Currently viewing the tag: "History"

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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What if Miami’s vibrant light-rail system of the past existed in the Miami of today?

Let’s explore how the historic Miami Beach trolley route of the early 20th century would look through the Miami of the early 21st century.

MiamiBeachTrolleyRoute_Intro

Click on the video below. You’ll be taken on a virtual fly-through of the the no-longer-existing Miami Beach trolley line through the streets and neighborhoods of today. Please do enjoy for yourself and share with others!

Just imagine if this trolley were still up and running! Light-rail Baylink, anyone?

Also, be on the look-out for more TransitMiami geovisualizations in the near future!

Forty years since the publication of a visionary transportation planning document, the shortcomings of Miami-Dade County’s transportation reality suggest that we lost our vision somewhere along the highway, literally.

TransitMiami invites you to take brief trip through time . . .

THE PAST

The year is 1973. The Dade County Public Works Department has just released its State Transportation Programs Proposal for Dade County 1973-74.

In it, a chapter titled Mass Transit (pp. 72-98) makes declarations of a new “beginning on development of a true multi-modal transportation system in Dade County, in which “non-highway elements” are stressed to be at least part of the solution to Dade County’s burgeoning population and economy.

Indeed, there seems to be a fundamentally new consciousness — dare I say, a paradigm shift — reorienting the urban planning and public policy realms away from highways and toward mass transit.

StateTransportationProgramsProposedForDadeCounty_1973_1974

Around 1973, this is the vision the County had for University Metrorail Station. Note the dedicated busway right along US-1. Note the wide sidewalks and crosswalks. Note the number of pedestrians. Note the relative “completeness” of the streets, save for the absence of bicycle facilities, etc. Compare this with this same site (US-1 and Stanford Drive, Coral Gables) today, especially in light of recent considerations to build an elevated pedestrian bridge crossing US-1.

The beginning of that Mass Transit chapter reads:

Metropolitan Dade County and the Florida Department of Transportation in recent years have become increasingly active in planning the improvement of mass transit facilities. With less emphasis on highways alone, programming efforts have been broadened to multi-modal transportation facilities, including airports, seaports, rapid transit, terminals for truck, rail and bus companies, as well as the highway and street system that serves them and provides local traffic needs.

There’s a sense that perhaps the mid-20th century notion of highways being the transportation panacea has finally begun to lose potency. A more holistic, more enlightened view has apparently begun to gain traction, one which posits that transportation corridors and corresponding land-uses perform best when designed to serve the myriad means and purposes of mobility, as well as the urban environment’s diversity of functions.

Here are some of the major mass transit proposals from the report:

  • 53.7 miles of high-speed transit served by 54 stations,
  • bus routes operating on expressways and arterial streets,
  • feeder bus routes to complement other bus routes and rapid transit,
  • mini-systems at selected transit terminals to provide local circulation and link traffic generating areas with rapid transit.

THE PRESENT

Fast-forward 40 years into the future. The year is 2013.

FDOT and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) — and the construction, automobile, and petroleum lobbies — actively and aggressively seek to expand highways.

Tax payers are being charged $560,000,000 (that’s right: more than half a billion!) for the highway expansion mega-project at the SR 826 (Palmetto Expressway) and SR 836 (Dolphin Expressway) Interchange.

826_836_ProjectRendering_North

826_836_ProjectRendering_Southeast

Real estate developers eager to cash-in on building single-family cookie-cutter homes along the urban periphery in the west and south of the County lobby to transgress the Urban Development Boundary (UDB). Residential sprawl continues to lower the quality of life on the edges of the city.

Eager to keep its agency coffers growing, MDX writes hyperbolic reports emphasizing inflated demographic growth projections on these suburban outskirts, thereby seeking to further justify its southwestward expansion of SR 836 (Dolphin Expressway). MDX advocates for expanding tolled highways in order to generate increased revenues aimed at the perpetual expansion of highways in greater Miami.

