This short walking tour includes stops at over a dozen landmark buildings, monuments, museums, and historical markers in the heart of Miami's downtown business district. The tour concludes at the HistoryMiami Museum.
The Dade-Commonwealth Building, also known as the Meyer-Kiser Building, was built in 1925. Its construction came during a downtown building frenzy amidst the Florida Land Boom of the 1920s. The Commercial style building originally had seventeen stories, before a devastating hurricane in 1926 reduced the number to seven. For years some of the building's most prominent tenants were banks, including the Meyer-Kiser Bank of Indianapolis. It received its current name in 1944 when the Dade-Commonwealth Title and Abstract Co. occupied the ground floor. In 2015, the Dade-Commonwealth Building was purchased by a group of investors who plan to rebuild the additional ten stories and convert the structure into a hotel.
The Old U.S. Post Office and Courthouse was the first signifigant federal government building in Miami. The Neo-Classical building was constructed between 1912 and 1914 to accommodate the new, growing city. In 1931, the post office and courthouse moved to a larger facility as Miami continued to expand. From 1937 to 1990 the building was owned and occupied by AmeriFirst Federal, the nation's first chartered federal saving and loan association. Today the building is occupied by the Miami Center for Architecture and Design, as well as the Downtown Miami Welcome Center. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and has been designated a city historical site.
Before the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans lived at the mouth of the Miami River for over 15 centuries. The main settlement of the Tequesta Indians was at the site indicated by this marker. The town included six mounds used for a variety of purposes, such as dwelling, burial, and religious rites. The Tequesta had mostly left their territory in the Atlantic coast of Florida by the mid-eighteenth century.
Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés (February 15, 1519- September 17, 1574), a Spanish explorer and admiral from the Astunias region, landed in Biscayne Bay in 1567. He served as the first colonial governor of Florida from 1565-1574. He is also credited for founding St. Augustine, Florida in 1565.
This salmon-pink cathedral that towers over the streets of downtown Miami is the Gesu Catholic Church, the oldest church in South Florida. The building itself is from the 1920s, but the church and the influence of Catholicism in Florida goes back even farther in time. Since its genesis, which is owed to the Fathers of the Society of Jesus, the Gesu Catholic Church has been a centerpiece for the catholic community in the city of Miami. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Congress Building is a historic twenty-one story building in downtown Miami. The building was constructed in two phases, with the first five stories in 1923 and the remaining sixteen in 1925. It features elements of both Mediterranean Revival and Chicago School architecture. The Congress Building was created amidst the 1920s Florida Land Boom, which saw the population of Miami explode and land prices skyrocket. The Building itself was built and utilized by the Realty Securities Corporation, a real estate company specializing in suburban properties. Today the Congress Building has been restored and houses apartments. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated a Miami historic site.
The Alfred I. DuPont building was one of Miami’s first skyscrapers and was added to the US National Register of Historic Places on January 4, 1989. It was built in 1939 and is 260 feet tall, with 21 floors. The building's construction symbolized Miami’s recovery following the Great Depression, as it was the first skyscraper built after the economic boom of the late 1920s. The building was named after the owner of the Florida National Bank, an important tenant in the building during its early years.
The historic Olympia Theater was constructed in 1926 by Paramount Enterprises. The theater showed silent films and vaudeville in its early years. The theater later hosted "talkies" (movies with sound0 as well as concerts, plays, and community events. The Mediterranean Revival style building is one of only two surviving atmospheric theaters in Florida and it may be the first theater in the South to offer air conditioning. It has been renovated, repurposed, and renamed several times. Today the Olympia Theater continues as a performing arts center, hosting various concerts, lectures, and other events throughout the year. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
The historic Ingraham Building was constructed in 1927. Like many other buildings in downtown Miami, it was built as part of the Florida Land Boom of the 1920s. It is noteworthy for having been designed by the architectural firm Schultze and Weaver, the same firm that designed buildings such as the Waldorf-Astoria. The Ingraham Building was originally built as offices for the Model Land Company, the real estate arm of Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway. The construction of a railway through southern Florida left Flagler with considerable land holdings, resulting in him creating the Model Land Company to sell and develop those properties. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
The Huntington Building, also known as the Consolidated Bank Building, was constructed in 1925-1926. It came, like many other downtown Miami buildings, at the height of the Florida Land Boom of the 1920s. The Huntington Building was created by real estate developer Frederick Rand, who sought to develop Northeast 2nd Avenue into a substantial downtown center. It is noted particularly for eleven knight statues that occupy the rooftop, giving it a unique appearance. Today the Huntington Building houses offices and condominiums.
The historic Ainsley Building, today known as the One Flagler Building, was built in 1952. It was the first skyscraper constructed in post-World War II Miami and came amid an economic reawakening in the city. The Modernist building was designed by noted architect Morris Lapidus, famous for creating such hotels as Fontainebleau. The Ainsley Building has changed hands a number of times, and in 2015 was converted into office condominiums. That same year it was also designated a Miami historical site.
In September 1959, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) held an Interracial Action Institute in Miami. Following this meeting, white and Black students and others began sit-ins at area department stores that refused to serve Black patrons. This image shows a later sit-in at Burdine's on East Flagler Street (presently the location of Macy's). Although these sit-ins did not immediately lead to the integration of Miami lunch counters, they gave activists important lessons that would help spur the wave of successful sit-ins that began in Greensboro, NC in 1960.
HistoryMiami, formerly known as the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, preserves the history and culture of Miami and southern Florida. Because southern Florida has historically stood as the cultural crossroads of America, HistoryMiami interprets and presents its vast collection of artifacts, providing locals and visitors with meaningful ways to connect to the region’s past and its ever-evolving future. In addition to the Museum’s 40,000 square feet of gallery space that features a variety of exciting and interactive exhibits, the museum also offers a variety of city tours. The top floor houses the museum’s permanent exhibition, where the “Tropical Dreams: A People's History of South Florida” exhibit (2015-2017) showcases over 12,000 years of regional history. The lobby contains the gift shop as well as two galleries that rotate temporary exhibitions. HistoryMiami also includes the Archives and Research Center, which contains historic photos and documents useful to scholars, distant learners and industry professionals.