Category Archives: History

Miami’s history is brought to your attention to shed light on present events and better anticipate future developments.

Under Utilization in the CBD: Part III (Un-designated Historic)

Continued from Part II of Under Utilization in the CBD

Historic but not Designated

In the last Under-Utilization post I discussed buildings that are designated as historic by the HEPB and the set of eight criteria used to officially distinguish them. It was noted that there are a few examples of impressive and well-known antiquated buildings that are not officially designated historic. In considering these un-designated but old structures, I will only refer to those that either are being well utilized or demonstrate favorable utilization/restoration conditions. Let’s consider some of them.

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The Seybold Building serves as the central hub for the Jewelry District and jewelry market in the region. Most of the major diamond and gemstone wholesalers are based in and around it. The building interior is finely appointed with marble floors and columns, but the attention to detail is mostly confined to the first floor (main gallery) where the main jewelry stores are situated. As important as the Seybold Building is to the local jewelry industry, the exterior sides are deteriorated and an eyesore. Despite its functional and historic significance the Seybold remains un-designated.

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  • Burdines (Macy’s) Building (1947)

The Burdines (Macy’s) Building is probably the poster child of an under-utilized historic structure. It is not designated as historic by the HEPB, since an application has not been filed. Still, since Federated converted the store to a Macy’s, there have been no real changes to the exterior or interior of the multi-story historic structure.

The Macy’s building is the largest of its kind in the region. The location and structure scale fits the profile of some of Federated’s most high-profile Macy’s locations throughout the country, yet it seems Federated is pushing for incentives to remain in place. The rumors have gone back and forth regarding FDS’ ultimatums, but Dana Nottingham indicated that despite reports to the contrary, FDS has played an active role in planning for the overhaul of Flagler and the Downtown area. If this is true, then it may mark a change in the under-utilized status quo. a Macy’s revamp would propel reuse in the direction of retail in the surrounding area.

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This Dade Commonwealth Building has undergone both the 40-year recertification and a renovation by the Titan Group. It is one of the most colorful additions to the portfolio of (un-designated) historic buildings in the CBD. The Building is not being used in any unorthodox way and houses a variety of small offices. Such a building is too big to house one retail entity such as is the trend in with historic structures along the Collins Avenue Shopping District. It does, however, fit in well with what is being done with residences in the Security Building and First National Bank Building.

There are inherit problems with such a change of use: lack of quality views, terraces, and high ceilings. One would have to incorporate innovative floor plans and respectable luxurious appointments to draw the necessary interest. Green features would make such a project even more interesting albeit pricey to re-develop. Still, there is a market of architecturally conscience buyers that might find such a development appealing.

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  • 22 N.E.1st Street – a.k.a. International Jewelry Center (1930)

This building’s interior was restored to a respectable degree. Marble was laid in patterns, floor to ceiling glass storefronts were installed to lure retailers, and the elevators were newly installed as well. The purpose was to lure jewelry related businesses away from the Seybold Building. The effort thus far has not materialized and most of the stores remain vacant. This building is situated adjacent to the Seybold and there have been rumors that its acquisition by the folks at Seybold is imminent. The purpose of such an acquisition would be to connect the two structures and enhance the main floor space at the Seybold (its important to note that this building is actually separated into two properties which have grandfathered-in the electrical and mechanical systems. The other side is known as the Flagler Jewelry Center)

The failure of the International Jewelry Center to gain tenants in the realm of the Jewelry industry brings to question the viability of such a narrow approach. Would it have been better to target retailers not necessarily associated with Jewelry? Was naming the building “International Jewelry Center” a deterrent for other non-jeweler tenants to come in? The reuse of this building has been a failure despite a serous interior renovation.

