Famous historical sites in Miami

    By Florida Division of Historic Resources Staff

    Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1896.

    Florida has a rich and diverse history.  African American history in Florida and legacies exist in various locations throughout the state. The following historical sites can be found in Dade County.  While some of these historical sites in Miami sites can be visited, other listings are marked "private" and are not open to the public.

    Coconut Grove
    Charles Avenue Historic District Marker

    Charles Avenue and Main Highway
    The first black community on the south Florida mainland began here in the 1880s when blacks from the Bahamas and southern U.S. came to farm the land or to work at the Peacock Inn, the first hotel in the Miami area.

    Coconut Grove Cemetery

    3650 Charles Avenue
    This cemetery was developed in 1913 by the Coconut Grove Colored Cemetery Association, which included several prominent, local, black citizens including E.W.F. Stirrup, Walker Burrows and Joseph Riddick. It is the final resting place of many influential pioneer settlers.

    Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church
    3315 Douglas Road
    The congregation organized in 1895 as the first Baptist
    church for black people in Dade County. The church was then known as the Fifty-Six Members Church, and met in a local home. The name was later changed to St. Agnes Missionary Baptist Church and in 1922 changed again to Macedonia Missionary Baptist. Services are still offered at the present structure which was completed in 1948. (305) 445-6459.

    Stirrup House

    3242 Charles Avenue (Private)
    Ebenezer W.F Stirrup, a Bahamian who came to the United States in 1888, built this two-story frame vernacular structure in 1897. Stirrup invested his earnings in land and built over 100 homes to rent or sell to other Bahamian blacks who came to Coconut Grove around the turn of the century. Some of the houses still stand, some occupied by descendants of those early pioneers.

    Coral Gables
    MacFarlane Homestead Subdivision Historic District

    Bounded by Oak Avenue, Grand Avenue, Brooke Street and Jefferson Street
    Developed by Coral Gables founder George Merrick as a black residential neighborhood, the early homes of this district were built in the late 1920s and 1930s in the Vernacular style of architecture not seen elsewhere in Coral Gables. The styles include bungalows and one-story frame “shot-gun” homes. The land was formerly the homestead of Flora McFarlane, a white woman who, before there was a public school, taught both black and white children at the Peacock Inn, Miami’s first hotel.

    Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

    1200 South Crandon Boulevard
    Situated on the southern tip of Key Biscayne, Cape Florida was the point from which many black Seminoles and escaped slaves sought passage east to the Bahamas when Florida was transferred from Spain to the United States in 1819. Those who could afford passage bargained with the Bahamian “wreckers” while others made the crossing in Seminole dugout canoes fitted with sails and paddles. The lighthouse, built in 1825, was attacked by Seminole Indians in 1836 during the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). Cape Florida was a secret meeting place and departure point for runaway slaves, freedom seekers and Black Seminoles before the lighthouse was built. One of the earliest stations on the national and international Underground Railroad Network, in 2005 the park was dedicated as a site in the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. (305) 361-5811, www.floridastateparks.org/capeflorida.

    Black Archives, History and Research Foundation of South Florida
    5400 NW 22nd Avenue
    Founded by Dr. Dorothy Jenkins Fields and incorporated in 1977, this research center contains documents, photographs and artifacts documenting the black experience in Miami- Dade County from 1896 to the present. Artworks showcase Overtown’s “Little Broadway” and local historical sites in Miami. (305) 636-2390, www.theblackarchives.org.

    Booker T. Washington School

    1200 NW 6th Avenue
    Construction of Booker T. Washington School began in 1926 amid protests from white citizens living in the area. Men in the community took turns standing guard at night and working during the day, until the school was built. Officially opened on March 28, 1927, it is now a middle school. This was the first school in South Florida to provide a twelve grade education for black children. (305) 324-8900.

    Chapman House
    1200 NW 6th Avenue (on the grounds of Booker T. Washington High School)
    This colonial-style residence was built in 1923 by Dr. William A. Chapman, Sr., M.D. for his family and medical practice. In the 1980s Dr. William A. Chapman, Jr., deeded the house and land to Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Designated a historic site by the City of Miami in 1983, this single family home now serves as a district-wide multicultural learning center for school children and offers public programs for adults. (305) 995-1275.

    D.A. Dorsey House

    250 NW 9th Street
    Dana A. Dorsey moved to Miami around 1896 to engage in farming. He purchased lots for $25 each and advertised as the only colored licensed real estate dealer in the city. A pioneer citizen and developer of early “Colored Town,” Dorsey is generally recognized as Miami’s most famous early black resident. He organized South Florida’s first black bank, served as chairman of the Colored Advisory Committee to the Dade County School Board, and as registrar for black men during World War I. (305) 636-2390.

