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Tuesday September 11, 2012

A tour of the Gusman/Olympia theater

gusman olympia theater downtown miami

Dating back to 1925 the Gusman/Olympia Theater is one of Miami’s real treasures. Last Saturday, as part of Downtown Art Days, the Gusman’s assistant director Robert Geitner gave a tour of the theater.

See the whole article and 25 photos


Friday August 24, 2012

Hurricane Andrew as remembered by Haardvark

Hurricane Andrew as remembered in Haardvark

I was in high school when Hurricane Andrew hit, 20 years ago today. My family lived in North Miami Beach, and while we were without power for weeks and weeks afterwards and the experience itself was moderately dramatic, we escaped the brunt of the storm. Not so for my friend Ian, who lived way down in South Miami somewhere. Ian was the sort of person who published a zine in high school, and he wrote up his experiences of Andrew in one of the issues. I’ve lost touch with Ian over the years and haven’t been able to find him, or any archives of Haardvark (I have a few issues besides the one with the Andrew story) online in all this time, but I thought this’d be a good time to share at least this piece of it.



Monday April 21, 2008

joseph young house

The Joseph Young House, built by the founder of Hollywood as his residence, is up for sale. The house is from 1925, is a huge 7,200 square feet, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Asking price is “$2.39 — 2.79 million.”


Wednesday March 26, 2008

In 1988, John Dorschner wrote a long piece for Tropic, the Miami Herald’s now-defunct Sunday magazine. He pretended to be writing in 2008, looking back over the last 20 years. Henry Gomez dug up a copy of the magazine, and compared the predictions with what actually happened, in a 4-part series of posts. There is some very dramatic stuff here that never happened (e.g. Mariel II, 1998), but Dorschner gets a lot of stuff right. Too bad Babalu’s italicized blockquotes are so hard to read.


Tuesday March 11, 2008

The Charles Deering Estate

Deering Estate

The Charles Deering Estate is a nature and historical preserve in South Miami. It includes two historical buildings, and the largest virgin coastal tropical hardwood hammock in the United States. The wooden house was built in the late 19th century, the stone house was built in the early 20th. Here’s the aerial view, and you can clearly see the key-shaped dock, main lawn, and the huge mangrove forest surrounding the property.

Deering Estate

A photo at the site shows the buildings after hurricane Andrew in 1992. The wooden house was about 60% kindling, but was restored. South Miami was ground 0 for Andrew.* By the way, Aramis and Pepe have studios at Deering (part of a relatively new artist residency program), and were kind enough to provide a lot of information about the estate.

Deering Estate

A boardwalk snakes through the hammock . . .

Deering Estate

Not that much to see, actually. But you appreciate the people that originally lived here — getting around was not at all easy. Marsh, thick foilage, and woody root-fingers sticking up everywhere. Oh, and cottonmouth moccasins.

Deering Estate

Kind of a swank place. This is incidentally the sister estate to Vizcaya, which was built by Charles Deering’s brother(!). Unlike Viscaya’s lush gardens, Deering is all-native, and a lot more rustic (all things being relative, here).

Deering Estate

The obligatory Historic Kitchen. The interior of the buildings is about a 7 on the interestingness scale, a fact acknowledged by various spicing-up measures, including a great little exhibition of contemporary Miami artists in the wood house.

Deering Estate

Fancy doors in grand staircase of the stone house.

Deering Estate

So, Deering apparently has back-to-back weddings lined up most weekends of the year. At $6,000 a pop, they’re booked over a year in advance. Here, they’re just setting up, but check out that key-shaped dock and big lawn. Perfect.

Deering Estate

Prohibition-era wine cellar. The cool thing is that the cellar is behind a regular door, a steel-bar door, an uber-serious bank vault door, and a swing-away bookcase because, duh—it was built during prohibition, of which ‘ol Charlie wasn’t going to get in the way of his appreciation of wine.

* Not technically true, as a commenter points out — Andrew hit Homestead, about 10 miles south of the estate. However, even my parent’s house, another 40 miles further north, was trashed and without power for over a month.