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  • Lerner Building (1925)

The Lerner building, situated next to the Macy’s building, is currently in a haunted-like state. The 1920’s era building has appealing marble facades. The reuse of such a building screams retail. This building does not, in my opinion, lend itself to much adaptability. It falls under the kind of structures that have been lending themselves to retail use in the Collins Avenue Shopping District except on a bit larger scale. Such a structure can house a high end Tiffany-like jewelry store or a high end retail boutique. Clearly, the market and on-the-ground conditions don’t foster such a reuse but if Federated gets it act together next door as they are doing with the Macy’s on Lincoln Road, then it’ll go a long way in making the Lerner property more desirable for reuse.

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  • Royalton Apartments (1923)

The Royalton Apartments are being renovated, as you can clearly see in the image above. Although I’m not sure as to what the use of the newly renovated structure will be, this is an ideal candidate for a boutique hotel. There are currently none in the downtown area although that can change as the George Washington of Boutique Hotels, Ian Schrager, owns the nearby Continental Riande Hotel on Biscayne Blvd., and has not yet disclosed his plans. Regardless of what the use of this building might be, the fact that it’s undergoing a renovation is a step in the right direction.

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  • 33 N.E. 1st Avenue (1925)

This building is easily over looked being sandwiched in between its neighbors. Situated on the same block as the First National Bank renovation, the 33 building is ideally scaled for retail or even restaurant use. It is symbolic of a few others in the CBD that are similarly scaled and aged. Miami 21’s T6 zoning of the area will probably pave the way for their demolition, but some represent interesting reuse potential.

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  • Biscayne Building (1926)

Since the Biscayne Building is situated on a corner, it makes a residential reuse more appealing–as is the case with Flagler First at the First National Bank Building. However, the scale of this building and the lack of unique architectural features leaves it vulnerable to scrapping. The lower portion of the structure has intricate concrete etchings but the top is lackluster. Among the least desirable of the un-designated historic buildings, it is currently being used by small professional firms.

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  • 101 S.E. 1st Street (1920)

Recently renovated, 101 S.E. 1st Street is a great candidate for retail reuse. It is situated conspicuously on a corner on S.E. 1st street and 1st Avenue. A Banana Republic or Kenneth Cole store comes to mind, but again, the CBD has no new retail precedent to fall and the lack of change at the Macy’s is not helping.

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Dade Federal Savings

Similar to the 101 building, the Dade Federal Saving Building is ideally located and scaled for retail. Everything that has been placed there has been an utter failure but incoming occupants in the Security Building and Flagler first developments might help to bolster its reuse desirability.

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Preserving the Historic Integrity of the CBD

As you can see there are a number of buildings in the CBD that are not protected by a historic designation but probably should be. Many would argue that the emphasis should be on demolishing the old in place of the new, but there are plenty of un-restorable under-utilized buildings in the CBD along with vacant space that would better suit new construction.

The aforementioned buildings should be maintained and reused in order to preserve the historic integrity of the CBD. There should be an open mind when it comes to considering adaptive reuse options for these buildings. New building and green technology should be incorporated wherever possible to make their reuse potential greater. The CBD’s historic nature lends itself to the evolution of an architecturally and historically multifaceted core if the cards are played right

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Filed under BoB Articles, CBD: Financial District, CBD: Jewelry District, CBD: Overtown, Gentrification, History

Under Utilization in the CBD: Part II (Historic Designations)

Image: The Related Group’s Loft II (left) and the historic Congress Building (right)

Continued from Part I

Historic Designations

Since the CBD is filled with antiquated structures, there are many that stand no hope of restoration and rehabilitation, but there are some examples of historic buildings with potential for adaptive reuse. I’ll defer to Chapter 23 of the City Code, which sets forth a set of 8 criteria for the designation of a historic structure/site worthy of preservation:

  1. Are associated in a significant way with the life of a person important in the past
  2. Are the site of a historic event with significant effect upon the community, city, state, or nation
  3. Exemplify the historic, cultural, political, economical, or social trends of the community
  4. Portray the environment in an era of history characterized by one or more distinctive architectural styles.
  5. Embody those distinguishing characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or method of construction
  6. Are an outstanding work of a prominent designer or builder
  7. Contain elements of design,detail, materials, or craftsmanship, of outstanding quality or which represent a significant innovation or adaptation to the Florida environment
  8. Have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history

