United States Department of the Interior
National Park Service
National Register of Historic Places
Prepared by Ellen Uguccioni/Amy Streelman/Elaine Lund/Carl Shiver, Historic Preservationists, Florida Bureau of Historic Preservation
The Downtown Miami Historic District encompasses an area of approximately 38 acres and comprises mainly commercial buildings that range in date from 1903 through 1955 and offer a mixture of low- and high-rise edifices, some of which represent important architectural designs by influential architects. The largest number of resources dates from the 1920s Florida real estate boom. The approximately four by four city block district contains 112 buildings of which 73 contribute to its historic character and 39 of which do not contribute to its historic character, a ratio of 65 percent contributing to 35 percent noncontributing. The district contains a variety of building styles that include Masonry Vernacular, Commercial style, Mediterranean Revival, Art Moderne, and Neoclassical Revival. Although the majority of the buildings are used for commercial purposes, there are some multi-residential buildings and one major church.
The City of Miami is located in Southeast Florida, in Miami-Dade County on the Miami River, between the Florida Everglades and the Atlantic Ocean. Miami is the largest municipality in Miami-Dade County according to the 2000 census, having a population of 362,470. Miami is known as the Gateway to Latin America and attracts a large number of tourists and new residents from South and Central America and the Caribbean. The majority of the permanent foreign-born population originated in Cuba; however, virtually every country in the western hemisphere is represented. Over 100,000 persons of Cuban origin reside in the city of Miami, while all other Hispanic groups account for approximately another 100,000 residents. Approximately 18,000 persons of Haitian heritage also live in Miami. According to the 2000 U.S. census, the City has a 60 percent Hispanic population, a 22.3 percent African-American population, an 11.9 percent non-Hispanic white residents, and 5.8 percent other groups.
The Downtown Miami Historic District encompasses the heart of the traditional downtown Miami commercial sector, generally bounded by Northeast 3rd Street on the north. Southeast 3rd Avenue on the east. Southeast 2nd Street on the south, and N.W. Miami Court on the west. Although the Miami Downtown Historic District includes some high-rise office buildings, the majority of the buildings are smaller in scale. Only 19 historic buildings in this district are more than 6 stories high. Most of the buildings front directly onto the sidewalk.
Building canopies and awnings at the street level provide shade for pedestrians (Photo 1). The street lighting consists of standardized concrete and metal poles, although there are some decorative cast iron street lamps interspersed among them. The buildings in the district include a variety of types and styles, dating primarily from the first years of the twentieth century to the 1930s and 1940s. Notable buildings that contribute to the character of the Downtown Miami Historic District are described in detail in the following paragraphs:
Seminole Hotel 51 East Flagler Street
The Masonry Vernacular style Seminole Hotel at 51 East Flagler Street (Photo 2) is one of the oldest buildings in the historic district. Constructed c. 1906, the principal elevation of the three-story masonry building retains at least some degree of original appearance. The building was constructed as the Iroquois Hotel but is better known as the Seminole Hotel, the name it carried from the 1910s through the 1930s. Beginning in 1922, the first floor was occupied by the Red Cross Pharmacy, which eventually evolved into J. Byrons Department Store. The street level building’s facade once featured a canopy supported by wooden posts. The central portion of the canopy supported a small veranda, atop which was a balcony for the third floor. Access to the veranda and balcony was through no longer extant doorways. These external features were eventually removed to accommodate standard-size rectangular single-hung windows with six-over-six lights set within aluminum frames. The roofline of the building is characterized by a parapet wall embellished by two bands of masonry corbelling. The central portion of the parapet rises in height above the surrounding parapet wall. The principal elevation of the building is seven bays wide. Simple pilasters separate the bays. Although there have been modifications to the building’s original architectural fabric, the appearance of the building still conveys the original Masonry Vernacular styling.
Saragossa Apartments 227 N.E. 2nd Street
Another early multi-residential building in the historic district is the Masonry Vernacular Saragossa Apartments (Photo 3), now named the Bayside Heights Apartments, which was constructed sometime between 1912 and 1914. The name was changed to the Johnson Apartments in the 1920s. The footprint of the four-story reinforced concrete building has changed little since it first appeared on the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Miami in 1914. The distinctive edifice features a central entranceway flanked by two commercial storefronts with recessed entrances and single display windows. The first story wall of the main facade is covered with glazed tile. The rest of the exterior walls are surfaced with smooth stucco, and the building has cantilevered cast concrete balconies on the upper three stories of the main facade. The side elevations feature oriel window bays that extend upward from the second to the fourth stories. The flat roof is surrounded by a coped parapet wall that steps up to an arched pediment in the center of the main facade. The original fenestration consists mainly of 1/1-light double hung wood sash windows. Although considered vernacular in style, the shaped parapet and oriel window bays hint at elements of both the Romanesque Revival and Mission Revival styles.
U.S. Post Office and Federal Courthouse 100-118 N.E. 1st Avenue
The former U.S. Post Office and First Federal District Courthouse at 100-118 N.E. 1st Avenue, (Photo 4), [N.R. 1989] constructed in 1912, was designed in the Neoclassical Revival style by architect Oscar Wenderoth (1871-1938). In 1912, he succeeded James Knox Taylor as Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury. This threestory building is clad with polished Indiana limestone and is topped by a low-pitched hipped roof covered with Spanish tile and supported by exposed jigsaw-cut rafters. The main facade faces east and consists of nine bays separated by Ionic pilasters. The central seven bays contain arched doorways at the ground level, double doors that open to iron balustraded balconets at the second level, and paired wood casement windows at the third level. A dentiled string course runs below the third story windows. The south facade features the same fenestration pattern over six bays. Cartouches are located in the outer bays at the second story on the east facade. The two-story L-shaped addition was built between 1914 and 1918.
When this building was constructed as a U.S. post office, it was considered the most modem and up to date federal building in the South. When the post office outgrew this building in 1937, it was sold to the First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Miami for $165,500. It was remodeled that year by the firm of Kiehnel and Elliott at a cost of $55,000. 1 In 2003, it was once again vacant and undergoing renovation for commercial offices.
Real Estate Building 60-68 NE 1st Street
The two-story Masonry Vernacular Real Estate Building (Photo 5) was constructed c. 1913. The facade of the building features a one-story projecting masonry arcade that shelters the storefronts. The building has a five-bay loggia and originally had a separate entrance that provided access to the second floor. At present, the storefronts have been altered to accommodate glass doors and display windows set within aluminum frames. The upper story of the building has had its original fenestration pattern altered to accommodate standard-size single-hung windows set within aluminum frames. Glass block windows and masonry bas-relief provide ornamentation in the frieze area. A simple masonry band extends below the parapet wall.