Tuesday February 26, 2008

This week, the Herald is running a 5-part section on the history of 27th Avenue, home among other things of the world’s first Burger King and home to the world’s last standing Royal Castle. Includes a silly scrolling map and audio interviews with local folks (for all of which the second is the better half). Update: I fixed the link. Now everyone go look!


Thursday February 21, 2008

Hallandale house move




Route. More info.


Wednesday February 20, 2008

Michael Lewis sounds a little disgusted with the whole Miami Circle thing. Turns out the circle is one of three, the other two of which are buried under Icon Brickell, and the one we have is going to be buried under all the financially plausible scenarios we have. So, he seems to say, what was the point of ever bothering?


Thursday January 31, 2008

More on the Lyric Theater in this week’s Sun Post. Including this tidbit: the Miami CRA was going to donate a parcel of land to the Black Archives to complete the Theater’s expansion. The County is blocking the donation by laying claim to the land because of something to do with an adjacent housing development, so, I rest my case.


Wednesday January 30, 2008

Historic Overtown/Lyric Theatre: new name of the Metrorail station previously know as “Overtown/Arena.” I dig the nod to the Lyric (name-checked by Garrison Keillor when he was in town), but isn’t the “Historic” a little much?



Of the four proposals for Miami Circle, only one would allow visitors to actually see anything — the other three involve re-burying the circle and creating “ghost-images” and replicas with educational materials. Boo, hiss. What’s more, the Let Us See It proposal is the most expensive, so least likely. We have until February 22nd to make public comments, which you can do at an online form. First you’ll need to look over the Special Resource Study (click on the bottom of the page to download a PDF). Update: Actually here is the better story, with links to graphical representations of the four proposals.


Thursday January 24, 2008

The ugly side of historic preservation

Ugly house

Tuesday, we saw a stately, if not exactly iconic, house from 1913 gain historic status, and everybody cheered. Now we have this news: the Miami Beach city commission has declared the eastern half of Alton Road between 8th and 14th streets a Newly Minted Historic District. The above little house is one of a group designed by “prominent” [?] architect Robert A. Little in 1934 which is cited as evidence for the NMHD. These houses (see them all in this pdf) are located between 12th and 14th Streets; the argument for 8th to 12th streets is apparently much weaker.

Now, Alton Road is a busy commercial corridor which serves the residents of South Beach — unlike Washington and Collins, which are much more tourist-oriented. These houses, designed as single-family residences and now all pressed into service as businesses, are clearly a drag on the commercial potential of the immediate neighborhood. With their newly found historic status, this is what they will remain.

In passing the ordinance, one of the commissioners cited a study which found that 88% of the city’s residents considered historic preservation important. Well, of course we do, and Miami Beach has much architecture that deserves protection. But I think we like our preservation to include concessions to common sense. Here is a group of out-of-context buildings that are ill-suited to their surroundings, and are of widely varying aesthetic (and debatable historic) value. Miami Beach boasts many homes from this time period in, you know, residential neighborhoods.

By advocating for historic preservation in all cases and at all times, preservationists appear oblivious to the reality that without tearing down old buildings, the only development possible is on virgin land (hello, UDB). The positives of historical preservation ought to be weighed against its natural negatives — a drag on economic potential of a property, and a contribution to sprawl.

In the case of these particular buildings, the argument against declaring a few of them historical and allowing the rest to be torn down falls particularly flat. Preservationists argue for the need to preserve the “character” of neighborhoods. This is laughable in the case of these particular buildings, which could not be more out of character to the street they find themselves on today. It is in fact much easier to argue that the historic and aesthetic value of the couple of real gems in the group would be heightened if they were surrounded by the more contemporary, and higher-density, buildings the neighborhood needs.

Such is the case with the Coral House, which (the same article notes) is now thankfully in a much better position to be restored and preserved. It’s the case of Dr. Jackson’s Office in Brickell. Both are gems, and both were once surrounded with similar buildings built in a similar time. Would we wish that those neighborhoods were “preserved” as they were thirty years ago? Of course not. Only a packrat saves everything — the rest of us keep a few cherished mementos from the past and toss the rest.