At least one of the requisites must be met for designation consideration. Having said that, let’s take a look at some of the structures that have already been designated as historic by the HEPB, so that we can assess the current state and composition of preservation in the CBD:

Image: Chipped masonry in the Courthouse facade

Dade County Courthouse

Completed in 1928, the Dade County Courthouse is built in the Neo-Classical style. The structure is currently being rehabilitated. The masonry as you can see from the image above is chipped in several places. This remarkably designed granite-covered building is one of the City’s most recognizable historic structures.

Image: Ingraham Building (above)

Ingraham Building

Built in 1927 in the “Chicago School” style of architecture, the Ingraham Building is one of the most intricately designed and historically impacting buildings in the CBD. One feels a deep sense of history when looking at and entering the building. It was renovated in 1990 and is currently houses professional offices and wholesale jewelry and diamond businesses. It is a staple of vintage urbanism in the CBD.

Huntingtion Building

As distinctive as the Huntington Building is with its knight-sculpture adorned crown, it remains easily overlooked. The building was completed in 1925 during the land boom and resulted in the developer going bankrupt during the ensuing bust. The Huntington Building is situated directly across the vacant lot for the proposed Loft 4 development and is an architectural gem.

Image: Congress Building surrounded by the Lofts I and II, and Everglades on the Bay

Congress Building

Completed in 1926 in the Neo-Classical architectural style, the Congress Building is actually composed of two separate buildings united as one. Surrounded on almost all sides by new construction, the Congress building strikes one as evidence of the boom meshing with old urbanism in the CBD. The least impressive of the designated historic structures, the Congress Building still encapsulates a unique architectural style.

Image: Dupont Building facade and interior

Alfred I. Dupont Building

The A.I. Dupont Building was completed in 1937, and at the time, was symbolic of Miami’s rise out of the depression. Designed in the Moderne architectural style that was common during the era, the Dupont Building has an ornate and intricate interior that alludes to local history. Currently, the building is home to law firms, jewelry businesses, and an assortment of professional suites.

Image: Theater main entrance

Olympia Theater Building (Gusman Center for the Performing Arts)

The first air-conditioned building in Miami, the second atmospheric theater in the U.S, and a fine example of American movie palace architecture, the Olympia Theater Building (Gusman Center for the Performing Arts), stands out as one of Miami’s most special buildings. Here, the intricacy of the masonry is evident from all angles, and the interior is arresting. The Olympia is across the street from the Dupont and a block away from the Ingraham.

Image: The old Walgreens Building

Walgreens Building

When the Walgreens was originally built in 1936, City residents viewed it as a sign of recovery in the City. The 1.6 million dollar construction cost, at the time, was staggering. The building’s Streamline Modern style is still striking today. Owned by the Alono family, the 5-story building is home to La Epoca department store.

 

 

Image: Close up of the Security Building’s distinctive crown

 

Not Included Here

I left out a couple of historic buildings in the CBD (the Post Office building, First National Bank, and Security Building are covered in the Vintage Urbanism in the CBD post). The Freedom Tower stands apart from those designated as historic in the CBD interior since it is rather well protected and will be incorporated into the 600 Biscayne development. The City National Bank Building, although designated as historic, did not strike me as being particularly impressive.

Undesignated Historic Structures

There are also quite a few historic buildings (i.e.: Burdines-Macy’s Building, Seybold Building) that one would expect to be included on the designation list but are not, these will be the subject of the next installment as the question of adaptive reuse is considered and we finally quantify (approximate) the proportion of historic structures with reuse potential versus those under utilized structures that need to bit hit with a wrecking ball.