Waddell Building. 24-36 N. Miami Avenue
The Waddell Building (Photo 6) is a two-story Masonry Vernacular building executed in 1914. This building originally contained four storefronts at the ground level and a hotel on the second floor. The principal elevation on North Miami Avenue is five bays wide and is characterized by a projecting two-story loggia that spans the entire width of the building. Both the street level and upper loggias feature bracketed square masonry piers that support the second story and roof decks. A solid masonry balustrade borders the front and sides of the upper loggia. The flat roof is concealed by a masonry parapet that is embellished with a projecting comice. The fenestration on the second floor of the building is original and consists of a combination of single and paired double-hung 4/1-light wood sash windows. The street level of the building has been modified through the years, and the original storefronts have been replaced with plate glass windows set in aluminum frames. The original doors have been replaced with modem aluminum frame plate glass doors. This building is among the last of its type to survive in downtown Miami. 2
Ralston Building 40-44 N.E. 1st Avenue
The eight-story Ralston Building at 40-44 N.E. 1st Avenue was constructed in 1916 and was considered to be the city’s first skyscraper (Photo 7). Prior to the construction of the Ralston, the tallest building in downtown Miami was only five stories high. The building was designed by architect August Geiger (1887-1968), who spent most of his professional career in the Miami-Dade County area. It is Italian Renaissance Revival in design and features highly ornamental glazed terra cotta relief panels in the spandrels. Corinthian pilasters separate the three major bays of the street facade. The original storefronts and entrance at the ground level have been covered with metal roll-up security screens. The second through the eighth stories contain a repetitive fenestration pattern, which expresses the building’s “curtain-wall” construction. The original windows have been replaced with paired and grouped single-hung windows set within aluminum frames. There is a masonry entablature found between the second and third floors and between the seventh and eighth floors. The upper entablature features a garland, and floral designs are found on the pilasters at the second and eighth levels. The building originally featured a highly ornate roofline comprised of a pierced masonry screen surrounded by finials. The roofline now consists of a projecting parapet wall.
McCrory Store Building 23-29 E Flagler Street
The former McCrory Store Building (Photo 8) is a three-story masonry building, constructed in 1906, that had its original brick facade replaced with an Art Deco one in 1938. The building was used both as the McCrory 5 and 10 cent store and the McCrory Hotel, which was located on the two upper floors. 3 The two upper stories of the main facade are sheathed in marble and feature two major bays that each contain five windows across the facade. The decorative scheme is limited mainly to the relief details found along the parapet. The windows consist of double-hung, 1/1-light double-hung wood sash windows. The ground floor has been altered and consists of three storefronts. Each storefront contains paired glass doors set within aluminum frames. There are glass display windows flanking the entrances. 4
W.T. Grant Building 9-21 E Flagler Street
Another renovated Art Deco building in the district is the W.T. Grant Building (Photo 9), a two-story masonry building constructed in 1906 that received its present facade in 1937. The building originally housed the W. T. Grant Company retail store. The principal elevation of the building features a twelve-bay central block that is taller than its flanking three-bay wings. The ground floor of the building has been altered and is entered through pairs of double glass doors set in aluminum frames. There are glass display windows flanking the entrances, and the rest of the wall area is clad in metal panels. The upper story of the building is characterized by a stucco wall inset with metal frame casement windows. Between the windows are vertical bands of masonry that create stylized pilasters. Masonry coping is found along the parapet which conceals a flat roof behind. The lower story of the building features a non-historic projecting canopy suspended from the exterior walls by anchor rods. 5
Lerner Shops 26-30 E Flagler Street, Miami
The five-story building Lerner Shops Building (Photo 10) was constructed prior to 1918 for S.H. Kress & Co., which occupied the property through the 1920s. The building was purchased by Lerner Shops, a New York women’s clothing chain, in 1938 and remodeled to achieve it present appearance. The new Art Moderne design is simple and sleek. The principal elevation of the building features a recessed entrance flanked by display windows. The entrance comprises two sets of double glass doors with flanking display windows covered with a metal security screen. The upper stories are covered with white marble that creates a flat almost uninterrupted surface, except for the two vertical bands of tinted glass blocks separated by a panel of Norwegian Rose marble. The name of the company executed in high relief script typeface is centered over the main entrance just above the concrete stringcourse that extends the width of the street facade. Original 2/1-light double-hung wood sash windows are found on the upper floor of the east elevation of the building. 6
Sevbold Building. 30-44 N.E. 1st Street
Another of downtown Miami’s early skyscrapers was the Seybold Building (Photo 11), a 10-story masonry building executed in the Commercial style of architecture. The original plans for the building were designed by the architectural firm of Kiehnel and Elliott who contributed plans for many important buildings in the Miami and Miami Beach area. The building was constructed in two phases. The lower two stories were completed in 1921 and featured a suspended canopy covering the street level of the building. The upper eight stories of the building were added in 1925. The principal elevation follows the classic formula for skyscraper construction: a massive base, a simple elongated shaft, and an articulated terminal story. The lower floor of the building is divided into seven bays and contains many of the original storefronts along the sidewalk level. The entrance to the building is characterized by a two-story arched opening within the center bay that leads to the elevator lobby.
The storefronts contain the original metal framing surrounding the glass display windows. The arched entrance leads to a retail arcade, and then to Flagler Street. The shaft of the building features a repetitive fenestration pattern spanning seven bays across the building’s width. Several of the original windows remain and consist of double-hung, one-over-one sash windows set within wooden frames. The fenestration pattern changes at the terminal floor where all the window openings on the facade are arched instead of rectangular. A masonry parapet wall is located at the roofline. The elevation is clad in stucco and possesses little ornamentation along the shaft, except for engaged columns placed between each bay extending from the third to the tenth story. 7
Meyer-Kiser Bank Building 139 N.E. 1st Street
The Meyer-Kiser Building at 139 N.E. 1st Street (Photo 12), [N.R. 1988], built in 1925 at the height of the Boom era, is an example of a commercial building designed in the Neoclassical Revival style. It was designed by architect Martin Luther Hampton (1890-1950) who was responsible for the design of other important buildings in the district. When completed, the Meyer-Kiser Building towered above the Miami skyline at seventeen stories; however, the building was seriously damaged by the September 1926 hurricane, leaving only seven stories intact. No attempt was made to reconstruct the upper ten stories. The Meyer-Kiser Bank occupied the renovated seven-story structure until the “crash” of 1929. After being occupied by a number of tenants until 1944, the Dade-Commonwealth Title and Abstract Company became its principal occupant, and the building is now known as the Dade Commonwealth Building.
Hahn Building 140 NE 1st Avenue
The two-story Neoclassical Revival style Hahn Building (Photo 13), [N.R. 1989], constructed in 1921, was designed by architects George L. Pfeiffer and Gerald Joseph O’Reilly. 8 The glass doors and windows in the storefronts along the first story are original. The second story contains several decorative elements, including stylized flat pilasters with cartouches flanking the end bays. The wide masonry belt course between the first and second stories is articulated with bands of molding. An entablature containing stylized acanthus leaves wraps around the two principal elevations. Atop the entablature is a pierced masonry parapet that conceals the flat roof The original windows on the second story have been replaced with awning windows, but the original window surrounds and the highly ornate Corinthian mullions are still intact. 9
Shoreland Arcade. 120 N.E. 1st Street
The Shoreland Arcade (Photo 14), [N.R. 1989] at 120 NE 1st Avenue is the last intact arcade in downtown Miami. The two-story building was designed by the architectural firm of Pfeiffer and O’Reilly and completed in 1925. The main facade of the building is eight bays wide and combines Art Deco and Classical Revival styling. Each bay contains a large arched opening flanked by stylized pilasters that are embellished with polychrome masonry medallions that feature eagles and images from Florida history. Heavy ornamental moldings carved from Indiana limestone surround the arches. Seven of the arches contain glass storefronts set in metal frames. Fixed windows are found in the arches above the storefronts. The fifth arch from the east originally provided access to the lobby of the building; however, it has since been blocked. The second story of this elevation is characterized by eight paired double-hung wood sash windows, which have been painted over. The spandrels above these windows contain decorative panels with stylized ornamentation. The tops of the pilasters are flat and line up with the low parapet wall.
