Architecture & Design

The Eight Oldest and Most Iconic Buildings in Miami

Think of your favorite city, and an old iconic structure probably comes to mind. There's the Empire State Building in New York, the White House in D.C., the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

Because Miami is one of the most culturally diverse cities in America, it's hard to nail down just one building to define it. That's why we gathered eight historical sites that, as Will Smith puts it, say, "Welcome to Miami" — or ¡Bienvenidos a Miami! — best.

8. The Standard Spa
In the early 1950s, the Standard was known as the Monterrey Motel, and in the '60s, it became the Lido Spa Hotel. It attracted the hippest residents and tourists and boasted a swank nightclub that added to Miami's growing club scene. The Standard took control of the Lido in 2004 and reopened in 2006. And though the space has changed throughout the years, HistoryMiami's Paul George says the Standard "remains one of the most wonderful, funky hotels today."
7. William Wagner House
The oldest home standing in Miami-Dade County, the William Wagner house is believed to have been built in the mid-1850s, representing Miami's homesteading era. Wagner was one of the city's first permanent residents, actively involved in political and community affairs. He was also responsible for establishing the city's first Catholic church in 1875. In 1979, the building was relocated to Miami's Lummus Park, and today the structure is the only known house remaining from the city's antebellum era. 
6. Miami-Dade County Courthouse
It's difficult to imagine the Magic City before the dozens of skyscrapers that dot the skyline. In 1904, the Miami-Dade County Courthouse was the tallest structure in the county — as well as the tallest building south of Baltimore. Two decades later, in 1925, a new building was erected in the same location to accommodate Miami's growing population. The 27-story structure was designed by Atlanta architect A. Ten Eyck Brown, who designed many courthouses throughout the South. The tower also housed the city's jail until it closed in 1961. Today the building is still used as the main civil courthouse for the county.
5. The Tower Theater 
In the early 1920s, the Tower Theater was the place to catch an evening flick. One of the first and finest theaters in the South during its time, the Tower Theater is one of Miami's oldest cultural landmarks. In the early 1960s, when many Cuban refugees fled to the States, the theater served as a first look at modern American culture. With the influx of Cuban-Americans, the theater added English-language films with Spanish subtitles and later Spanish-language films. The theater closed to the public in 1984, and in 2002, the City of Miami gave Miami Dade College rights to manage Tower's theater operations. Now the space hosts cultural performances, educational talks, and English- and Spanish-language films.
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Clarissa Buch Zilberman is a writer and editor, with her work appearing in print and digital titles worldwide.
Contact: Clarissa Buch