(To be continued…)

 

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Filed under BoB Articles, CBD: Financial District, CBD: Jewelry District, CBD: Overtown, CBD: Parkwest, History, Past Developers

Parallel Histories: Miami and the Great U.S. Cities (Part II – Chicago & NYC)

At a time when Miami has exceeded NYC in construction, analyzing the Magic City’s evolution in comparison to other great U.S. cities becomes rather important. This series aims at following Miami’s emergence from obscurity into what has arguably become the Gateway to the Americas. Miami’s emergence is tracked parallel to other U.S. cities in order to see a unique picture of Miami’s historic evolution and its special role in 21st Century urban America. Continued from Part One

Foundations of the Magic City (Miami: Early 1900’s)

The turn of the 19th century presented a unique new city to the American landscape. Miami, already pushing to become what it would later be known throughout the world for, a destination of uninhibited fun, excessive luxury, and plenty of sun, was beginning to register on the American radar. Flagler’s Royal Palm Hotel was the southernmost luxury resort in the country. His railroad tracks brought northerners to the tip of the peninsula. The Royal Palm represented the culmination of his Florida hotel activities. Henry Flagler had single-handedly created Florida’s luxury hotel market. The reverberations of his actions were to be felt in perpetuity. The wealthy, ambitious, and daring streamed into Florida.

One of them was a New Jersey entrepreneur named John Collins who ended up buying a thin barrier island that would later be know as the “Billion Dollar Sandbar”: Miami Beach. He did so for fruit production purposes. It can be said that the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens is a slice of John’s vision for the barrier island. His horticultural plans however failed, and he was convinced by his family to sell plots of his slender island to tourists. However, to make the land sellable he had to connect it to the mainland. John endeavored to build the first bridge across Biscayne Bay. His limited capital would only get him halfway across, but it was enough to convince Carl Fisher, a self-made millionaire and founder of the Indianapolis Speedway, to finish the job.

Rich entrepreneurs were not the only ones influencing Miami’s emerging identity. By the early 1900’s, Bahamians had long since formed Miami’s first immigrant community. Most of the workers Flagler had hired to build the railroad and his hotel were by then the basis for Miami’s black community. Many of them settled along the railroad tracks they had built. Interstate 95 was built over the old tracks—as a result, many of Miami’s black neighborhoods are present along the I-95 today. Miami was gradually evolving but it remained a rather small unimpressive town. A traveler along Bayshore Drive might still have to worry about stumbling into a Florida Panther, but Julia Tuttle, Henry Flagler, John Collins, and Carl Fisher had already laid the foundation of the small town’s growth—it would later become so drastic and sudden that it would lead to Miami being called the Magic City.

Gotham City Emerges (NYC: Early 1900’s)

During this same time in NYC the Statute of Liberty had already graced the skyline for almost three decades. The statute had come to represent the beacon of hope that NYC was for hundreds of thousands of immigrants. By 1900, the Big Apple had seen its first steel frame skyscraper. The Flatiron majestically towered 285 feet above the city streets. It must have stirred the imagination of those who witnessed it. The Brooklyn Bridge loomed over the New York City skyline. Even before a fruit farmer had decided to spend his savings on a simple bridge linking Miami Beach to the mainland, the Brooklyn Bridge spanned 5,989 feet in length and had Gothic towers that stood 276 feet above the waterline. The Big Apple’s urban sprawl had consumed all of Manhattan Island and densely spilled over into the Bronx up to Yonkers, North Brooklyn, West Queens, Staten Island, and all along the Jersey coast immediately adjacent to NYC.