I’m going to close with a dose of libertarian argument, because the Miami Beach commission did not just act like packrats. After all, these properties are not theirs to do with as they wish — they have actual rightful owners. What has actually happened here is that the property rights of these owners have been restricted. It’s of course necessary for society to do this under certain circumstances, but it needs to be kept in mind. Property rights, aesthetics, economics — here we have an act of historical preservation that is almost all downside.


Tuesday January 22, 2008

Villa Serena

Villa Serena, built in 1913 and just added to the Miami Register of Historic Places. Photo by, and full story at, Miami Memories.


Wednesday January 16, 2008

A set of images from vintage Florida postcards.



Plans are taking shape for Miami Circle. Not sure why this project is happening on the scale of decades.


Wednesday December 12, 2007

Miami Beach in the 1950s.


Wednesday November 28, 2007

Tonight and Saturday:

Slave house tours

See the Miami Hidden History website for more info.


Tuesday October 30, 2007

Miami Skylift

Miami Skylift

The Miami Skylift, which, when it opens, will take people on a 15-minute, $15 dollar, 500-foot high tethered balloon “ride” in Bayfront Park. (Here is the rendering of the balloon in operation, and here is the discussion of whether there’ll be anything worth looking up there.) It’s opening in “Fall 2007,” which means “sometime soon, we really don’t know.” Seems like something worth trying once. But I was interested to learn that there is a degree of controversy about the location, the Mildred and Claude Pepper Fountain, designed by the Japanese artist Isamu Noguchi in the late 80s as part of a reworking of Bayfront Park. Michael Lewis laments the decision to shut down the fountain, and provides some history:

Selling the city’s front door to a carnival ride so that the Bayfront Park Management Trust can collect $270,000 a year rent plus a share of ticket and advertising revenues to support the park’s operations reinforces Miami’s pennywise, pound-foolish history. . . .

Designed by world-famous sculptor and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi, the turbulent eye-catcher offered a fantastic computerized show of water plumes — until the city discovered that while it could afford to build the fountain, it hadn’t figured on the cost to operate it, a failure repeated at the nearby Carnival Center for the Performing Arts 15 years later. . . .

To keep water flowing day and night, the trust was told, would cost $544,000 a year, $350,000 more than the total of park revenue from rentals and the paltry $50,000 the chintzy city itself was willing to provide. Even to run the fountain just four hours a day, the trust was told, would cost $61,000 more than the trust could amass. . . .

To save $61,000 a year, the city destroyed the memorial to Claude Pepper, a giant who served Miami for more than 40 years in Congress. It ruined the $20 million Bayfront Park plan by design genius Isamu Noguchi to create a waterfront focal point.

Now the hulk is being commercialized and carnivalized.

Here is a photo of the fountain from the park’s website, obviously in its less glorious, more recent days. (Also, note word: ‘carnivalized’.)


Monday October 1, 2007

A list of still-live Miami-related Geocities websites, including Early aviation photographs, the Coconut Grove juggling exchange, ‘Nicholas Dunn’’’s Story’, and the charming South Beach crew. You may also enjoy the Firefox extension Timemachine 1.0, which will make ANY website look like 1996.


Monday September 24, 2007

goya etchings

Francisco Goya’s etchings, on view at the Freedom Tower (!) through November 9th (12 – 7 pm every day except Sunday and Monday). I saw these the last time I was in Prague; they’re exquisite.


Wednesday September 19, 2007

Jackie Gleason’s occult library on exhibit.


Monday September 17, 2007

Doug transcribes the South Beach architecture walking tour, full of interesting tidbits about buildings I see every day. Just saved myself $15.


Wednesday September 5, 2007

At NPR, a timeline of the ‘war’ on drugs. Of course Miami features prominently. Great photos, too. This would be interesting to read right before watching Cocaine Cowboys, for some historical perspective.


