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Touring vintage Miami while maintaining social distance

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Despite Miami-Dade County’s modernization, historic buildings can still be found throughout the region.

Look closely and these buildings have stories to tell – and you can enjoy them while social distancing!

Map out your route and take a drive to these points of interest. They provide a history lesson via architectural design and structure.

By no means is this a comprehensive list, but we hope it gets you started on this quest. Click on the linked building names throughout the article for more details on each one.

Happy history-hunting! 

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DOWNTOWN MIAMI

The Freedom Tower stands tall and proud in the heart of Biscayne Boulevard in downtown Miami. The building, dubbed as Miami’s Ellis Island for its role as a refugee center in the 1960s, is now home to Miami Dade College’s Museum of Art & Design. It is modeled after the Giralda Cathedral Bell Tower in Seville, Spain. Located at 600 Biscayne Blvd.

In the heart of downtown Miami stands the Miami-Dade County Courthouse. Built in the neoclassical style in 1928, it was for a while the area’s tallest building. At the time it was considered a skyscraper and, to this day, it remains a throwback to another time in the city’s history. Located at 73 W. Flagler St.

Home to the Miami Film Festival and plenty of weekly cultural programming, the Olympia Theater is one of downtown’s most beloved buildings. Built in 1926 and saved from demolition many times over, the box office sits directly on the sidewalk giving the area a bygone era charm. Located at 174 E. Flagler St.

Still considered one of downtown’s most elegant structures, the Ingraham Building is a classic. Its duality comes from resembling both skyscrapers of the Chicago School style as well as the Renaissance’s Florentine palaces. Look closely at intricate detailing of its arched entrance and use of Indiana limestone. Located at 25 SE Second Ave.

MIAMI SPRINGS

The Curtiss Mansion & Gardens is named after aviation pioneer Glenn Curtis. Built in 1925 and designed in the Pueblo Revival style similar to the architecture in New Mexico, it sits in the heart of Miami Springs across a giant shade tree. Located at 500 Deer Run.

CORAL GABLES

Built in 1926, the stately Biltmore Hotel features Italian, Moorish and Spanish architectural influences. The lavish gardens throughout and iconic pool make this a landmark property. It remains the building that exemplifies the vision of of George Merrick, the father of the City of Coral Gables.  Located at 1200 Anastasia Ave.

He founded the city, drawing inspiration from his childhood home. It’s evident in the coral rock structure and wrap-around porch. The 1920s architectural details of the Coral Gables Merrick House are everywhere among the abundant greenery. Located at 907 Coral Way.

Built from a coral rock quarry, Venetian Pool’s large lookout towers, also fashioned from the coral rock, add to its stately charm. The cave-like grottos, porticos and loggias can be viewed from the signature bridge. Tall palm trees give it the tropical look. Located at 2701 DeSoto Blvd.

Another distinctive marquee marks the landmark Miracle Theater on Miracle Mile. The building stands as the only cultural venue on the street dotted mostly with restaurants and shops. The neon “Miracle” sign stands out from the semi-circular marquee. It was once a movie theater, and its old-school box office and glass doors to the lobby entrance and interior are fashioned in the Art Moderne style. Located at 280 Miracle Mile.

BISCAYNE BAY

At the tip of Key Biscayne sits the Cape Florida Lighthouse at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Built in 1825, it’s the only lighthouse in Miami-Dade County – and can be enjoyed by beachgoers and park visitors alike. Drive into the park entrance and make your way to this historic beacon. Located at 1200 S. Crandon Blvd.

Along Rickenbacker Causeway, on the way to the lighthouse, sits the Miami Marine Stadium. Built in 1963, it was once the site of powerboat races, swim meets and concerts. The unique modernist-style concrete structure features a cantilevered, fold-plate roof with eight slanted columns anchored in the ground. Located at 3501 Rickenbacker Causeway.

NORTH MIAMI BEACH

Drive down West Dixie Highway, through a canopy of large shade trees, and arrive at the Ancient Spanish Monastery. The castle-like structure’s archway entrance gives you a glimpse of the lush gardens and statues that adorn them. Built in 1141 AD in Spain, the historic building was transported piece by piece and rebuilt in its current location in the 1920s. Located at 16711 West Dixie Highway.

LITTLE HAVANA

A working movie theater screening indie films year-round, the Tower Theater’s distinctive marquee is the crown jewel of Little Havana. The theater’s doors opened in 1926, but it wasn’t until 1931 that the building was redesigned to its current Art Deco style. Its 40-foot steel tower juts out behind the landmark marquee. Located at 1508 SW Eighth St.

COCONUT GROVE

Wind down Main Highway and arrive at Plymouth Congregational Church. The coral rock structure built in 1917 is partially covered in greenery and features a 400-year-old front door taken from a monastery in the Pyrenees Mountains. Located at 3400 Devon Road.

A very popular site for weddings and special occasions, the Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove is yet another coral rock structure. Built in 1891, it is another charmer with arched windows, colorful foliage and rich, lush landscaping. Located at 2985 S. Bayshore Drive.

Miami City Hall, also set along South Bayshore Drive, was built in 1934 in Art Deco style. It was constructed at Dinner Key by Pan American Airlines to serve as its worldwide flying-boat terminal. The bayfront view is another of its impressive features. The circular driveway adds to its uniqueness. Located at 3500 Pan American Drive.

The Coconut Grove Library structure was built in 1901. The subtropical modern style pays homage to the pioneers who settled in Coconut Grove. Located at 2875 McFarlane Road.

MIAMI BEACH

Known around the world for pastel-colored Art Deco buildings, those are easy enough to spot everywhere around  Miami Beach. Standing out from all of that is quaint Española Way, modeled after the Mediterranean style in France and Spain. Stretching just a few blocks, the string lights and peach-colored buildings add to the inviting ambiance. Located off Washington Avenue, between 14th and 15th streets.

The art collection inside The Bass museum is now contemporary, but the actual building is Art Deco style. Originally the Miami Beach Public Library and Art Center, the original structure now features a new wing. The intricate carvings above the entrance doors, stately palm trees on the lawn and outdoor sculptures are a sight to behold. Located at 2100 Collins Ave.

MORE OUTDOOR FUN

Tour one of Miami’s many garden attractions. We’ve got the most popular ones compiled in one neat article. Visit one or make a point of visiting them all. Click here for details.

Are you an art enthusiast? Take in the abundance of public art around Miami, either from your car or on foot. Click here for details on where to find it!

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Josie Gulliksen

About Josie Gulliksen

Josie Gulliksen is a freelance writer and major arts advocate and enthusiast who loves everything cultural and is excited to live in such a thriving community as Miami. A Miami native, aside from Miami on the Cheap, she currently writes for Artburst Miami, Edible South FL, Legacy Miami and Legacy South Florida and Miami New Times. She worked for nearly a decade at Miami Today covering the arts community and restaurant scene and served as Calendar Editor. She has also worked in public relations for the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, in travel and tourism for Newman PR and at the Miami Science Museum. She has written for Florida Travel + Life Magazine, Florida Monthly Magazine, Miami.com, Indulge Miami and MiamiCurated.

Living on the CheapMiami on the Cheap is a member of Living on the Cheap, a network of websites published by frugalistas, journalists and consumer advocates. Find practical advice on saving money on groceries, travel and shopping, plus tips from our experts on how to live the good life for less at Living on the Cheap.

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