Security Building 117 NE 1st Avenue
The 16-story Commercial style Security Building (Photo 15), [N.R. 1989], constructed in 1926, was designed by architect Robert Greenfield who had offices in New York and Miami. The building offers a wealth of decorative detail and distinctive cladding materials. The first three stories of the building feature a temple-like base. Engaged pilasters frame the center bay and articulate the comers, creating three distinct bays. The spandrels between the floors are bronze and exhibit relief ornament. The pilasters carry the entablature, which features the name “Security Building” in incised letters. A molding with dentils decorates the comice that tops the base of the building. The fourth floor begins the transition to the high-rise portion of the building. Stone panels with relief decoration accent the comers and separate the bays. Above the windows of the fourth floor is a stringcourse ornamented with a guilloche 10 pattern in relief The three bays continue up floors five through thirteen with window arrangements grouped in pairs on each of the end bays and grouped in three in the center bay, emphasizing the importance of the center bay to the entire composition. The windows are metal casement.
The fourteenth and fifteenth floors function as the base for the great mansard roof, which terminates the building. To balance the composition, the two floors are treated as if they were one by the use of a round arch at the fifteenth floor carried by the pilasters of the fourteenth floor so that the two floors are visually united. A bracketed comice separates the building from the roof form that is decidedly different from other roof treatments in Miami during this period. The mansard roof of the Security Building is clad in copper and terminates in a series of antefixes. 11 A series of arches containing windows and serving as dormers penetrate the roof Bulls-eye windows are found between the arched windows. An eight-sided cupola that extends from the center of the roof is fenestrated on each side with a multi-paned arched window. The dome of the cupola also is clad in copper. 12
Biscayne Building 9-23 W Flagler Street and 18-22 North Miami Avenue
The Biscayne Building (Photo 16) is a 13-story Commercial style building designed by the architectural firm of Pfeiffer and O’Reilly and constructed between 1925 and 1926. The exterior walls of the building are sheathed in stucco, and the structure terminates in a flat roof The exterior of the principal elevation is plain and the fenestration pattern repetitive. The first seven floors are six bays wide, and the upper floors are four bays wide. Each bay contains a pair of window openings that presently contain a sheet of fixed glass. The major bays of the 2nd and 3rd stories are separated by pilasters without capitals that support a plain entablature. The paired windows of the fourth story are separated by high-relief cartouches with elaborate borders. The fourth story is separated from the upper stories by a simple architrave. The elevation at the twelfth and thirteenth floors consists of windows set within recessed arched openings. The spandrel area between the arches is embellished with cartouches and classically inspired decorative ornament. The building was renovated in 1963, at which time an addition was constructed with frontage on North Miami Avenue. Monumental engaged columns were removed from the main facade, and a projecting cornice supported by brackets found at the roof line was removed. 13 The principal entrance to the building is sheltered by a suspended canopy and is flanked by storefronts composed of glass doors and display windows set into aluminum frames.
City National Bank Building 121 SE 1st Street
The 11-story, Commercial style City National Bank Building (Photo 17), [N.R. 1989], constructed in 1925, was designed by architects Martin Hampton and Emil A. Ehmann. The exterior wall surface of the building is covered with stucco, and decorative elements are cast stone. The base of the facade features an arched loggia with low relief pilasters that rise three stories high and terminate in stylized composite capitals. These pilasters are attached to colossal piers linked by round arches with ancon keystones and smooth spandrels. The arches support a frieze with low relief decoration that provides a visual transition between the second story windows that are topped by a classical entablature. The main facade is five bays wide, with the arches occupying the inner three bays. The building shaft contains paired windows in the three middle bays and single windows in the end bays. The original fenestration has been replaced with metal single-hung sash windows, casement windows, and awning windows. At the top floor, low relief cartouches separate the windows. A raised parapet wall, embellished by massive brackets and a tall cornice is found at the roofline of the building. 14
Royalton Hotel 131 SE 1st Street
Located immediately next to the City Bank Building is another good example of the Commercial style, the Royalton Hotel (Photo 18), now a Travel Lodge Hotel, which was constructed c. 1926. The principal elevation fronts to the south and is 6 bays wide. The street level features arched doorways with radiating voussoirs that are obscured by cloth awnings. The spandrels of the arches feature round medallions. The arches visually carry an entablature that separates the first and second stories. The second through the sixth stories of the main facade are separated into five window bays containing single and paired aluminum sash windows. The three inner bays are separated from the two outer bays by shallow Doric pilasters that rise in stages to the roof parapet. The fourth and fifth stories feature small balconies supported by ancones. The original windows have been replaced by aluminum sash windows which contain AC-HVC units. The central bays of the seventh story contain three sets of triple arched windows with medallions similar to the ones found on the first story occupying the spandrels. The building has a plain parapet wall with a simple coping. Despite its modifications the Royal Hotel remains one the most architecturally significant buildings in the Historic District.
Burdines Department Store 2-22 East Flagler Street
Some of the commercial buildings constructed or remodeled in the 1930s and 1940s are examples of the Art Deco and Art Modeme styles. Among these is the Burdines Department Store (Photo 19), a six-story masonry building, constructed during the 1920s whose current Streamline Modeme facade dates from 1936. A curved comer at the intersection of East Flagler Street and South Miami Avenue is the most prominent element of the facade. The ground floor of the building features large glass display windows set into aluminum frames. A set of double doors provides access to the store at both the north and west elevations. The fenestration pattern of the facade consists of ribbon windows containing panels of glass block and fixed panes of glass. The travertine marble facade extends to just above the flat roofline. A vertically aligned sign bearing the name of the store in modem typestyle hangs at the curved northwest comer of the building. The architects for the 1936 facade of Burdines Department Store were E. L. Robertson of Miami and J. R. Weber of New York. 15
Walgreens Dmg Store. 200 East Flagler Street
This five-story masonry building is an example of the Streamline Modeme subtype of architecture (Photo 20), [N.R. 1989]. Built in 1936, the Walgreens Dmg Store was designed by the architectural firm of Zimmerman, Saxe and McBride. The building is located at the southeast comer of East Flagler Street and S.E. 2nd Avenue. The most striking aspect of the building is the curve of the wall where the building wraps around the comer. The principal elevations feature horizontal bands of metal fixed and awning windows separated by stone spandrels. The main entrance is found at the street level of the curved comer and is recessed into the wall. Three pairs of glass and metal frame doors comprise the entrance. The fenestration pattern of the building’s elevation features a combination of glass sized to allow maximum light and ventilation into the interior. The fenestration found at the curved comer features metal fixed and casement windows set within multi-pane fixed glass. A tall parapet wall featuring scored masonry bands is at the roofline. 16
Burdines Annex. 2-36 South Miami Avenue