During the day, New York City was engulfed in an ethereal haze due to the countless chimneys, factories and steamboats in and around the city. The suburbs had already spread to what would be its modern boundaries in all 5 boroughs. NYC had exploded in building densification and was racked with turmoil, violence, and corruption. The mafia had already formed. Immigrant and local gangs clashed on the streets. Rival police departments fought with each other. Every week, thousands more immigrants spilled into the unstable streets. The Yankees were filling up their ballpark. The Brooklyn Dodgers electrified crowds. There was already a Chinatown. The city was abuzz with the energy and ambition that is derived from immigrant influx. Central Park, the Statute of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Flatiron were signs of the progress that was to come. New Yorkers did not fail to recognize this.

Chi-Town is Boomtown (Chicago: early 1900’s)

Chicago, the great Midwestern boomtown, was already a phenomenal story. By the first decade of the twentieth century the city had recovered from the Great Fire of 1871 that destroyed around 17,450 buildings to give rise to the country’s first skyscraper in 1885: The Home Insurance Building at 138 feet tall. Chicago was a symbol of resilience, recovery, and progress for the entire nation. Miami had not even incorporated and the Windy City had already stood as a pillar in urban America. In 1900, the city’s central business district was connected to the rest of the city by at least 12 bridges across the south branch of the Chicago River alone. The Chicago River was crammed with ships. Dozens of trains ran parallel to the city and Lake Michigan daily. The city had nine general newspaper circulations. The Cubs and White Sox were competing in a cross-town World Series. Chicago was strategically located, serving as a gateway to the American Midwest and West via the Saint Lawrence River, Lake Michigan, and the Illinois canal. It was a national railroad hub and its tracks spread far and wide in all directions. The city was loud, bustling, and had triumphed over severe tribulation.

The Ambitions of a Few Form a City (Miami: 1920’s and 1930’s)

Meanwhile, Carl Fisher envisioned what he wanted Miami Beach to become. Jews and blacks were not part of his vision. Both he and John Collins wanted to keep them out of the island. They included provisions in their land sale contracts that restricted any future sale of properties to non-Caucasians. The Lummus brothers, owners of land in the southern part of the island, were non-discriminating. They sold their land to Jews. Miami’s highly influential Jewish community began on Lummus owned land. At the same time, farther inland from the coast, a former New York pastor and his family were replacing their plans for a citrus plantation to that of a planned city: the Merrick family. Their patron Salomon Merrick and his sons envisioned a Spanish Mediterranean style community with a grand hotel rivaling the Royal Palm and the city’s first university: The Biltmore Hotel and the University of Miami. The city would be named Coral Gables. The Merricks profited an estimated $20 million the first five years alone.

The Great Hurricane and Suburban Sprawl (Miami: 1920’s)

Miami suddenly began to appeal all sorts of developers and entrepreneurs. Glenn Curtiss had bought the land that would later become Miami Springs, Hialeah, and Opa-Locka. His developments on the land would set the foundation for the first westward push of urban sprawl Miami had ever seen. Outside of Coral Gables, these were to become the city’s first suburbs. Miami was on the midst of its first building boom. It abruptly ended with the Great Hurricane of 1926, which would decimate the city and leave between 25,000 and 50,000 people homeless (nearly half the entire population). To make matters worse, the Great Depression would hit Florida soon after. This crippled the economy and caused the city’s first bust.

The Great Depression and the Art Deco Boom (Miami: 1930’s)

Ironically, just after the hurricane and on through the Great Depression, Miami Beach saw dozens of Art Deco buildings get constructed. The Art Deco surge would last until just after World War II. It would later comprise the largest concentration of Art Deco buildings in the world, become the back bone of South Beach’s 1990’s resurgence, and serve as the backdrop of countless films, music videos, shows, commercials, and video games. The city also saw the emergence of its central business district. During this time the Seybold Building, Freedom Tower (Miami News), Ingraham Building, Commonwealth Building (Meyer-Keyser), and the Miami Courthouse were built. By the end of the Depression, Miami had absorbed its first boom and bust, witnessed the nation’s first planned city, had suburban sprawl, the emergence of a central business district, and a wave of Art Deco construction. Still, Miami’s economy rested on one pillar: tourism.

