In the continuing effort to recognize the significance of Homestead’s historic buildings, Historic Downtown Homestead will have more of its historic structures adorned with educational plaques. This will allow visitors and citizens alike to identify and learn about the importance of these buildings. In a special presentation at the September 24th City Council meeting, plaques were presented to the owners of the buildings by Vice Mayor Stephen R. Shelley, Council Liaison to the Historic Preservation Board, who led the project, along with Historic Preservation Board Chairwoman, Yvonne Knowles.
“The partnership between the Preservation Board and the City Council has been instrumental in protecting Homestead’s history for future generations,” said Vice Mayor Shelley. “As we look towards the future of our Downtown it’s also important to remember where we came from and the stories that have shaped Homestead into the place it is today.”
The Homestead Historic Downtown District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 19, 2007. The district is comprised of eleven blocks and 73 buildings and is only one of four districts in South Florida to receive a National District Designation. Miami Beach, Key West and Coral Gables round out the other three. Diligent and exhaustive work by the Homestead Historic Preservation Board earnestly began in 2002 and was rewarded in 2007 when the Department of the Interior approved the designation.
The best way to enjoy historic Homestead is by foot with the comprehensive, award-winning booklet produced by the City of Homestead entitled “Homestead: Then & Now.” In it, one will find full color pictures of the various buildings through the years, informative descriptions and a map that leads you on a self-guided walking tour.
In January 2014, Vice Mayor Shelley began the mission of marking all of Downtown Homestead’s historic buildings with the presentation of seven educational plaques. With the presentation of these additional six, all of Historic Downtown Homestead’s 13 buildings are identified and recognized.
The Trinity Faith Tabernacle Church Deliverance Center, built in 1940, was originally a movie theater and cultural center, the two story structure served the African American Community of Homestead. Masonry Vernacular architecture maintains its artistic and architectural distinction.
The Greater New Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1936. The church itself was started in Homestead in 1915 with the present site constructed in 1955. This church is an
important structure in the Southwest district, serving the African American community through an unbroken line of thirty pastors.
St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church was built in 1948. The first site of the church was N. Flagler in 1903. Because of the proposal to build the Florida East Coast Railway depot at that location, the church moved to property donated by Mr. Mark McClain, owner of McClain’s Acres, an early subdivision in the Southwest district of Homestead. Through the following decades the church followers and pastors worked towards the goal of building a permanent structure. Finally, in 1948 the church at its present site was completed and continued to grow as the population increased and is today the largest African American church in Homestead.
The Landmark Hotel (also known as the Seminole Hotel) was built in Miami in 1913 and was known as the Airdome Theater, an open air theater with no walls or roof, just a front entrance flanked with small offices and a wooden stage with a screen. In 1914 it was converted into an enclosed two story structure and renamed the Colonial Theater. In 1916 the theater was disassembled and moved via railroad to its present site in Homestead. Purchased in 1919 by James W. English it was renamed the Seminole Theater, converting the second story into bedrooms to relieve overcrowding from local boarding houses. In 1936 major renovation converted the remaining theater into bedrooms now totaling twenty-six as well as a restaurant. The building played a prominent past in Homestead’s civic community. Eventually Mr. English built a second Seminole Theater on Krome Avenue owning a string of theaters throughout South Florida. In 1965 new owners changed the name to the Landmark Hotel.
The Neva King Cooper School was built in 1914 and is one of the earliest Spanish Revival buildings in Miami Dade County and is one of the finest examples of the works of architect August Geiger, one of Dade County’s earliest known architects. Built around a U shaped open courtyard, the architect ensured that the school provided sunlight and cross ventilation in all rooms with the entire structure on one floor. The name was changed from the Homestead School to Neva King Cooper School in 1934 to commemorate the work of a beloved local elementary school teacher.
The Dickenson House was built in 1920. This rectangular, one story building is constructed of oolitic limestone, a native rock. The Mission house is a unique example of the adaptation of native building materials. The front façade features an entrance framed by two rounded arched windows and buttresses. The building was constructed as a chapel for the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. It was sold to Mr. Herman McConnell in 1946 with the stipulation that the owner make no changes to the building. In 1969 Mr. and Mrs. Dickinson purchased the building.