The aerial photo of downtown Miami in 1921 provides a glimpse of what the area looked like on the eve of the great building boom of the mid-1920s. The photo was taken prior to the construction of most of the hotels on Biscayne Boulevard and prior to the creation of Bayfront Park. The date of the picture even preceded the renaming of The Boulevard to Biscayne Boulevard, which did not occur until 1926.
The road at the center of the photograph is Flagler Street and the bottom of the picture is where Flagler Street meets the Miami River. The top of the photo shows the eastern edge of downtown and Biscayne Bay. The building along the western bank of the Miami River was the Del Rio Apartments. It was located on the north side of Flagler Street and it was less than a year old at the time the picture was taken.
Shifting focus to the mid-point of Flagler Street in the photograph one can see the old county courthouse. Today’s courthouse replaced the one found in this picture in the late 1920s. The old courthouse was built on then Twelfth Street, which is today’s Flagler Street, in 1904. It was a neo-classical design, constructed of limestone, and topped off with an elegant dome. It cost $47,000 to construct in the early 1900s. When it opened, officials believed that this courthouse would serve the county for more than fifty years. It was replaced only twenty-four years later in 1928 with the Miami-Dade County Courthouse we know today.
The tallest building in the picture, on the corner of The Boulevard and Flagler Street at the top of the photo, was the McAllister Hotel. It was the first mid-rise hotel along the future Biscayne Boulevard when it opened in 1917. During the building boom in the mid-1920s, several more hotels would dot the skyline along the eastern edge of downtown Miami. The McAllister remained a fixture in the downtown area until 1988 when it was razed to ultimately make room for 50 Biscayne, which opened in 2007.
South of the McAllister Hotel, or to the right in the picture, is Royal Palm Park and the Royal Palm Hotel. By 1920, the grounds of the park and hotel were engulfed in mature trees and foliage. Despite only being built twenty-four years prior, the Royal Palm Hotel was beginning to show its age. It was a wood-framed building and would only remain standing for ten more years after this picture was taken.
This photograph captures how different Miami was nearly one-hundred years ago. While Flagler Street is still the main artery in downtown Miami, so much has grown to the north, south and west of the city’s core. In 1920, the downtown area was preparing for the transition from mixed-residential to become the “fine southern city” that Julia Tuttle predicted years earlier. The change in the area in the last century is truly remarkable and thankfully Richard Hoit and his camera captured this point in time.Click Here to Subscribe
- Cover: Aerial of downtown Miami in 1920. Courtesy of Miami-Dade Public Library System. Photographer was Richard B. Hoit.
- Figure 1: Del Rio Apartments in 1921. Courtesy of Alvin Lederer.
- Figure 2: Dade County Courthouse in 1925. Courtesy of Florida Memory.
- Figure 3: McAllister Hotel on April 16, 1926. Courtesy of Florida Memory. Photographer was William Fishbaugh.
- Figure 4: Royal Palm Park and Hotel in April of 1922.