings, and depositing layers of mud and trash in the park, but the basic CCC structures stood firm and the park recovered.