Johnny Cash, Pitbull, and Rick Ross have all called out the city of Opa-locka in their lyrics. But the Native Americans who inhabited the area called it “Opa-tisha-wocka-locka,” which means “big island covered in many trees and swamps.” White people moved in, cut down the trees, and built 105 Moorish-style buildings just like the ones described in the 1,001 Arabian Nights collection of stories. To this day, the city brims with domes, outdoor staircases, spirals, towers, and Hollywood-style Middle-eastern architecture envisioned by Glenn Curtiss, who made the first officially witnessed flight in North America, and drafted by Bernhardt Muller. Twenty of the city’s buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. All this in a roughly four-square-mile area where the streets have names like Ali Baba Avenue and Oriental Boulevard.
Now, HistoryMiami (101 W. Flagler St., Miami) presents “Opa-locka: Mirage City,” an exhibition featuring Muller’s original hand-drawn architectural renderings of this fabled place, scale architectural models created by Miami Dade College students, and photos of the buildings. Bernhardt’s pencil and watercolor depictions of an exotic land nestled in waters and palm trees is still a beautiful mirage almost 100 years later.
The exhibit is on view this Friday through September 8. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission costs $5 to $8. Call 305-375-1492 or visit historymiami.org.
Thu., June 27, 6 p.m., 2013