SR-836-Southwest-1-Kendall-Extension-map

Those same city-destroying developers-of-sprawl back MDX — as do all others in the broader network of profiteers — because they perceive as far too lucrative to forego the opportunity to cash-in on pushing the boundary of Miami further into the Everglades and into our fresh water supplies.

Even on roads that have long exhausted their traditional function as “highways”, MDX pursues measures to retrofit them so as to restore their obsolete highway-performing characteristics. This is epitomized by MDX’s “US-1 Express Lanes”, whereby the agency hopes to reduce the dedicated South Dade busways to accommodate new tolled arterial travel lanes for private motorists, as well as, most notoriously, create elevated overpasses (that is, create more “HIGH-ways”).

US1_Elevated_expresslane

MDX_US1expressway_ShareFacilityPlan

FDOT, in collusion with MDX, actively seeks to expand the tolled Florida Turnpike in far south Miami-Dade County.

Meanwhile, our mere 23-station elevated heavy-rail Metrorail system traverses a very linear (and thus limited), virtually-non-networked 25 miles, including the recently added, yet long-overdue, Miami International Airport / Orange Line extension. This is literally less than half the of the 54 stations and 53.7 miles of rail network envisioned in the planning document from 40 years earlier.

Miami Transit in Perspective. Image courtesy of Leah Weston.

Miami Transit in Perspective. Image courtesy of Leah Weston.

Planned expansions to the Metrorail intended to create a true network have been scrapped due to a lack of political will to secure dedicated funding sources, along with an over-abundance of administrative incompetence and corruption.

Taken_for_a_Ride_MetrorailCorridors_MiamiHerald

Source: “Taken for a Ride”. Miami Herald: http://www.miamiherald.com/multimedia/news/transit/

After decades of false starts, broken promises, gross mismanagement of public funds, and outright political apathy, the time is now to regain the vision put forth four decades ago. The time is now to withdraw ourselves from our toxic addiction to the 20th century model of single-occupancy vehicles congested on highways. We must stop supporting those who seek to destroy our collective public spaces for personal gain through the incessant construction of highways.

The time of the highway is over. The time for “a true multi-modal transportation system in Dade County  is now.

Has Miami-Dade County lost its vision for public transit over the last 40 years? — most definitely. However, one can find solace in the fact that this is not the Miami of 1973, nor of ’83, ’93, or ’03. We are no longer the Miami of the past.

This is the Miami of 2013. This is our time. It is up to us to set forward — and bring to fruition — the vision for the Miami of 2053 . . . and beyond.

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View the prize-wining installation of the 2012 DawnTown design/build competition at HistoryMiami.

Thursday, March 21, 2013 @ 6:30pm

HistoryMiami

101 West Flagler Street

dawntown

For the past five years, DawnTown’s annual design ideas competition has attracted designers from around the world to present new and creative possibilities for Miami. This year’s winning design, Up-Downtown, is an international collaboration between Jacob Brillhart (Miami, Fl, USA) and Manuel Clavel-Rojo (Murcia, Spain).

Up-Downtown interactively presents the rapid rise of downtown Miami over an extended period of time.

HistoryMiami Members: Free

Non-Members: $10

RSVP by March 18: 305 375 5356 | RSVP@historymiami.org

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Until the 1960s Miami’s African American teens attended high school at segregated facilities. Join the History Miami community for a discussion featuring students from Miami’s five historically black high schools. Learn how they experienced segregation and how integration impacted their lives and their schools.

Saturday, February 23 @ 2:00pm

101 West Flagler Street, Miami, FL 33130

FREE TO THE PUBLIC

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Panelists:

  • Dr. Wilbert “Tee” Holloway, Northwestern HS, Class of 1966
  • Dr. Mona Bethel Jackson, George Washington Carver Sr. HS, Class of 1965
  • Ms. Frederica Simmons Brown, Booker T. Washington HS, Class of 1950
  • Ms. Wesley Dallas, Mays HS, Class of 1966
  • Mr. Alvin Miller, North Dade Sr. HS, Class of 1964

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Did you know Miami once had a streetcar trolley network that was one of the most efficient and extensive in the developed world at the time?