The Burdines Aimex, constmcted in 1946, is a five-story masonry building that exhibits the same Streamline Modeme style of architecture as its parent building (Photo 21). The building occupies the southwest comer of the intersection of West Flagler Street and South Miami Avenue and is connected to the department store by an overhead pedestrian bridge that crosses South Miami Avenue. The building features a curved comer containing ribbon windows that curve around the two building elevations. The lower floor of the building is leased by other retail establishments and is not connected to the upper floors except for a small area at the back of the building. Glass doors characterize the storefronts on the ground floor and display windows are set within aluminum frames. A projecting canopy extends fi*om the first floor over the sidewalk. The fenestration of the upper floors is original to the building and features panels of glass block and fixed panes of glass. The exterior of the building is sheathed in wide slabs of travertine marble arranged in a msticated pattern. The wall plane terminates at the roofline and conceals a flat roof behind. The visual composition of the building represents a rarity in downtown Miami because of its styling and overhead connection to another building. E. L. Robertson of Miami and J. R. Weber of New York, the architectural firm that designed the facade for Burdines Department Store, also provided the design for the Burdines Annex. 17
Alfred I. Dupont Building 169 E Flagler Street
The 17-story Alfred I. Dupont Building (Photo 22), [N.R. 1989] is an Art Modeme style building constmcted in 1939. It was designed by the architectural firm of Marsh and Saxelbye and has a steel frame skeleton that is clad with stone. The east elevation is 14 bays wide and the south elevation 12 bays. The exterior follows the classic formula for high-rise constmction. The building has a base that consists of a band of black granite that wraps around the building at the first story level. The simple vertical shaft emphasizes the height of the building with a repetitive fenestration pattern. Above the shaft is an articulated roofline, which consists of a series of setbacks. Along the ground floor, metal and glass doors and windows delineate a series of storefronts. The main entrances to the building are located at the center of the elevations facing E Flagler Street and NE 2nd Avenue. These entrances consist of double glass doors set within brass frames. The tall second story features multi-pane casement windows with transom windows that are covered in decorative metal grilles. A masonry belt course with stylized floral decoration separates the second and third stories. From the third to the fifteenth floors, there are single windows on the end bays and paired windows in the remaining bays. These windows are original two-over-two, double-hung sashes in metal frames. The sixteenth floor is set back along the north and south sides and only occupies eight bays across the east elevation. The seventeenth story is set back further, and is only six bays wide. The interior decoration of the building features Seminole Indian motifs and local flora and fauna. 18
Gesu Church and Rectory 118-130 NE 2nd Street
The Downtown Miami Historic District includes one church, the Gesu Church and Rectory (Photo 23) [N.R. 1974]. This building replaced a wood frame church built on the site in 1898. The present building was designed by architect Grin T. Williams and constructed 1922-1925. The Mediterranean Revival style church exhibits various influences from both the Italian and Spanish Renaissance. The main part of the church rises four stories with a massive arched portico under a tower. The tripartite tower on the roof contains a belfry, and is flanked by two more towers covered in Mission tiles. A large stained glass rose window is found above the main entrance. The interior has sixteen additional stained glass windows, large painted murals and intricately carved marble altar screens and railings. Gesu Church, an active parish church, is in the heart of downtown Miami and has served the community for more than seventy years. 19
Olympia Theatre 174 E Flagler Street
The historic district includes one theater, originally called the Olympia Theatre and Office Building, constructed in 1926, and now known as the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts (Photograph 24) [N.R. 1984]. The theater, designed by John Eberson of Chicago, is a superb example on the interior of an atmospheric theater. The Olympia Theater is a rectangular building with common bond exterior brick walls and a flat roof. The building is divided into two parts. The part facing E Flagler Street is a ten-story office building. The ground floor is occupied by shops and the theater lobby which serves as the entrance to the theater and the offices on the upper floors. This part of the building has little ornamentation other than moldings located above the first, second, ninth, and tenth story windows and decorative window surrounds on the tenth story windows with split pediments and shields. This ornament is cast stone having a light tan color which contrast with the darker brown brick. The restored theater marquee and ticket kiosk are found on the East Flagler Street near the intersection with NE Second Avenue. The interior of the theater contains one of the best of the “atmospheric” theaters constructed in the 1920s. The interior was meant to represent an Italian Renaissance architectural and spatial environment including stars, clouds, and extensive flamboyant architectural detailing. There are several public spaces, including a vestibule, foyer, and mezzanine, in addition to the auditorium.
Dupont Parking Garage 170 NE 1st Street
There are two parking garages in the Downtown Miami Historic District that contribute to its historic character. The four-story Dupont Garage (Photo 25) was built in the mid-1940s and is adjacent to the Alfred I. Dupont Building. The five-story Ingraham Garage, built in the mid-1940s, at 226 SE 1st Street, is located across the street from the Ingraham Building. Both parking garages feature vertical signage at the automobile entrance and retail storefronts at the street level. Both garages are associated with contributing high-rise commercial buildings.
The buildings that are considered noncontributing resources in this district are those that have been so substantially altered that they no longer possess architectural integrity, like the Miami Theatre (Photo 26) at 141-145 E Flagler Street which was constructed in 1947, or those that have been constructed after 1955, like the ones at 20 S.E. 1st Street (Photo 27) and the Wachovia Bank Buildings (Photo 28) at 100 East Flagler Street, both of which were constructed in the 1980s.
The Downtown Miami Historic District is locally significant under Criteria A and C in the areas of Community Planning and Development, Commerce, and Architecture. The buildings that comprise the historic district reflect the development of Miami’s central business district from its early development through its growth as a major international center of commerce. The district illustrates a recurring boom and bust cycle in Miami that is evidenced in the building activity, the types and scale of the buildings, and the variations in use brought about by social and economic change. Architecturally, this district contains a distinctive collection of Commercial, Masonry Vernacular, Mediterranean Revival, Art Deco, Art Modeme, Neoclassical Revival, and Italian Renaissance Revival style buildings built primarily during the first half of the twentieth century.
Thirteen buildings in the Downtown Miami Historic District are individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
1. City National Bank Building, 121 S.E. 1st Street
2. Congress Building, 111 N.E. 2nd Avenue
3. Alfred I. Dupont Building, 169 East Flagler Street
4. Gesu Church and Rectory, 118-130 N.E. 2nd Street
5. Hahn Building, 140 N.E. 1st Avenue
6. Huntington Building, 168 S.E. 1st Street
7. Ingraham Building, 25 S.E. 2nd Avenue
8. Meyer-Kiser Building, 139 N.E. 1st Street
9. U.S. Post Office and First Federal District Courthouse, 100-118 N.E. 1st Avenue
10. Olympia Theatre and Office Building, 174 East Flagler Street
11. Security Building, 117 N.E. 1 st Avenue
12. Shoreland Arcade, 120 N.E. 1st Street
13. Walgreen Drug Store, 200 East Flagler Street
Miami’s earliest permanent land records date from the Second Spanish Colonial Period (1784-1921). John Egan’s grant from the King of Spain was included as part of his son James’s claim after Florida became a territory of the United States in 1821. A commission was set up to validate claims from the Spanish Period. James Egan’s claim for the north bank of the Miami River (640 acres) and his mother Rebecca Egan’s claim for the south bank (640 acres) were validated in 1825. These two grants included most of the original limits of the City of Miami. 20
Key West resident Richard Fitzpatrick, formerly of South Carolina, purchased the James Egan grant in 1830 for $400. By 1833, he had also purchased the Rebecca Egan grant for $640 and two other grants (Polly and Jonathan Lewis), each 640 acres. These latter two grants were located along the bay, south of Rebecca Egan’s grant. Fitzpatrick cleared the land and was in the process of building a large plantation when the Second Seminole War (1835-1842) erupted in late 1835. Early in 1836 Fitzpatrick left the area, and the Seminole Indians burned his plantation to the ground. Just weeks before, as President of the Territorial Council, he had successfully pushed for the creation of Dade County from the larger Monroe County. The United States established Fort Dallas on Fitzpatrick’s property in 1838 and occupied it intermittently until the war ended in 1842.