Forget World Class: NYC and Chicago in a Class of their Own

The roaring twenties and thirties brought a tidal wave of concrete and steel to New York and Chicago. The two were competing with each other for height records with their skyscrapers. Both captured the world’s imagination with the awesome scale of their urban landscape. The boom in New York was highly speculative. In 1916, city officials scrambled to put together a revision of the zoning regulations. Sound familiar to Miami 21? Some New Yorkers were outraged by the obstructive height of some of the buildings. Sound familiar to today’s Miami? NYC came up with novel solutions to making the vertical evolution of the city more controllable and ample instead of unpredicted and constrained. Millionaires scrambled to pierce the clouds with their new towers. There were no height restrictions. The sky was the limit. The period included the construction of the Woolworth Building, Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, 120 Wall Street (the Pyramid Building), the New York Life Building, Metropolitan Life Tower, and many other notables.

As a testament to the city’s early 20th Century building boom, Chicago has sixteen buildings dating from between 1923 and 1934 that still rise over 450 feet above street level. By 1920, the metropolis had a population in excess of 2 million inhabitants. Compared to Chicago’s population of fewer than 30,000 in 1850, the 1920 census figures demonstrate Chicago’s mind boggling growth. Today, almost 90 years later, Greater Miami has population slightly over 2 million. In the early 19th Century, Chicago was a hotbed of criminal activity during the period. It was one of the most violent cities in America. Competing gangs fought over territory. The police were corrupted by them.
Miami Still in the Shade

At the time, Miami was hoping to lure anyone who wanted to indulge in guiltless pleasure. The city did not enforce alcohol prohibition, allowed gambling, and was privy to its visitors many vices. This lured the likes of Chicago Mafioso Al Capone who bought a vacation home along the ocean. While Chicago and New York City became the breeding ground for corporate America, Miami rested its laurels on white sands, warm waters, and sunny weather for tourists. Up until the 1940’s, there was no Gateway to the Americas just a snazzy southern tourist town. NYC and Chi-town on the other hand had seen unprecedented and voluminous vertical expansion, international recognition, and drastic population increases. They had come to represent the U.S.’s growing wealth and international status. Sunny Miami, although increasingly familiar to Americans, remained in the shade.

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Parallel Histories: Miami and the Great U.S. Cities (Part I)

Images: Mouth of the Miami River in 1896 (above) and 2007 (below)

Getting Started

At a time when Miami has exceeded NYC in construction, analyzing the Magic City’s evolution in comparison to other great U.S. cities becomes rather interesting. This series aims at following Miami’s emergence from obscurity into what has arguably become the Gateway to the Americas. Miami’s emergence is tracked parallel to other U.S. cities in order to see a unique picture of Miami’s historic evolution and its special role in 21st Century urban America.

Image: Third Seminole War

A Lonely Fort

Before there was Miami there was Fort Dallas. The defensive U.S. Army outpost was built in the midst of a war against a band of renegade Indians. They were the Seminoles: remnants of various tribes from the continental north that had fled south into the cover of Florida’s vast swamplands. In 1836, when Ft. Dallas was erected in the heart of what would later be Miami’s Central Business District, it was at the farthest edge of the American frontier. Florida had yet to be incorporated into the Union.

Map: Fort Dallas

Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago in 1836

In this period of U.S history, the American West had already seen development. A year before, Yerba Buena, a port located on a magnificent harbor, was renamed San Francisco. St. Louis had a population in excess of 6,300. Chicago, which would incorporate a year later, had an estimated population of 4,000. Boston, long since an important hub, had expanded across the Charles River to form the neighborhoods of Cambridge, Charlestown, and South and East Boston.

Map: Boston 1830’s

New York City in 1836

New York City at this stage was mostly concentrated along the southern portion of Manhattan Island. For the time, the City was sprawling. Parts of it had already expanded across the bay into what is now the Brooklyn Heights area. Stunningly, if you view a map of the Big Apple in 1836, the area that is now Midtown Manhattan was largely hilly and forested. Still, by that time, a forward thinking street grid had been planned for the area up to what is now 155th street. New Yorkers ambitiously planned for the City’s inevitable expansion in advance of it.