Thursday August 30, 2007

Avery Smith home At Preservation Online, our pal Margaret Foster has a great story about the Avery Smith coral house which was partially demolished earlier this summer. The house was originally built in 1915; the demolished section was added on in 1939. Seemingly against all odds, the fight to save the house goes on. The city’s Historic Preservation Board and Miami-Dade County’s Unsafe Structures Board have both approved the demolition, so now comes an appeal to the city, followed by possible court action. Update: Fixed the link. Also, the article now carries my photo(!) which makes the historical one here obsolete, but nice anyway.


Tuesday August 28, 2007

Ian's hurricane Andrew journal

Click to read Click for slideshow.

My friend Ian was publishing a sort of zine around the time of Andrew, and in one issue he transcribed his journal from during and after the storm. His house was in the part of town that got hit really hard, and this is about as good an account of what happened that I’ve seen. I held on to it, and the 15th anniversary of the storm seems like a decent time to share. Click the image above to read. I also have high-resolution scans of the cover and inside pages: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. I unfortunately lost contact with Ian (don’t even remember his last name), and if anyone reading knows him, please have him get in touch, at the least to let me know if I can leave this up.


Friday August 24, 2007

Andrew: 15 years ago today.


Thursday August 23, 2007

“Two years after the hurricane of 1926 and while Miami was still reeling from the collapse of the great Florida land boom, Al Capone quietly purchased a bay-front home on Palm Island through an associate for $40,000, and spent another $100,000 to turn it into a walled-in fortress watchfully guarded by his ever-present security team of seven stalwart Sicilians.” After defeating legal efforts to have him removed from the state, he began sinking his teeth into the local nightlife and gambling industries. He also retired here after he got out of prison.


Thursday August 16, 2007

“We are thinking about appealing the board’s decision [to allow the demolition of the coral house] to the special master for the Historic Preservation Board. But, we’re consulting with other historic preservationists first.” — an attorney for Mitch Novick.


Tuesday August 14, 2007

Kiss the coral house goodbye: demolition has been approved.


Wednesday August 8, 2007

Demonstration to save the coral house

Coral house

Margaret sent this along (here is her photo set of the coral house):

Location: 900 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida 33139

On Wednesday, August 8, 2007 at 6:00PM, historic preservationists and residents of Miami Beach will demonstrate and picket to urge the City of Miami Beach to save the historic Coral Rock House and Mediterranean Revival Apartment Building in the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District from demolition.

This was the same 1916 historic coral rock house that was partially demolished last month in spite of the June 15, 2007 Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board order to make a good faith effort to restore the historic building.

Next week, on Tuesday, August 14, the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board will consider a petition for rehearing concerning the demolition and the request of a neighboring preservationist to penalize the property owner for acting in bad faith and causing the demolition to occur because of the owner’s own neglect of the historic coral rock structure. The petition is additionally seeking the reversal of the order allowing the demolition of a historic Mediterranean Revival Apartment Building also on the site.

An April 6, 2006, a letter from the City Manager documented the refusal of the coral rock house owner to allow city inspections that would have unearthed the cause of the sudden deterioration of the structure which had led to a court order allowing the demolition. With the demolition, possible evidence of “demolition by neglect” was destroyed which could lead to an inference that the premature demolition covered up the owner’s contributory negligence leading to the demolition of the coral rock house.

Update: Coverage in the Herald, along with some of the politics behind the house. The historic preservation board will vote next Tuesday on an appeal to the demolition order.


Tuesday July 31, 2007

“Publix was responsible for many store amenities that are de rigueur in supermarkets today, including air conditioning and automatic electric-eye doors, which were both introduced in the early 40’s.” Details from the history of Publix, with great photos. (via SotP)



Photos from the City of Miami’s 111th birthday on Sunday. Also, more about the birthday (from before the event) at Category 305.


Thursday July 26, 2007

canon A ship’s cannon from the 1700s was found underground at a construction site off the Venetian earlier this week. Update: An update: the cannon spent a part of the 1900s as decoration in front of a hotel — that’s how it got where it is now!


Sunday July 22, 2007

Charles Deering Estate

Frances Nash has photos from the Charles Deering Estate. More about the estate here, and here is the satellite view.


