Our local public radio station, WLRN, published a fantastic, must-hear/must-see piece this morning on  “How I-95 Shattered the World of Miami’s Early Overtown Residents”.

In it, reporter Nadege Green of WLRN / The Miami Herald makes some excellent inquiries into the glorious past that was once thriving Colored Town.

As narrated in the radio piece:

Overtown was known as the Harlem of the South. [Jazz legends] Cab CallowayNat King Cole, and Billie Holiday performed in Miami Beach. But because of segregation, they weren’t allowed to stay there. They’d stay in Overtown . . . at hotels like the Sir John and the Mary Elizabeth. And they jammed late into the night with locals.

Source: The Miami Herald. "Demolition of the Mary Elizabeth Hotel in Overtown. COURTESY OF THE BLACK ARCHIVES" http://www.miamiherald.com/2009/01/30/880086/overtowns-heyday.html

Source: The Miami Herald. “Demolition of the Mary Elizabeth Hotel in Overtown. COURTESY OF THE BLACK ARCHIVES” http://www.miamiherald.com/2009/01/30/880086/overtowns-heyday.html

As decried by 70 year-old, long-time Overtown resident, General White:

Well there’s nothing but a big overpass now!

He’s referring to Interstates 95 and 395, which Nadege Green explains were built in the 1960s. After that:

Overtown was never the same. [Mr. General White] and thousands of other people here were forced out to make room for the highway.

MiamiHerald_I95_Overtown_Construction

Source: The Miami Herald. “Overview of I-395 looking east in Miami, August 23, 1967. The Miami Herald building can be seen in far background left and the Freedom Tower in far background right. JOHN PINEDA / MIAMI HERALD FILE” http://www.miamiherald.com/2009/01/30/880086/overtowns-heyday.html

3-D view of I-95 looking east, afforded by Google Earth, June 17, 2013.

3-D view of I-395 looking east, afforded by Google Earth, June 17, 2013.

Source: The Miami Herald. "Overview to I-95 looking south in Miami, August 23, 1967. Mt. Zion Church in foreground left, at NW 3rd Avenue and 9th Street. Old Courthouse is background left. JOHN PINEDA / MIAMI HERALD FILE" http://www.miamiherald.com/2009/01/30/880086/overtowns-heyday.html

Source: The Miami Herald. “Overview to I-95 looking south in Miami, August 23, 1967. Mt. Zion Church in foreground left, at NW 3rd Avenue and 9th Street. Old Courthouse is background left. JOHN PINEDA / MIAMI HERALD FILE” http://www.miamiherald.com/2009/01/30/880086/overtowns-heyday.html

3-D view of I-95 looking south, afforded by Google Earth, June 17, 2013.

3-D view of I-95 looking south, afforded by Google Earth, June 17, 2013.

Be sure to listen and read that eye-opening WLRN piece on the tragic history of the once glorious heart of Miami called Overtown, and the role of the highway in tearing it out.

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4 Responses to Highways and the Decay of Once Glorious Overtown

  1. UDB says:

    I hope everyone remembers these pictures when MDX pushes for its “Connect 4 Express” tolled highway through African-American neighborhoods over the next few years.

       0 likes

  2. Rick Eyerdam says:

    A group including the board of the Minority Chamber of Commerce of Miami is organizing a project to design and implement a responsible, environmentally sound process to demolish the Miami Herald building and remove the rubble with the least amount of truck traffic through the Overtown/Parkwest/Arts district.

       0 likes

  3. W. Fernandez Jr says:

    FDOT needs to refocus its attention to mass transit and specifically, rail. Many cities/countries, most in countries considered 3rd-world, have better rail systems than Florida. We can’t trust expressways and cars to do the geo-friendly trick and place Florida as a top-rate state without proper mass transit. Large cities like Miami must also heed.

       0 likes

  4. Miami History says:

    Overtown and Miami have been ruined by miserable local commissioners combined with an incompetent Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). Millions have been diverted to “the usual suspects”.

       0 likes

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