The map below shows where Miami’s trolley network went in 1925, back when the area population was around 200,000. Today’s Miami-Dade population is approximately 2.5 million. The green lines show our current Metrorail and MetroMover lines, which pale in comparison to the connectivity we enjoyed in the era of the Miami streetcar (1916-1940), indicated by the lines in other colors.

Miami's Historic Streetcar Lines

To attract people and business in the 21st century, the Miami of the future should look a lot like the Miami of the past.

Thanks to Rogelio Madan from the City of Miami for providing.

Miami Trolley #238

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While searching for an image to depict ‘The Missing American Railway’ I found this map from the University of Texas collection. From1900, the map displays America’s Principal Railways along with the country’s major population centers (in brown).

An updated map would surely show a massive smear of brown in the Sunbelt, particularly the Southwest and California, both relative backwaters at the time. Our own Miami, doesn’t even register as a color. We all know that has changed, along with not having anything that resembles a reliable, national network of trains.

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1963:2007:

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It’s a sad day for Miami; a loss for our sports history, the loss of a national icon, it’s the end of an era. The University of Miami has committed a grave miscalculation today. Giving up the Orange Bowl for the sake of what will ultimately become a pittance in increased revenue will prove catastrophic. You don’t trade in years of tradition on a whim (they don’t come back so quickly either.) I’m not a hurricane, in fact far from it, I’ll be there at Joe Robbie (I’m going back to its original name seeing that Huizenga announced an upcoming name change again) in 2008 cheering on my beloved Gators. But if there is one piece of advice I could extend to the University of Miami, it’s that you should never underestimate the power of tradition and the home-field advantage of a raucous crowd. The stands of Joe Robbie will barely quiver. The 76,500 seat stadium will appear cavernous and the once venerable Miami Hurricane Venue will no longer serve as a source of agony for opponents.

What’s more, with the loss of the UM presence at the Orange Bowl, the venue will no longer serve a useful purpose since its inception in 1936. Already discussions are underway to tear down the legendary stadium and construct a new home for the Marlins. I cannot begin to explain how terrible of a location this would be for such a demanding scheduled sport such as baseball. Conveniently isolated from urban transit and existing downtown parking facilities, the new ballpark would be secluded in a predominantly residential neighborhood. Close enough to entice downtown workers to want to attend games, but just far enough from preventing them from walking down the street or hopping on the Metromover. Plans aren’t even on the drawing boards to bring reliable transit into the area anytime soon and I can imagine any further Miami Streetcar plans would be sabotaged. We’ll be left with a massive new stadium for the Marlins, accessible only by vehicle and surrounded by suburban like structures. Continuing our legacy of urban planning disasters built by politicians with no legitimate foresight…

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I took some time today to pay a visit to one of the two unique ships sitting in Miami’s harbor this weekend, the U.S. Eagle (watch the video), the United States’ only active duty tall ship (the other ship, HSV 2 Swift, was not allowing tours.) The U.S. Eagle, moored in the cut of land between the AA Arena and Bicentennial Park, provided visitors with a free, unique tour all weekend long. Visiting the ship docked at the blighted and underutilized park facility, further solidified in my mind the vision plan for Museum park. anchored by the Museum of Science and MAM’s likely iconic structures on the opposite end of the park, the cut where the U.S. Eagle was moored has also been envisioned to become the site of a floating museum (USS Barney Update: Guess Not), similar to the USS Intrepid in Manhattan but on a smaller scale. While visiting the iconic Coast Guard vessel, I was surrounded by an assortment of curious locals and tourists, all equally enjoying the experience, sights, and sunshine by the bay…

Riptide discusses plans for a possible Bay of Pigs Museum on Parcel B…The steering mechanism of the ship requires the attention of six sailors:Meanwhile, the derelict park served well as a surface parking lot for US Eagle visitors. Aside from those of us visiting the Eagle, the only other park visitors consisted of some homeless individuals and a few people fishing in the bay…

Historical tidbits from the USCG:
“The Eagle is a three-masted sailing barque with 21,350 square feet of sail. It is home ported at the CG Academy, New London, Connecticut. It is the only active commissioned sailing vessel in the U.S. maritime services. She is one of five such training barques in world. Remarkably, her surviving sister ships include the Mircea of Romania, Sagres II of Portugal, Gorch Fock of Germany, and Tovarich of Russia.