By the time the war was over, Richard Fitzpatrick had lost interest in the area and sold his entire holdings to his nephew, William F. English, for $16,000. English platted the “Village of Miami” on the south bank of the Miami River in 1843 and began building a large plantation house and slave quarters of native limestone on the north bank. When another Indian outbreak in 1849 brought the U.S. troops back to the Miami River, English went to California to seek his fortune during the gold rush as a means to finance his new city. He was accidentally killed in California. The Army occupied the English plantation (renamed “Fort Dallas”), improved the two stone buildings he had constructed, and added several others.
The troops left a year later, only to return and reactivate Fort Dallas in 1855, at the beginning of the Third Seminole War. During this occupation, the Army again occupied English’s stone buildings. Military engineers also constructed the region’s first road, connecting Fort Dallas with the military outpost at Fort Lauderdale. William Wagner, a settler who followed the U.S. Army to the wilderness, decided to stay after the war. Sometime between 1855 and 1858 he built a simple frame house on a creek that branched off the Miami River. This house and English’s slave quarters (Fort Dallas) are now located in Lummus Park, and are the only known buildings of that early pioneer era that remain in downtown Miami. 21 The first Miami post office opened in December 1856, receiving mail once a month by boat from Key West. When the Third Seminole War ended, many soldiers settled in the area and Fort Dallas became the nucleus of a permanent community. 22
When English died, his estate passed to his sister Harriet, who sold the most of the property on the south bank of the Miami River to Mary Brickell, wife of William Brickell. Brickell operated an Indian trading post at the mouth of the river and was one of the area’s leading pioneer citizens. What became known as the Fort Dallas property (the original James Egan grant) on the north bank of the Miami River passed through several owners. Julia Sturtevant Tuttle, a resident of Cleveland, Ohio, moved to Florida in 1891, and was so taken with the old Fort Dallas property that she purchased it from the Biscayne Bay Company for $2,000. She also recognized the importance of transportation if the region was ever to progress and negotiated with railroad magnate Henry Flagler to transfer to him half of her acreage along the Miami River in exchange for bringing his Florida East Coast Railway to Miami. Flagler agreed, and by 1896 the railroad had arrived. 23
Formative Years – 1896-1920s
Miami became a “company town,” as Flagler influenced virtually every aspect in the germinal city. The Miami Metropolis newspaper, first published in May 1896, became Flagler’s spokesman and advocated the incorporation of the town. The City of Miami, with a population of 502 voters, was incorporated three months after the construction of the railroad. When the City of Miami was incorporated on July 28, 1896, the mayor and aldermen were all considered “Flagler men.” A.L. Knowlton platted Miami for Flagler with the northern boundary of Julia Tuttle’s property at 1st Street (now North 11th Street). The numbers ran south so that 12th Street is now Flagler Street. Avenues ran alphabetically starting with Avenue “A” at the bay front. Flagler laid out a makeshift bridge over the Miami River at Avenue “G” (N.W. 2nd Avenue) near the F.E.C. railroad docks. He then dredged the channel across the bay into the Miami River.
After a Christmas Eve fire in 1896 destroyed most of the original downtown that was built along Avenue “D” (Miami Avenue) at the Miami River, business shifted to 12th Street (Flagler Street). The intersection of 12th Street and Avenue “D” became the center of business activity. 24 Most of the new commercial buildings were constructed of masonry instead of wood and were two or three stories tall. Many were built in a vernacular style that suited Miami’s hot, rainy climate. Many buildings featured a wooden canopy supported by wood posts on the street level to provide shade from the hot sun of the semi-tropical climate.
The City of Miami encompassed an area of about two square miles when it was incorporated in 1896. The city was surveyed and platted in late 1895 and early 1896 by A.L. Knowlton. The city limits extended approximately one and one-half miles north and south and one mile east and west. The blocks were laid out in a grid and were longer from east to west than from north to south. Streets running east and west were designated by numbers beginning with 1st Street at the northern limit. Streets running north and south were called avenues beginning with Avenue “A” one block west of Biscayne Bay. The business center of the city revolved around 12th Street. 25 The Boulevard, the street closest to Biscayne Bay (later to be renamed “Biscayne Boulevard”), ran along the natural coastline and was the first road to be surfaced with rock in 1897. The Boulevard was ready for the tourists in their carriages who could explore the waterfront when the Royal Palm Hotel, a large hotel that Flagler built near the mouth of the Miami River, opened that same year. 26
Miami’s downtown at the turn of the century was a curious mix of residential, commercial and institutional buildings. Elaborate Queen Anne and Victorian houses were found in the area, especially east of Avenue “B” (N.E. 2nd Avenue). Dr. James Jackson, Miami’s pioneering physician built his rambling two-and-a-half-story home at the northeast comer of East Flagler Street and N.E. 2nd Avenue (originally 12th Street and Avenue “B”) in 1899. Churches were constructed adjacent to the residential center of the community. Henry Flagler, himself a Presbyterian, donated the land and money for his church on the grounds of the Royal Palm Hotel. He also donated land on comer lots for the construction of churches for the Catholics, Baptists and Methodists. The original Church of the Holy Name was built in 1898 at Avenue “C” at 10th Street (now N.E. 1st Avenue and N.E. 2nd Street). 27 In addition to the commercial buildings, many residences also lined 12th Street, especially east of Avenue “B” (N.E. 2nd Avenue). Julia Tuttle’s son Harry subdivided the “home place” after his mother’s death. This subdivision, called Fort Dallas Park, quickly became an exclusive residential enclave.
In October 1901, The Miami Metropolis published a 40-page supplement that recounted Miami’s history and the promise of the future. 28 By 1902, the First National Bank had opened, followed by the Fort Dallas National Bank in 1903. At that time, there was still no means of public transportation, and there were only ten automobiles in the entire city. 29 Though Miami had yet to burst into the twentieth century, there was plenty of evidence that it would be soon in coming. Already dry goods, grocery stores and hardware merchants were proliferating to serve the needs of a growing population. In 1904, a new Miami-Dade County courthouse was constructed at the comer of Flagler Street and N.W. 1st Avenue (12th Street and Avenue “E”). The building was constructed of stone in a neoclassical design that featured an elaborate pedimented portico. 30 The grandness of this building expresses the general optimism of a community that was destined to grow in stature.
The first in a series of economic downturns occurred in 1907, dubbed by the news media as the “Panic of 1907.” At the time Miami had three banks and one was about to fail. Overloaded with the strain of financing the Halcyon Hotel and the street railway company, the Fort Dallas National Bank announced its closing. Although the other banks endured runs from their smaller depositors, they remained solvent. 31
In 1909, the construction of the Miami Canal began for the express purpose of controlling flooding in western Miami-Dade County and draining the Everglades for agriculture and development. 32 Prior to the building of the canal, most of the land west of present-day N.W. 27th Avenue was a flooded saw grass prairie with isolated hammocks. By the time of its completion in 1912, the Miami Canal had drained most of the eastern portion of the Everglades and opened up land for settlement and development. This small-scale town was growing rapidly, and by 1912 the city had its first tall building. Burdines’ new five-story building at the southeast comer of Flagler Street and Miami Avenue also contained Miami’s first elevator. 33
During the first two decades of the twentieth century, Miami’s downtown consisted primarily of one- and twostory masonry commercial buildings. In many cases these replaced the pioneer era wood frame buildings fi-om the 1880s and 1890s, some of which had succumbed to fires. During the 1910s the population increased steadily but at an unremarkable pace. With the onset of the 1920s “boom” era, the population grew with unanticipated speed, more than doubling between 1920 and 1925. Massive efforts were made to replace the still existing buildings constructed during Miami’s pioneer days with “modem” ones, many of which were designed by architects in a variety of revival styles. Many of the existing buildings in the downtown area date from this period.