Map: New York City 1840’s

Still no Miami. Just war.

Meanwhile, Fort Dallas stood dangerously isolated in a hostile area near hauntingly beautiful turquoise waters. The same clear waters that would later lure millions of international visitors into them offered solace to the small group of men. A year prior, while marching east from Tampa, Major Francis Dade was ambushed and killed by the Seminoles along with two army companies (an event to which Miami-Dade County attributes its name). The Seminole Wars would last until 1858. Florida was a militarized state because of the wars. It’s no coincidence that there are so many Florida cities named after forts (i.e.: Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Walton Beach, Ft. Pierce, Ft. Myers). Progress was severely hampered during the period. In fact, due to the U.S. Army’s scorched-earth policy, the peninsula’s entire population had dwindled to an estimated 35,000. Most of them confined to the northern part of the peninsula. Even before it had a name, the odds were stacked against Miami.


Image: San Francisco mid-nineteenth century

Miami is Incorporated in 1896

Miami would not be incorporated until 1896 when railroad tycoon Henry Flagler stepped into the picture after having been lured by Miami native Julia Tuttle. Ironically enough, Miami’s official existence is attributed to a major project by a wealthy developer. The project was the Royal Palm Hotel. Rumored to have been lured by a simple basket of oranges, Henry Flagler became Miami’s original developer. At the time, there were families that lived in the area. The Brickell family lived south of the Miami River. Julia Tuttle owned land north of it. The city, however, was well short of bustling.

Image: View of Early Philadelphia from the River Delaware

Miami Connected to the U.S.

During this same time, while Miami was centered around a single luxury hotel, Philadelphia was massive. Traveling on a boat along the ship channel on the River Delaware the city would have impressed one with its endless rows of centennial buildings. The spires of the Old Christ Church and Franklin Square would have risen in the foreground. The Masonic Temple’s tower and two spires would have loomed in the background. The Delaware River would have been busy with sailboats and steamboats. On the other hand, Miami barely had a town center and was sparsely stretched from Coconut Grove to Lemon City. However, in 1896, one year after the great freeze, there came a great turning point for the infant city. The railroad came to town. From then on, a diverse assortment of people would gradually stream into the fledgling southern town. For the first time, Miami was connected to the rest of the country.

Up until the 1890’s, Miami had no place in the class of America’s rising cities. Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco were at the top of the class. It was at the turn of the 19th Century that Miami officially entered the mix but would not be noticed for decades to come. As it was in 1896, few knew the city even existed. (to be continued…)

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MIMO Money

Mimo (My-Moe), short for Miami Modern architecture, is becoming quite the alluring architectural style for new construction. In fact, when looking at Miami Beach’s most well known Mimo buildings, one easily realizes that almost all of them are undergoing impressive and expensive transformations.

The Fontainebleau Hilton (built in 1954) has long since been a staple of the tourism industry in Miami Beach and is under going a monumental $1 billion renovation. Its neighbor to the north, the equally historic landmark Eden Roc (built in 1956), is currently undergoing a $110 million renovation. Both properties are Miami Modern. But that’s not all; Miami Modern buildings throughout Miami Beach are getting pricey face lifts. The Mimo designed Carillon (built in 1957) is becoming the centerpiece of the new luxurious Canyon Ranch Residences—a project estimated at near a half billion dollars in cost. In the last couple of years, the DiLido (built in the late 1950’s) was transformed into the Ritz-Carlton South Beach. The project’s cost is estimated to have been near $200 million. The Mimo-designed Macy’s on Lincoln Road is getting a well deserved renovation. The Casablanca on the Beach is getting a $5.5 million 40-year recertification. The Shelborne has undergone a multi-million dollar renovation. There is a Mimo casualty though, the Sheraton Bal Harbour (built in 1965) is to be eliminated to make room for the St. Regis Resort and Spa. The project’s cost is estimated to be $1 billion.