Today’s Eagle, the seventh in a long line of proud cutters to bear the name, was built in 1936 by the Blohm & Voss Shipyard, Hamburg, Germany, as a training vessel for German Navy cadets. It was commissioned Horst Wessel and served as a training ship for the Kriegsmarine throughout World War II. Click here to read a translated-diary from a German naval cadet who trained aboard the Horst Wessel in 1937.

Following World War II, the Horst Wessel, in the age-old custom of capture and seizure, was taken as a war prize by the United States. Initially, the Soviet Union selected Horst Wessel during the division of Nazi vessels by the victorious Allies. The four available sailing ships had been divided into three lots–two large merchant ships being grouped together. The Soviets drew number 1, Great Britain number 2, and the U.S. number 3. Before the results of the draw were officially announced, the U.S representative, through quiet diplomacy, convinced the Soviets to trade draws.

And so, on May 15, 1946, the German barque was commissioned into U.S. Coast Guard service as the Eagle and sailed from Bremerhaven, Germany to New London, Connecticut. On her voyage to the United States she followed Columbus’s route across the mid-Atlantic. She rode out a hurricane during her trip and arrived in New London safely. She weathered another hurricane in September 1954 while enroute to Bermuda. She hosted OpSail in New York as part of the World’s Fair in 1964. She again hosted OpSail in 1976 during the United States’ Bicentennial celebration. She hosted the centennial celebration for the Statue of Liberty in 1986 as well.

One of the major controversies regarding the cutter was generated when the Coast Guard decided to add the “racing stripe” to her otherwise unadorned hull in mid-1976. She was the last cutter so painted and many in the sailing community decried the new paint job.

Eagle serves as a seagoing classroom for approximately 175 cadets and instructors from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Sailing in Eagle, cadets handle more than 20,000 square feet of sail and 5 miles of rigging. Over 200 lines must be coordinated during a major ship maneuver. The sails can provide the equivalent of several thousand through-shaft horsepower. The ship readily takes to the task for which it was designed. Eagle‘s hull is built of steel, four-tenths of an inch thick. It has two full length steel decks with a platform deck below and a raised forecastle and quarterdeck. The weather decks are three-inch-thick teak over steel.”

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Simply to be very clear… As much as I am pro development, for all it brings to the Miami of the 21st century, I hope that we continue to treasure the rich, diverse and unique architectural heritage of Miami, and Florida as a whole. This image was originally posted on SSC by arch photographer and demonstrates the great necessity for preservation.

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Disclaimer: The following post, you’ll find, has little to do with Transit or recent development, but I’d like to take the time to address the apathetic attitude of our locals when it comes down to our city’s culture, history, and identity by discussing the re-branding of our local brand Burdines to Macy’s.

On June 1, the behemoth corporation known as Federated Department Stores will officially become Macy’s Inc., a move which further unifies but isolates the national retailer in the eyes of many. Federated Department Stores, which itself only acquired Macy’s in the mid 90’s, was responsible for the re-branding of local retailers across the country including our very own Burdines stores (acquired by Federated in 1956.) Other local regional retailers affected by the name games include: Bon Marche (Washington), Goldsmith’s (Tennessee), Lazarus (Cincinnati), Kauffman’s (Pittsburgh), Filene’s (Boston), Foley’s (Houston), L.S. Ayers (Indianapolis), Hecht’s (Maryland), and Marshall Field’s (Chicago) among others. In 2005, Federated Department stores completed the renaming of these and several other department stores nationwide.

Part of me can’t blame Federated for making a move to create a national brand image for their department stores. However, another part of me longs for the unique qualities of each retailer, the names, the history, and the traditions they instilled in the communities which fostered their growth.