    Evergreen Park Cemetery

    3055 NW 41st Street
    With nearly 3,300 burial plots, this is one of the oldest black cemeteries in Dade County. Most remains are placed in above-ground vaults, a tradition in the area’s black community.

    Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church
    245 NW 8th Street
    Home of the oldest black congregation in Miami, Greater Bethel AME Church was organized in 1896, several months before the city was incorporated. Construction of this Mediterranean Revival style building began in 1927 and was completed in 1942. It is one of the few examples of this architectural style in Overtown.

    Hampton House
    4200 NW 27th Avenue (Not currently open to the public)
    Built in 1953 and originally named Booker Terrace, the two story Hampton House was promoted as the social center of the South. The hotel had 20 rooms, a swimming pool, patio, restaurant and night club. Black performers jammed at the hotel club after playing for all-white audiences in Miami Beach. Visitors included Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Jackie Robinson, Jackie Wilson, Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X. (305) 635-5130.

    Lincoln Memorial Park
    3001 NW 46th Street
    Lincoln Memorial, opened in 1924 in the Brownsville section of Miami, was for decades the black cemetery in Miami. Most of the 538 burial plots are above ground vaults. Dana Albert Dorsey, Miami’s first black millionaire, and Gwendolyn Sawyer Cherry, the first black woman to serve in the Florida Legislature, are among those buried here.

    The Lyric Theater
    819 NW 2nd Avenue
    Prominent black entrepreneur Geder Walker built this masonry vaudeville and movie theater in 1913. Once one of the major centers of entertainment for blacks, this building is the lone survivor of the “Little Broadway” district that flourished in Overtown for almost 50 years. It is the oldest legitimate theater remaining in Miami. Now restored, the 390-seat theater features exhibits, festivals, jazz, theater, dance and multicultural performances. The Lyric Theater anchors the Historic Overtown Folklife Village. (305) 358-1146, www.theblackarchives.org.

    Mt. Zion Baptist Church

    201 NW 9th Street
    Home to one of the oldest and most prominent black congregations of South Florida, this structure is noted for its Mediterranean Revival design. The Mt. Zion congregation helped raise funds to build Miami’s black-owned Christian Hospital. (305) 379-4147.

    Overtown Neighborhood
    Bordered by NW 21st Street, NW 6th Street, NW 1st Avenue and I-95
    One of the oldest neighborhoods in Miami, Overtown began as a community home to African American railroad, street and hotel workers. As early as 1904, the City of Miami directory listed businesses owned and operated by blacks, including general goods and services, a medical doctor, laundresses and laborers. At least one national convention was held annually in Overtown, and Miami’s Colored Board of Trade was established as a clearinghouse for commercial and civic betterment.

    St. John’s Baptist Church

    1328 NW 3rd Avenue
    The congregation was organized in 1906. The current building, designed by the black architectural firm of McKissack and McKissack, was completed in 1940. The two-story masonry building is a rare example of the Art Deco style in Overtown. (305) 372-3877.

    Virginia Key Beach Park

    3861 Rickenbacker Causeway
    In 1918, D.A. Dorsey, an African American millionaire, purchased what is now known as Fisher Island in hopes of establishing a black resort there. Due to increasing property taxes, Dorsey sold the property and without a beach, blacks protested by attempting to swim in white beach waters. On August 1, 1945, county officials designated Virginia Key Beach a “Dade County Park for the exclusive use of Negroes”. The park was only accessible by boat from a downtown dock on the Miami River. Structures included a concession stand, a bathhouse with restrooms, an octagonal carousel building and three picnic pavilions. A 70-foot wood tunnel surrounded by native coral rock was constructed in 1956 for a miniature train, and remains today. In 1944, the Navy conducted Negro training on this beach, since black enlisted men could not be trained on other beaches. (305) 960-4600, www.virginiakeybeachpark.net.

    Miami Gardens
    Florida Memorial College

    15800 NW 42nd Avenue
    In the late 1800s, the American Baptist Home Mission Society created two colleges in North Florida: The Florida Baptist Institute for Negroes in Live Oak (1879) and the Florida Baptist Academy in Jacksonville (1892). The two institutions merged in 1941. In 1963 the name Florida Memorial College was adopted and in 1968 the college moved to its permanent campus in Miami. This is the only historically Black university in the southern region of the state. (305) 626-3600.

    Adapted from Florida Black Heritage Trail, published by the Florida Department of State, in partnership with VISIT FLORIDA, copyright 2007. For more information on African American sites, please visit flheritage.com.  Additional information can also be found at: http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/milesmedia/floridablackheritage/