Overall, Miami Beach’s Mimo structures are getting lots of money pumped into their restoration and in some cases expansion. The Carillon, Fontainebleau, Eden Roc, and Sheraton Bal Harbour are all undergoing enormous expansions where the old Mimo structures serves as an architectural centerpiece. Just like Art Deco served to reinvigorate South Beach during the 1990’s. Today, Mimo is doing the same for the Mid and North Beaches. Although most of the projects are featuring new residential and hotel units, there are others, like the Casablanca, which are under going the required 40-year recertification process. Built from the mid-1950’s to the mid-1960’s, all of the Beach’s Mimo-era buildings are at that point in their lifespan where either there is a 40-year recertification or a complete renovation of the building. This explains why many of the Mimo buildings are more or less simultaneously being transformed. Currently, hundreds of millions of dollars either have been or are being invested into preserving and expanding Mimo structures. Mimo, unlike Art Deco, is unique to Miami. Architectural history is amalgamating with the future and the money is the glue that sticks them both together. Mimo is in the money.

Read More about Mimo on BoB: Mimo Motels

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Miami: a Modern History

This is an incredibly concise and comprehensive view of the modern history of Miami. It comes from an unlikely source, the ASJE Organization (Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment). It is well written, impeccably researched, and has a great suggested reading list.

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Looking Back: The FTAA Protests

This was clearly edited by an activist. Still, it is historic footage.

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West Miami was Founded by Defiant Gamblers and Bar Owners

After confirming that Sweetwater was founded by Russian circus midgets, I thought it advisable to look into other incorporation stories. As it turns out, some are quite interesting. The City of West Miami defiantly came into existence as a reaction to the County’s decision to ban gambling and restrict bar operating hours. West Miami’s residents incorporated the city in 1949 to keep their bars open till the wee hours of the morning and gamble away as they pleased. Too bad it didn’t work out in the long run.

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The City of Sweetwater was Founded by Russian Circus Midgets!!!!

At least I had heard this a while back in a Miami Politics course while in college. I wasn’t sure I believed Professor Moreno but felt that he had no reason to lie. Still, I was skeptical. Until I looked deeper. The fact is Sweetwater was really founded in 1941 by Russian circus midgets and accordingly many of their homes were miniature. I would like to know if these homes have been preserved. If they haven’t, that’s a shame. I also want to know if they left or if their decendants are still around. Hmmmm. I always thought Sweetwater was a bit weird, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Anyhow, the now predominantly Hispanic city is neighbors with the rapidly expanding FIU and is expected to become more and more of a college oriented community. From Russian circus midgetville to an emerging collegetown, pretty interesting transition. This will have to be looked into further.

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Filed under History

I Don’t Want Cupcakes, but leave the Boulevard’s Royal Palms Alone!

Image of the Boulevard’s Royal Palms taken in 1949 (New York Times)

Several people were handing out cupcakes to drivers and pedestrians in Downtown Miami to protest the city’s plan to replace Biscayne Boulevard’s numerous Royal Palms with Live Oak trees. This has to be the most absurd piece of news I’ve heard in a long while. Are we in tropical Miami or mild Atlanta? Why Live Oaks? Apparently the Live Oaks will offer shade where the Royal Palms do not. What about the several skyscrapers that block out the sun for half of the day? There is no lack of shade just lack of reason. Leave the Royal Palms alone! They beautify the Boulevard, represent Miami’s climate, cost less to maintain, and are not as susceptible to hurricane force winds as the Live Oaks. Finally, these wretched Live Oak canopies will block my view of the skyscrapers from my car’s sunroof. Not cool.

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Filed under BoB Articles, CBD: Financial District, History, News