Thursday July 12, 2007

Coral House Redux

Here’s the other coral house, on the 10th block of Washington, soon to be a restaurant. Good, but not nearly as quality as the one they’re demolishing.


Wednesday July 11, 2007

Genius of despair with an ode to reading the newspaper (the real newspaper).


Tuesday July 10, 2007

Coral house

Coral house on Collins Ave., getting torn down as we speak.



Hialeah park

A group of historical photos of Hialeah Park at Florida Memory. Three Cuban Guys have photos of what it looks like now.


Wednesday June 27, 2007

“Our mission is the historic preservation of the Hialeah Park Race Track (1925) and all of its elements. We are a group of community residents [MySpace] working cooperatively to attain local, state, and federal support necessary for the Hialeah Park’s restoration and preservation.” Also: Hialeah Park decays in the sun, 11 most endangered places, Activists celebrate designation, and Dig calls for a multi-disciplinary [read: arty] competition to propose programs for the park.


Thursday June 21, 2007

“[W]hen you came to Miami in 1964, were I-95 and I-395 already built, ripping through Overtown and basically converting it into the slum it is today? Did you drink from the segregated drinking fountains or eat at a segregated lunch counter? Did you see the ID cards blacks needed to come to Miami Beach? Or when the hotels advertised ‘Always A View, Never a Jew’? [. . .] Miami was a divided city long before the Cubans arrived and it will continue to be.” — Alex cuts to the heart of the matter, which almost makes this post (which accuses me of accusing Rick of being a racist — no wait, it really accuses me of accusing Rick of almost being a racist — no, sorry, I think it actually accuses me of thinking that Rick is a racist but not saying it) worth it.


Thursday June 14, 2007

Miami Circle is going to be run by the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, and will probably be opened to the public at some point. It’s been nine years since the site was discovered — why did it take the state nine years to make this deal?


Monday June 11, 2007

“Ingots were buried under the Miami Performing Arts Center by workers installing the subterranean infrastructure. The performance was photographed. The ingots remain.”


Wednesday May 16, 2007

“Thus, we have made the decision to change the name, and the ‘men only’ concept, as expeditiously as possible. We have ordered the signs to be changed, and they are to state ‘Executive Grille’, with no reference to restrictions as to male or female usage. The signs will be changed as soon as our sign makers can construct the new signs.” — Letter to Roxcy Bolton from Burdine’s, October 13, 1969. More about Roxcy Bolton.


Thursday February 15, 2007

Tonight's events for equstrians, urbanites, historians, and artists

William Keddell says:

Events for Equestrians, Urbanites, Historians, and Artists, this Thursday:

  1. Start your evening 5pm in downtown’s Lummus Park were you can visit the City of Miami’s newly completed Police Horse Stables. Enjoy refreshments from TROY Community Academy’s Teen Cuisine and attend a short presentation- see attachment
  2. 5.40pm The King’s Edict – the latest publication and exhibit from Troys Community Academy’s “Hidden Histories” Project
  3. 6.10pm. Join Dr. Paul George for a short walking tour of Lummus Park Historic District
  4. 7.00pm. Go to opening at Historical Museum of Southern Florida’s latest show “Port Royal, Jamaica”
  5. Then go Jam @ MAM. Its Samba Night at the Miami Art Museum MAM see “The Machine, The Body and The City –Gifts from the Charles Cowles Collection” plus “No Man is an Island” video work from Dutch Artist -Jesper Just.

This is all very well, but I call for a ballot initiative that anytime our government has an event for the public, they be required to put up a permalinked, standards-compliant web page about it.


Friday January 19, 2007

Equal Rights: Reggae and Social Change

Peter Tosh Equal Rights album cover [MDPL press release]

Equal Rights: Reggae and Social Change
January 11 – February 28, 2007
Main Library, Auditorium

This traveling exhibition tells the story of 30 years of Jamaican art, music, and social change throughout the African Diaspora with words and amazing album cover art from landmark records by Ras Michael, Louise Bennett, The Skatalites, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Peter Tosh, and many more. Co-curated by Herbie Miller and Josh Chamberlain, and organized by Catherine Amidon and the Karl Drerup Art Gallery and Exhibitions Program at Plymouth State University.

