A Miami Neighborhood Is Still Legally Known as Swastika Park

A Miami Neighborhood Is Still Legally Known as Swastika Park

Last week, New Times ran down the history of some of Miami's neighborhood names, but it appears that some monikers are best lost to history. Take, for example, a small area in Little Havana that is still legally known as Swastika Park. Yes, Swastika Park. 

Let us repeat that: 92 lots in an area just blocks west of what is now Marlins Park still legally carry the unfortunate name of "Swastika Park" on their deeds, and the area is still known as such on official documents. You can even find a few odd automated real-estate listing websites today advertising homes for sale in Swastika Park. The area runs from NW 19th Avenue to NW 22nd Avenue to the west and NW Seventh St to NW Third Street from north to south. 

So how did the area get the unfortunate name? Thankfully, it has nothing to do with Nazis. (You can never be too sure in Florida). The area was deeded as a subdivision way back in 1917. 

At the time, the swastika, an ancient symbol associated with Hinduism, had been widely adapted in the West as a symbol of good luck. It showed up on everything from postage stamps to Boy Scout badges. The worst you could say about the swastika at the time was that it was an example of cultural appropriation. 

The use of "Swastika" as a place name in Miami began with an estate in Coconut Grove once dubbed Swastika Estate, according to historian Arva Moore Parks in a 1992 article. The subdivision was apparently named after that estate. 

Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party would adopt the symbol just three years after the subdivision was created, but it wouldn't be until the Nazis came to power in Germany in the '30s that the swastika symbol and name would become taboo in the West. 

It's not clear how residents of Swastika Park reacted at the time of Hitler's rise, but obviously the name quickly faded from popular use. Its namesake, Swastika Estate, was officially given a different moniker.

It wasn't until 1992 when most Miamians rediscovered the name. A homeowner came before the Miami Zoning Board to get approval for an addition to his house. According to an AP article at the time, an old map from 1917 that established the area as a subdivision was discovered decorated with swastikas. One of the streets at the time was even intended to be named Swastika Road (Miami streets weren't given their uniform numbers until 1920). 

The rediscovery of the name understandably upset many in Miami, and there was some effort underway to change it. It even led to some awkward neighborhood spats, such as this one recorded in an AP article:

Damn it, Angelina! 

However, legally changing the name of a subdivision is a cumbersome process. It would begin with owners of all 92 properties in the area signing off on the change and would require lawyers and surveyors to settle the rest. 

A former Miami News editor and then-Miami Herald columnist Howard Kleinberg wrote that the brouhaha was over nothing and that the name had all but officially been lost to history anyway. 

So, eventually, Miami decided to do the easiest thing possible: Ignore the problem and pretend it doesn't exist. 

Anyway, Miami's Swastika Park isn't the only place in North America to have the name. A town in Ontario, Canada, is named Swastika. Residents during the time of World War II proclaimed, "The hell with Hitler. We came up with our name first!" and the name is used for the small town to this day. A subdivision in Denver is also known as "Swastika Acres."  

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