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 Calloway, Nat 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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”).
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.
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.
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.
View the prize-wining installation of the 2012 DawnTown design/build competition at HistoryMiami.
Thursday, March 21, 2013 @ 6:30pm
101 West Flagler Street
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
RSVP by March 18: 305 375 5356 | RSVP@historymiami.org
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
- 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
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.
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.
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.
It’s a sad day for
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…
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…
“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.”
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
Like Burdines, many of the department stores went down without major local opposition. There is one key exception, however: Marshall Fields. The citizens of
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…
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.
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…
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
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
The other recent attraction to
They just don’t build them like this anymore. This is the
The Olympia Theater (
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
The First National Bank of
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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