On January 20th, from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m., get schooled in reggae consciousness, culture and history, as Herbie Miller, manager of the late reggae legend Peter Tosh, reggae historian, and co-curator of Equal Rights: Reggae and Social Change, presides over an afternoon of art, performances, and discussion, including performances by Millenium Band featuring King Arthur and dub poet Malachi Smith; and a conversation with radio host, historian, and community leader Winston Barnes; Lloyd Campbell (Producer, Joe Fraser Records); Reggae Vibes DJ Lance-O; Hal Anthony (of Millennium Band) and Malachi Smith.

[also on view:]
To the Barbershop: Call and Response Series #2
New work by Noelle Theard and Works from the permanent collection by Richard Davenport
January 11 – March 20, 2007
2nd floor exhibition space, Main Library

Author Craig Marberry writes that the black barbershop is “a world of kinetic jazz and air you could see and grownups who actually knew how to laugh…a think tank…a comedy showcase.” The show started with a series of photographs by Richard Davenport from the Library’s permanent collection, depicting black barbershops in Miami during the early 1980’s. Miami photojournalist and documentarian Noelle Theard created a new body of work, snapping some of the same barbershops—including Liberty City’s Mop City and Overtown’s Green & Fort—26 years later. Together, the old and new sets of photographs convey a sense of the permanence of these neighborhood institutions—the decor and “No Profanity” signs have pretty much stayed the same—and the breakneck change of the Magic City outside.


Wednesday January 10, 2007

aerojet facility view from sattelite

Jonathan visits the Aerojet rocket factory in the Everglades, where Saturn I rockets were once constructed and tested, before being barged up to Cape Canaveral. He’s got eerie photos and a good account of what happened there. An amazing bit of South Florida history.


Sunday January 7, 2007

Someone named Brown wrote a book on the history of Little Haiti. This Miami Herald article gives neither the book’s title nor the author’s first name. Update: NicFitKid and Manola to the rescue; see the comments.


Tuesday January 2, 2007

Photos from the King Mango Strut. Be sure to click the marching Marjories picture and read their signs. Update: More Strut photos. And more.



Miami Marine Stadium

A photoset of the dilapidated Miami Marine Stadium on Virginia Key. The stadium was closed down after hurricane Andrew in 1992 because of fears that it would colapse. It still hasn’t, but it’s still considered unsafe. There have been plans to turn the site into an eco-campground, which is odd considering it’s a huge concrete structure next to a highway, and the rest of Virginia Key has plenty of actual wilderness. (That may be why the plan hasn’t gone anywhere.) There has also been talk of restoring it, but neither private interests nor the government want to be bothered.

So there it sits, in all of its disintegrating, vandalized beauty. Verticus has some history and a plea to fix the stadium. More photos here, along with an interesting tidbit: it’s possible to get on the roof, from which the view is spectacular, but you need to take a rickety catwalk to the skybox, then climb a ladder which hangs over a section of the catwalk with no floor. In other words, you have an excellent chance of killing yourself on your way back down. Ouch. And here’s a link to the stadium on Gmaps.


Wednesday December 27, 2006

Another piece of Coconut Grove history on the auction block: they’re trying to move Marjory Stoneman Douglashouse. Update: Marjory Stoneman Douglas impersonators/protesters at the Mango Strut.


Wednesday November 1, 2006

Dr. James M. Jackson Office and Surgery

Dr. James M. Jackson Office and Surgery: This charming little building is in the middle of a bunch of huge skyscrapers in the middle of Brickell. It’s on the national register of historical places, and it’s got its own Wikipedia page. It’s the office of the Dade Heritage Trust, who haven’t renamed themselves to the Miami-Dade Heritage Trust ‘cause they’re all about, you know, heritage.