It’s the removal of a crucial piece of local history- and the public reaction since which really strikes a chord within me. In early 2004, when Burdines became Burdines-Macy’s I encountered many people who shared my same displeasure with the new moniker. I, like many people, had always associated the Macy’s name with New York, the Thanksgiving Day parade, and iconic store in Herald Square. Likewise, we had always associated Burdines with our hometown, the Downtown Christmas display (for those old enough to remember it), the tacky plastic palm trees, or the Art Deco Marquee on Meridan Avenue. Simply put, to see the two names combined was appalling if not downright confusing. What shocked me most (which with 20/20 hindsight really shouldn’t have) was the passive response of locals. It irked me to see the work of William M. Burdine, a pioneer in our community in 1898, just two years after Flagler’s FEC arrived, wash away so easily under a corporate renaming scheme. The History which built Burdines into “The Florida Store,” is nearly repeated and identical when looking at all the other stores listed above. Each city had its own distinctive flagship store located downtown and started by an entrepreneur in the mid to late 1800’s.

Like Burdines, many of the department stores went down without major local opposition. There is one key exception, however: Marshall Fields. The citizens of Chicago have organized in opposition of the Macy’s re-branding in an effort to revert the Chicago Icon to its former glory and if not, at least preserve the history that Federated has consciously tried to erase. The Marshall Fields Supporters have held rallies, gathered thousands of signatures on petitions, and have been boycotting Macy’s since it removed the Chicago name. So far, it’s working. Macy’s sales at the once flagship store have dropped considerably. Federated’s sales are down nationwide and the chain missed analyst’s expectations. The same effect can be seen in the Ohio area where the Lazarus stores were re-branded and in Seattle where Bon-Marsh once thrived. As this article is careful to point out, sales have dropped nearly nationwide, except Miami:

MIAMI
At Burdines, another market where Macy’s has been around for two decades, the renaming appeared to have little effect. Of those shoppers surveyed, 47 percent said they shopped at Macy’s in 2006, unchanged from the 47 percent in 2004 that shopped at Burdines-Macy’s. In 2002, 57 percent surveyed shopped at either Burdines or Macy’s. When asked to break it out, 51 percent of shoppers frequented Burdines and 24 percent visited Macy’s.

Coincidence? I think not, it seems like more of a lack of local identity to me…

Former flagship Lazarus Department store in downtown Cincinnati compared to the bland, characterless new store introduced under the Macy’s name (Via Wikipedia)…

Here is an interesting piece of information I just discovered. The site of the “iconic” Sears Tower, integrated with the struggling Carnival Center, was originally a Burdines store before Sears bought the land next door, built the tower, and bought them out…

  • Thanks to Magic City on SSC for the Historical Pictures…
  • This article was written in part due to an e-mail sent to me by the South Beach Hoosier, thanks for the contribution David…

I continued my walking tour around the Citi Center and Wachovia towers and along the Intercontinental Hotel as I headed into Bayfront Park. I must begin by saying that Bayfront Park has incredible potential. It’s a beautiful public place which for the past decades has sadly been neglected. Efforts to promote the park as something other than a park, has led it to become cramped and paved over with too much cement. The attraction should be its’ natural beauty and the seaside serenity offered by Biscayne Bay. The park is direly underused, but as you’ll see, it also has incredible design flaws which detract from the experience of visiting an urban park. The picture below depicts what I’m talking about, just look at the width of the sidewalk. The walkways in the park are better suited handle a couple of 18 wheelers side-by-side than a few people strolling around. It was just after noon when I walked through here and there was a nice breeze coming in from the bay, however, the heat radiating upwards from the cement was nearly unbearable.

In an apparent attempt to provide yet another use for the park, the city is constructing a children’s play area to accommodate some of the families moving into the downtown condos. I like the idea, most parks have places for kids to play but I am worried that the park has already become too cluttered.

Looking back south along a slightly less wide path, we see from a different angle the proposed downtown station for commuter ferry service.