Because of the entrance of the United States into World War I, Miami was temporarily diverted from its growing real estate ventures. By the time that the war was over in 1919, Miami’s suppressed momentum was ready to explode into unprecedented real estate frenzy. As early as 1916, promoters and developers placed advertisements about Miami in northern magazines and newspapers in hopes of attracting more buyers to the area. This advertising expanded yearly and the demand for land gradually increased. 34 Since many areas of South Florida were low-lying and therefore prone to flooding during the rainy season, the land was filled to make them suitable for development. Another method used by developers to create additional land was to purchase bay bottom from the State Internal Improvement Fund, apply for permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge, and then pump the sand from their claims to create islands on which to construct new buildings.
The Boom – 1920-1926
The dramatic growth of downtown Miami in the 1920s was due in large part to the development of its neighboring city Miami Beach. In the 1870s, the beach area was largely a collection of small islands with sand beaches on the ocean side, dense palmetto growth in the middle, and mangrove swamps joining them on the bay side. In the 1890s much of the property was in the hands of John Stiles Collins, a wealthy Quaker farmer from New Jersey. 35 Collins arrived to see his property in 1907 and planted fruit trees and vegetables on the island, commuting from Miami by boat, since there was no land connection to the mainland. Collins constructed a dock and erected a few small dwellings for tenant farmers who oversaw his plantation operations. 36 The true creator of Miami Beach, however, was Carl Fisher. The millionaire founder of the Indianapolis Speedway took an interest in developing the beaches during a visit to Miami in 1912. 37
Where other people saw only wilderness and mosquito filled swamps, Fisher envisioned the most desirable tourist destination in America. The construction on the bridge in linking the Miami Beach area with the city of Miami begun by Collins in 1912, ran short, with half of it still to be built. With a half mile still to be completed, Carl Fisher came to the rescue, giving Collins $50,000 for completion of the project in exchange for 200 acres of beachfront property. With Fisher’s money, Collins finished his bridge on June 12,1913, nearly a year after the project had begun. At first Fisher could not convince people of the value of real estate on the islands. Even when he tried giving land away, he had no takers. Fisher’s persistence began to pay off after the end of World War I. The combination of peace, prosperity, and the rise of automobile travel, combined with Fisher’s tireless publicity campaigns began to draw investors interested in Miami Beach real estate. Fisher plowed all his profits into new luxurious improvements—large hotel, swimming pools, golf courses, and handsome dredged up islands in Biscayne Bay—all designed to attract wealthy tourists and winter residents. Publicity stunts worked; the population of Miami Beach ballooned some 440 percent from 1920 to 1925. At the height of the land boom, the Fisher’s Estate was estimated at $100 million. 38
The boom of the 1920s transformed the small southern resort town of Miami into a metropolis. As a resort destination, Miami had a “season” that began in December and ended in early April. The 1920s saw the beginning of the “high-rise” era in downtown Miami. The boom brought Miami into the national spotlight as investors, speculators, and hopeful new residents poured into the city from all over the United States. 39 Nationally known architectural firms opened Miami offices and designed major new buildings. The majority of historic buildings that remain in the Downtown Miami Historic District are legacies of the boom era.
In October 1920, the “Chaille Plan” of renaming streets was adopted. Chaille, a member of the Miami City Council, proposed a system that would divide Miami into four quadrants. The dividing line separating north from south was Flagler Street (formerly 12th Street), and Miami Avenue (formerly Avenue “D”) separated the east from west quadrants. 40 Bayfront Park and Biscayne Boulevard (formerly Biscayne Drive) were developed on land pumped up from Biscayne Bay that dramatically increased the availability of waterfront land. Before long, new skyscrapers began to alter Miami’s skyline. The suburbs were pushed out in all directions, freeing up more and more central city property for commercial development.
During the height of the boom, land prices could double or triple in just one day. Front-page stories in major newspapers replaced ordinary paid advertisements as the means of promoting South Florida. The boom reached its peak in the fall of 1925. Over-speculation and over-development threatened Miami’s vigorous and unprecedented growth. Available housing became scarce, more lots were for sale than could be sold, more acreage was available than could be portioned into subdivisions, and prices were out of proportion to the value of both developed and undeveloped property. 41 In August of 1925, the Florida East Coast Railway announced an embargo on all carload freight except fuel, petroleum, livestock and perishable goods. 42 Soon after, steamship companies followed suit and refused to bring in any additional goods until buyers cleared out the backlog of goods that clogged warehouses, freight cars, and steamships in Miami.
This embargo threatened the economy of the area by delaying or cutting off the arrival of supplies for building contractors and forcing them to lay off workers. Compounding the problems posed by the embargo was an active anti-Florida campaign in the northern states. Major magazines did exposes on the often unscrupulous practices of Florida developers and warned of the dangers of speculating in Florida real estate. In late December 1925 the New York Times reported that thirty-one ships lay off Miami waiting their turns to enter the Port of Miami and unload. In January 1925 the World War I era brigantine Prinz Valdemar, which was undergoing renovations as a floating cabaret, capsized in the middle of the shipping channel of the Miami Harbor, preventing its use for 25 days. 43 The final harbinger of disaster arrived on September 17,1926. In what would now be classified as a category four hurricane, Miami and the region were dealt a blow that claimed hundreds of lives in South Florida and millions in property damages. It was the end of South Florida’s seemingly limitless prosperity.
The Bust and the Great Depression – 1927-1942
During the early months following the hurricane, Miami cleaned up after the storm. Many buildings still incomplete before the storm would remain unfinished. Within a year it was clear that Miami was beginning to suffer a serious economic decline. Miami’s population actually decreased for the first time since its founding 30 years earlier. After 1927, development in Miami all but stopped. With the 1929 New York stock market crash heralding a nationwide depression, the country experienced a disastrous financial disaster. During the Great Depression, Miami fared better than many cities, as continued tourism helped keep the local economy alive.
In 1938, the Dupont interests purchased and then demolished the old Halcyon Hotel to build the Alfred I. Dupont Building. Described as “Depression Modeme,” the building was designed for a modem era that spoke to a new generation greatly influenced by technological advances. The Walgreens Dmg Store and Burdines Department Store remodeling and addition were designed in the Streamline Modeme design. Thirteen buildings from this period remain in the Downtown Miami Historic District. During the 1930s, Miami exerted efforts to attract the middle class tourist who could escape the gloom of the Great Depression. By the late 1930s, Miami was experiencing a financial recovery in advance of most of the rest of the nation. During the next decade, life for Miami and the nation was about to abruptly change.