Sunday October 1, 2006

spanish monestary

The Spanish Monastery (aka St. Bernard de Clairvaux Church) in North Miami is one of my favorite places. It was originally built in Spain in the 12th century, and shipped to the United States and reassembled, brick by brick, in the 1950’s. Here’s a nice photo set of the building (and here is an alternate, lower resolution but easier to use version of the same photos). More photos at the Monastery’s own web site.


Tuesday August 8, 2006

A wall in Liberty City that was built to separate blacks and whites is being considered for historical status. Am I the only one that thinks this is a terrible idea? For one thing, a wall with historical status is still a wall: still does what the original did: make it more difficult to get from here to there. More importantly, the perpetrators of racism are the ones that need to be reminded of stuff like this, not the victims. Update: Miami-Dade historical page. (via Urban Paradise)


Monday August 7, 2006

ceiling mural at Viscaya

Frances went to Viscaya, As in July, in August it’s free on the last Sunday; that would be the 27th. The closest thing we’ll ever have to a real castle, Viscaya seems like a no-brainer must-visit for any Miamian. Since regular admission is $12, a free day is not insignificant. Info on the Viscaya site.


Thursday July 27, 2006

Miami Beach 1955

Here’s a cool pendant that Ross gave me. Early silk-screen printing kitsch ephemera at its finest!


Monday July 17, 2006

‘Before it was Mansion, Club Z, Club 1235, or Glam Slam, the trendy South Beach venue was Cinema Theater, a popular movie house where for almost 30 years the hot attraction was Yiddish-American vaudeville.’


Sunday July 2, 2006

A discussion and some great photos of Miami’s skyline over the years on Skyscraper City. The Freedom Tower was the tallest building in Miami from 1925 to 1928, when the Dade County Courthouse was completed. Obviously, the conversation is going to have to be updated very soon . . .


Tuesday June 20, 2006

Virginia Key ceremony memorializes slaves forced journey. Virginia Key Beach was established as a “Colored beach” in 1945, which is considered an early victory for the early Civil Rights movement. More history here.


Tuesday June 13, 2006

A county board is considering historic status for an ancient Tequesta Indian burial ground in the far northwestern corner of Miami-Dade. Yes, of course. But let’s do something with it then, so it can in some way be appreciated by the public. Unlike Miami Circle, which sits dormant and behind a fence all these years later.


Wednesday February 15, 2006

The SoBe library's gone + buying furniture in Miami

So, the other day, I'm coming home along A1A, stopped at the light at 21st street on Collins, and I glance over to my right at the Bass Museum of Art[1].

?! The Bass Museum? Shouldn't I be looking at the South Beach Library? Well, exactly: no: the library's gone, in it's place a grassy field, the rotunda the only thing left. I doesn't look like a demolition site - looks like it's been this way for years.

I pull over to snap the photograph above, and walk around the site a bit, and a cop pulls some poor sucker over, blocking my car in with his cruiser. Just then I notice the new library, across the street to the north side of the block. I've got some time to kill now (who wants to ask a cop to move his car?), so I check out the new library.

It's the same collection (I checked out a couple of books!), and the layout is OK - pretty generic, nothing special. Two stories (kids on the 2nd floor - who thought of that?), much less interesting architecturally then the old building. On my way out, I notice the chairs they have at their computer workstations. I try one out (they look pretty plain), and instantly I'm in love. I find it on the DWR site when I'm at home and the thing is over $600 with shipping, which brings me to my real point: it's a pain in the ass buying furniture in Miami.

Unless you're a Rooms-to-Go kind of person, your choices are limited, and generally are going to involve overpaying.

Ikea is decent furniture at reasonable prices. But there's no store anywhere in reasonable driving range (even the one in Atlanta is only recently opened), and boy does their online/mail order system stink[2]. Not to mention, my $180 order became $300 when shipping fees were added in.

There are lots and lots of small stores with modern furniture in town (a number of them are clustered around Biscayne Blvd. between 125 St and Miami Gardens Dr), but they tend to have minimal selection and high prices - great if you have lots of time and money on your hands.