I noticed something unusual. There were people in the park, mainly concentrated along the shore, but most of them were sitting in the grass or leaning up against the coconut palms. I was wondering why there wasn’t any suitable seating in the park when I came across the vast concrete bench apparently designed to fry anyone in the park who wanted sit. Nearly all the available seating in the park was in direct sunlight. The few shade trees in the park all had someone sitting below them on the grass…

Looking back into downtown along Flagler St., we see 50 Biscayne topping off to the right. Once again notice the broad sidewalks.

There is a big green fence swallowing up half the park and blue one obstructing another quarter of it. The green fence is part of what I assume is Miami’s newest tourist attraction in Bayfront Park: Miami Skylift. This contraption will lift visitors 500 ft into the air, providing the first observation-like platform in Miami. I first encountered this object when I visited Berlin. Rising outside my Hotel window in Potsdammer Platz was one of the first of these floating observation decks.

The second major obstruction, surrounded by a large blue fence is that of the Sunset Cinemas, also known as Movies by the Bay. Movies by the Bay is an intriguing idea concocted by the Hertig Family of New Jersey which shows movies in an open air theater every night. Unfortunately, as the Riptide recently reported, the cinema is struggling to attract enough visitors. If it wasn’t for the huge blue fence, I’d be a little more receptive to the idea, but it leaves me wondering why the cinema couldn’t open up shop in the unused open air amphitheater just across the park.

The other recent attraction to Bayfront Park is the Miami Trapeze course.

Heading into the CBD along Flagler, I decided to check out the streetscape project and vibrancy of the emerging retail district. A café owner is attempting to create a sidewalk café type atmosphere:

They just don’t build them like this anymore. This is the Alfred I. DuPont Building (Marsh & Saxelby, 1938) at 169 Flagler St. It is an example of Depression Moderne architecture, using a restrained Art Deco style. The lobby is allegedly one of the most spectacular in Miami, featuring bronze bas-relief elevator doors.

The Olympia Theater (Gusman Center for the Performing Arts) built in 1925, was designed by John Eberson and was the first air-conditioned building in Miami. The beautiful theater inside features 246 twinkling stars in the ceiling, 12 foot long chandeliers, and a beautiful wood paneled lobby. The Theater is also home to the downtown tourism office, where I stopped by and obtained a self-guided walking tour and much of the background information on these buildings.

The Historic Walgreens, now home to La Epoca Department store, was built in 1936 by Zimmerman, Saxe & MacBride, Ehmann. Designed in a streamline modern style, this building was home to Walgreens for over 50 years; it featured a popular cafeteria and was only the third Walgreen open outside of Chicago at the time. In a typical American fashion, Walgreens abandoned the location for the cookie cutter like store a couple blocks along Flagler. Lame. La Epoca is a jewel in Miami’s urban core. The original department store was founded in 1885 in Havana, Cuba. It was seized by the Castro administration in 1960, leaving then owner Diego Alonso no choice but to start over in Miami. The Miami store opened in 1965 and was located next to the aforementioned Alfred I Dupont Building until 2005, when the store relocated to the former Walgreens store.

The First National Bank of Miami building still standing today was built in 1922 and was designed by Mowbray & Uffinger. When the market crashed in the 1920’s after the Florida land boom, Fist National Bank was the only bank in Miami that did not fail. The building is currently being restored and converted into the Flagler First Condominium project.

The Downtown Burdines store (sorry Macy’s, I don’t care for the name games) was originally built in 1912; however it was remodeled in 1936 in the streamline art deco style. This store is the anchor of the downtown retail industry. The city is working closely with the store to clean up the surrounding area after Macy’s threatened to leave.

The last couple of pictures below depict some of the urban decay and grit which still covers much of this area. I am glad to note that some new stores have started to move into the area including an upscale optical store as well as some chain shoe stores. The downtown American Apparel, located North of Flagler however recently closed. Revitalizing this area and creating a vibrant shopping district in the urban core needs to become a top priority for our city. With thousands of condos coming into the area, we need to have an area with easily accessible pedestrian oriented shops and cafes…

Stick around for part three, where I was apprehended by a US Marshall for being normal…

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