World War II and Post-War Years
The fifth decade of the twentieth century opened in Florida on a note of recovery and optimism. The full measure of prosperity had not yet returned to the state at the beginning of 1941, but the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan on December 7,1941 and Germany’s declaration of war on the United States shortly thereafter ushered in a new era in Florida that would set a new unprecedented period of growth in the post-war era. 44 Miami became a major training center for both ground and air troops. By the end of 1942, many of the area’s once empty hotels had become barracks for the Army Air Force Officers Candidate School, an Officers Training School and a basic training center. The federal government paid hotel owners $20 per man per month, which was considerably less than the normal seasonal rate. The dearth of tourists, however, made the owners happy to get any amount for their rooms. The government’s payments also had the added benefit of being spread evenly throughout the year rather than being limited to a short winter season. The Navy moved into Miami hotels in a similar manner, setting up the Submarine-Chaser Training School. It used 11 hotels, a restaurant, a showroom, and a school to teach seamanship, navigation, administration, communications, engineering, gunnery, and anti-submarine warfare. Other hotels were turned into hospitals, golf courses were transformed into drill fields, fancy restaurants and clubs became mess halls, and churches and synagogues were used for classrooms. The first hand experience of Miami by hundreds of servicemen was to have enormous consequences at the end of the war. 45
War agencies tripled the income of the entire state and added about 25 percent to the population. After the war, there was a huge influx of cash from federal agencies. The Federal Security Administration built roads, bridges and public improvements. The Veterans Administration began to disburse millions of dollars in benefits to ex-GIs. The Federal Housing Authority guaranteed the financing of 15,000 new homes each year. 46
By the end of 1943, the American economy was booming and the Great Depression was merely a bad memory. Civilians working in war industries all over the country were making good money and were looking for ways to spend it in a society where even food was rationed. Tourists began returning to Florida in large numbers. With so many people and so much money in the area, a profitable black market developed in Miami. Hotel owners became dissatisfied with their association with the Armed Forces and lobbied in Washington to have the soldiers transferred out of the area. 47 By the 1940s, gambling and money laundering had become pervasive activities.
At the conclusion of World War II, Florida’s economy was almost fully recovered. Tourism quickly rebounded and once again became a major source of the state’s economy. The end of the war also brought an influx of new residents to the area, as former soldiers who had trained in Miami decided to settle there. Consequently, Miami experienced a post-war boom. Between 1940 and 1950, the population nearly doubled, and new subdivisions of small concrete block homes dotted what had once been the outskirts of Miami. 48 The 1940s also saw the peak of Miami’s notoriety for illegal activities. Vice had become part of life in Miami in the 1920s during Prohibition when bootlegging and rum running were widespread. During and after World War II, serious efforts were made to control the vice problems. In 1948, the Greater Miami Crime Commission was founded. The Miami Herald ran a series of investigative reports on organized crime and gambling, for which it won its first Pulitzer Prize and the gold medal of Meritorious Public Service in 1951.
In the 1960s the downtown began to see additional new construction, which prompted one local businessman to remark, “Sure downtown Miami has deteriorated, but I think we have reached the point where this has stopped.” 49 In 1961, the five-story Flagler Federal Building was under construction at N.E. 1st Street and N.E. 1st Avenue. In late 1959, the First National Bank of Miami erected a 17-story high-rise at a cost of $6 million. In addition to the new construction, a number of buildings were given new facades and other improvements such as central air-conditioning and interior remodeling. In 1959, the Huntington Building, 168 S.E. 1st Street, had a 14 percent vacancy rate. In 1961, after it remodeled the lobby and installed elevators the vacancy rate dropped to one percent. This same year owners of the Seybold Building invested $100,000 into its modernization. 50 The cycle of success in the Downtown Miami Historic District has had its highs and lows. Despite the increase in recent downtown development, a large portion of the historic fabric remains intact. The historic buildings that remain illustrate the colorful and dynamic growth of this remarkable city.
COMMUNITY PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT/COMMERCE
The Downtown Miami Historic District is significant for its association with the early history of downtown Miami and for its representation of the evolution of the downtown as the city’s commercial center. The district contains buildings reflecting the period from the first decade of the twentieth century and each of the subsequent decades of the period of historic significance. These buildings are found in close proximity to one another and exhibit a diversity of architectural styles. The buildings building types and uses range from small, low-rise structures to multi-story “skyscrapers” that include specialty stores, banks, commercial offices, and chain stores. There are also multi-residential buildings, a historic governmental building and a historic church. This variety of building types and uses is typical of U.S. cities of moderate size that developed rapidly in during the 1920s, particularly in the State of Florida. Similar cities in the state that expanded from frontier beginnings include Jacksonville, Tampa, and St. Petersburg.
The Downtown Miami Historic District includes commercial, residential, governmental, religious, and recreational buildings that document the city’s growth from the pioneer era, through the land boom of the 1920s, through World War II, and beyond. These resources reflect the major periods of architectural development in South Florida and include examples of Commercial, Masonry Vernacular, Mediterranean Revival, Neoclassical Revival, Italian Renaissance Revival, Art Deco, Art Modeme, and Miami Modem-style buildings. Some of the buildings within the historic district date from the early decades of the twentieth century but were remodeled in the 1930s and 1940s during a prosperous era of Miami’s growth.
Masonry Vernacular buildings constructed in commercial centers of American cities between c. 1900 and 1920 are generally brick or concrete block buildings that range in height from one to three stories. The facades are often covered with stucco. Small apartments and commercial buildings usually feature simple ornamentation, if any, usually being limited to cast concrete detailing or decorative brick work such as corbelling. Roofs are usually hip or flat built-up types with parapets on commercial buildings. Masonry buildings with a smooth stucco surface soon became the most common architectural type in South Florida. Eleven contributing Masonry Vernacular historic buildings are located within the Downtown Miami Historic District. The Masonry Vernacular style Seminole Hotel at 51 East Flagler Street (Photo 12) is one of the oldest buildings in the historic district. Some of the Masonry Vernacular buildings were influenced by other architectural styles, especially the Mediterranean Revival and Art Deco styles. These buildings were embellished with columns. Mission tile, parapets, oriel windows, and vertical and geometric detailing. The four-story apartment building at 227 NE 2nd Street features oriel windows, balconies, and a stepped parapet (Photo 19).
Twenty-four Commercial style historic buildings contribute to the historic district. Early high rise Commercial style buildings in America are generally six to twenty stories high with flat roofs and often have projecting cornices. Most exhibit a skeletal appearance created by the total area of glass exceeding that of the structural material. Ornamentation, particularly around windows is either absent or very limited. Early examples of these buildings, which date from about 1890 to 1920, were usually occupied by offices or department stores. Display windows were often similar in size to windows on the upper floors, unlike 19th century buildings which featured storefronts that were predominately glass on the ground floor and small windows on the upper floors. The “Chicago Window” was often employed on early Commercial style buildings. This type of window was a large fixed central pane flanked by two narrow casements. Technological advances enabled the construction of high-rise buildings in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Architects practicing in Chicago at the end of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century, including William LeBaron Jenney, Holabird and Roche, and Adler and Sullivan, are credited with the creation of the Commercial style. The traditional form of base, shaft, and cornice is followed in these buildings, with the shaft of the buildings usually offering minimal ornamentation and great expanses of glass with windows filling a large proportion of the wall mass. Emphasis is placed on the vertical geometry of the composition. The Security Building, 117 NE 1st Avenue, is a Commercial style building (Photo 15).
The Neoclassical Revival was in vogue during the first quarter of the twentieth century. Influenced by the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and by the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, such prominent architects as McKim, Mead and White, and John Russell Pope designed enormous buildings in New York and Washington that employed the restrained vocabulary of the ancient world. The hallmarks of the style include broad expanses of plain wall surfaces, simple roof lines, the use of both classical Greek and Roman decorative details symmetrical plans, monumental proportions and pedimented porticoes. There are nine contributing Neoclassical Revival-style buildings in the Downtown Miami Historic District. The use of the Neoclassical Revival style is most prevalent on governmental and financial buildings. An striking example of this style in the historic district is the Old U.S. Post Office and Courthouse (Photo 4), 100-118 NE 1st Avenue. This three-story building is clad in limestone and features Ionic pilasters on its facade.