Then there's Design Within Reach, which recently opened a store on Lincoln Rd. - expensive, but at least it's the real deal, right? No: problem is that it's a showroom, and whatever you want is ordered, just like from the catalog, and shipped to you, with the same shipping charges as if you were calling in to the catalog.

And yes, there are thrift stores (the best being Faith Farm in Ft. Lauderdale) which have amazing furniture, but less so with every year that goes by.

So what's the solution? A friend of mine is trying to cook up a scheme involving cheap one-way flights to Atlanta, a trip to the Ikea store, and a u-haul back - that's how desperate we're getting. But so with no further fanfare, we are pleased to announce that yes, the rumors are true: Ikea is planning to open a store in South Florida. In a mere year and a half, all our furniture-related troubles will be over.

[1] Anyone know why it says 'Bass Mvsevm' on the front? Some sort of ancient alphabet thing?

[2] I recently ordered a wall unit and dresser from their online store. Mind you, I had to enter my credit card information before being told the actual shipping cost. I got an e-mail a week later with the shipping cost, asking me to confirm my order. I immediately did. It took another week for them to acknowledge the confirmation[3], and tell me I'd be getting my furniture within 3 weeks. If that wasn't bad enough, I called them today, and (after about an hour on hold) was told that it was actually 3-4 weeks, and I had to call another number still to get any more specific information (I gave up on that one after half an hour on hold).

[3] See West Elm for an example of how to manage an online furniture purchasing experience. A clean and beautiful web site, pre-submit shipping charges, and no-hassle confirmation.


Friday November 4, 2005

Lyric Theater renovation

The Biscayne Boulevard Times has a great article about the renovation of the Lyric Theater in Overtown.

From the 1930s to the 1960s, N.W. 2nd Avenue from 6th to 10th Street, the main strip of a vibrant and pioneering black community called Colored Town, was better known as “Little Broadway.” (…) Today, all that remains of Little Broadway are miscellaneous press clippings, billboards donated by Clyde Killens (the era’s entertainment king) and the Lyric Theater, which, according to material provided by The Black Archives, has been described as “the most beautiful and costly playhouse owned by Colored people in all the Southland.”

There is something very exiting about this. All the development to the north of downtown is going to spread to Overtown sooner or later. This project is funded by government money, so it’s not necessarily an early sign of the trend, but eventual gentrification is inevitable. The exact nature of that gentrification is still up for grabs, though, and this would be another opportunity for Miami to do something right. This project, by preserving the history of the community, is a step in the right direction.


Thursday June 30, 2005

Miami Circle

View of Biscayne Bay, Miami Circle in foreground

Ladies and gentlemen, it has been seven long years since Miami Circle was uncovered. Coinciding with the original boom of the internet, the controversy around the site was something old experienced in a new way. Everybody got to freak out when a reputable archeologist dared to point out that there was a possibility that the site was a septic tank. The BBC made a documentary.

And then . . . nothing. Here we are, years later, and the site is just as it was then. What has Miami Circle done for us lately? Granted, it is a nice green patch of primo turf that the developers can’t touch; something tasty about that. But it sits there, behind two layers of chain-link, very very innanimate. Apparently there is no way to open it to the public — we would destroy the treasure.

Well, ok, one nice thing happened — the Circle’s influence is spreading. In addition to making its own site undevelopable, it is now effecting development on adjacent sites:

Circle acolytes are . . . pressing its developer, the Related Group of Florida, to make design changes to lessen the project’s impact on the 2,000-year-old circle, including moving a proposed 50-story waterfront tower that would loom over the site and partially block views of Biscayne Bay. Archaeologists believe the water views were important to the site’s builders, the extinct Tequesta Indians.

Miami Cricle shrine, today For now, the developers are at least paying lip service to said “acolytes,” but the real issue is the ultimate fate of the Circle. There are vague plans to open the site to the public, but if it hasn’t happened in all this time, when will it happen? We’re voting for never. For Bicentennial Park to sit useless and empty for decades was a tragedy; it’s a huge site with huge potential. Here’s a little site, with serious historical import. Maybe it deserves to sit in limbo, a monument to bureaucracy’s inability to confront its own past injustices.