The architectural style that most characterizes South Florida, the Mediterranean Revival style, is well represented in the Downtown Miami Historic District. The Mediterranean Revival style derives from architectural precedents in the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, including Spain, Italy, and the northern coast of Africa with its rich Moorish heritage. The style is defined by its broad areas of uninterrupted surfaces that are covered with smooth or textured stucco, the use of arcades and loggias, tile roof coverings, cast ornament that is concentrated around the doors and windows, and the use of wrought iron decorative detail. There are seven contributing historic buildings of the Mediterranean Revival style in this district. The Gesu Church and Rectory at 118-130 NE 2nd Street (Photo 23) is the most fully developed example of the Mediterranean Revival style in the historic district. On the Gesu Church an arcaded portico with Tuscan columns dominates the principal facade. A tripartite tower on the roof contains a belfry, and it is flanked by two more towers covered in Mission tiles.
Art Deco and Art Moderne
The late 1920s and 1930s witnessed the adoption and evolution of the Art Deco and Art Moderne styles in the nation and in Miami-Dade County. The style finds its origins in the aesthetic of progressive European designers and the 1925 Paris fair, Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes. from which the style derives its name. The style reflects the avant-garde art movements of the time and is characterized by strong vertical emphasis and low-relief ornamentation with highly stylized geometric, floral, and faunal motifs. Tropical motifs were very popular in Florida. The Art Moderne style was one of the most popular styles in Florida during the 1930s and 1940s. Characteristic features include smooth wall surfaces, flat roofs, curving walls and ribbon windows that create a horizontal emphasis. Buildings exhibiting the Streamline Moderne subtype often have rounded comers with bands of windows continuing around them. There are six contributing Art Deco buildings and five contributing Art Moderne (four of which are Streamline Moderne) buildings in this district. Most of the Art Deco facades represented in the Downtown Miami Historic District are a result of the 1930s remodeling of an older building. Two excellent examples of this are the Art Moderne Lerner Shops building at 26-30 E. Flagler Street (Photo 10) and the Walgreens Drug Store (Photo 20), 200 E Flagler Street, with its Streamline Moderne facade.
Italian Renaissance Revival
This style was commonly found in early twentieth century buildings throughout the country, including prominent architect-designed buildings in major metropolitan areas. Identifying features of this architectural style include a roofline parapet or balustrade, quoins, dentils, belt courses, arched entryways, and double- or triple-height arched windows that defined the base of the building. Four contributing buildings that employ architectural motifs from this revival style are located within the Downtown Miami Historic District. The 1926 Ingraham Building, 25 SE 2nd Avenue, is a well-preserved example of a commercial building that employs elements of the Italian Renaissance Revival style. This 12-story building has a colossal arched entrance, heavily msticated cladding, paired arched windows on the top floor, and a truncated hipped roof. The three-story 1925 American Title Insurance Building, 33 NE 1st Avenue, features Corinthian pilasters, terra cotta bas-relief, medallions, and arched windows on the third floor. The 15-story 1926 First Trust and Savings Bank, 21 NE 1st Avenue, features a recessed entry, msticated stone cladding, masonry bas-relief, and dentiled entablatures at the first floor, the mezzanine level, and the roofline.
1 “Miami’s New Federal Building” The Miami Herald. June 28, 1914.
2 Sarah Eaton. “Downtown Miami Commercial Historic District” Local Historic Designation Report. Miami, Florida. City of Miami Planning Department, n.d.
3 The McCrory five and dime stores often had hotel space in the upper floors of their buildings. Another historic building that combined the two functions is found in St. Petersburg, Florida.
4 Sarah Eaton. “Downtown Miami Commercial Historic District” Local Historic Designation Report. Miami, Florida. City of Miami Planning Department, n.d.
8 MDOCED, p.197.
10 An ornamental border formed of two or more curved bands that interlace to repeat a circular design.
11 An upright ornament along the eaves of a tiled roof designed to conceal the joints between the rows of tiles.
12 Local Historic Designation Report. Janus Research for the City of Miami Planning and Zoning Department.
14 Local Historic Designation Report. Janus Research for the City of Miami Planning and Zoning Department.
17 Local Historic Designation Report. Janus Research for the City of Miami Planning and Zoning Department.
19 http://www.historicpreservationmiami.com/gesu.html .
20 Abstract of Title to the James Hagan (Egan) Donation, Robbins, Graham and Chillingworth Examining Counsel, 1897.
21 Margot Ammidown, “The Wagner Family: Pioneer Life on the Miami River,” Tequesta 42 (1982) p.l 1
22 Nicholas N. Patricios, Building Marvelous Miami. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida, 1994.
23 Metro-Dade Office of Community and Economic Development (MDOCED). From Wilderness to Metropolis: The History and Architecture of Dade County. Miami, Florida: MDOCED, 1992.
24 Howard Kleinberg, Miami: The Wav We Were. Tampa, Florida: Surfside Publishing, 1989, p.l51.
25 Thelma Peters. Miami 1909. Miami: Banyan Books, 1984 p.8
26 Ibid, p.85
27 Thelma Peters, Miami 1909. Miami, Florida: Banyan Books, Inc., 1984, p. 34.
28 Thelma Peters. Miami 1909. Miami, Florida: Banyan Books, 1984, p.77.
29 Ibid., p. 59.
30 Nixon Smiley. Yesterday’s Miami. Miami, Florida: Seemann Publishing, 1977, p.44.
31 Kleinberg, p.l56.
32 MDOCED, p.68.
33 Gene Rider. “Burdines” Update 2, No.l (October 1974) p.6-7
34 Sessa, p.20
35 Raley et al, Old Miami Beach. A Case Study in Historic Preservation July 1976-July 1980. p. 5.
37 Joe McCarthy, “The Man Who Invented Miami Beach,” American Heritage. (Vol. XXVII, No. 1) December, 1975, pp. 66-67.
39 Arva Moore Parks. Miami. The Magic City. Miami, Florida: Centennial Press, 1991, p.l07
40 Kleinberg, p. 106.
41 Parks, p. 110.
42 Sessa, p.264-65.
43 Parks, p. 120.
44. Charlton W. Tebeau, A History of Florida. (Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1980), 416.
45. Update. Vol. 8, No. 4 (November 1981), Historical Association of Southern Florida, 1981.
46. “Once Bankrupt Miami Now on Solid Ground.” Barrons National Business and Financial Weekly. May 29, 1950 p.l5
47 Update. Vol. 8, No. 4 (November 1981), Historical Association of Southern Florida, 1981.
48 Parks, p. 168-170.
49 Pete Weitzel, “New Buildings Help to Spur Downtown” The Miami Herald. August 2, 1961 p.l6A
Ammidown, Margot, “The Wagner Family: Pioneer Life on the Miami River,: Tequesta, Vol. XLII (1982)
Blackman, E.V. Miami and Dade County. Florida: Its Settlement. Progress, and Achievement. Washington, D.C.: Victor Rainbolt, 1921.
Cohen, Isador. Historical Sketches and Sidelights of Miami. Miami, Florida: Privately printed, 1925.
Dunn, Marvin. Black Miami in the Twentieth Century. Gainesville, Florida: University of Florida Press, 1997.
Eaton, Sarah. “Downtown Miami Commercial Historic District” Local Historic Designation Report. Miami, Florida, City of Miami Planning and Zoning Department, n.d.
Florida Architecture and Allied Arts. Miami, Florida: The Miami Visitor Publishing Co., Inc., 1936.
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REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES FOR THE MIAMI IN MIAMI CLASS OF THE FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY HONORS COLLEGE
EDITOR AND LAST UPDATE
John William Bailly 10 January 2023
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