Glenn Curtiss Mansion Falling Apart One Year After $4.5 Million Restoration

The Glenn Curtiss House is Miami Springs' crown jewel. The pueblo-style building was once home to a South Florida hero who earned the first U.S. pilot's license, made the first officially witnessed flight in the United States, and piloted the first long-distance trip. He built Miami Springs, as well as neighboring Hialeah and Opa-locka. For all the fame, bravery, and brains he possessed, Curtiss was basically the real-life Tony Stark of the early 20th Century.

That's why the city was determined to rebuild his 1925 house after a series of fires decimated it in the '70s.

"It's an integral part of the community," City Manager Ron Gorland explains. "Not just of Miami Springs, but the surrounding cities and entire county."

Reconstruction was a lengthy labor of love. The nonprofit Curtiss Mansion Inc. was formed in 1998 and tasked with raising the cash. To start with, they used $1 million in county taxpayer money and $1 million from the State of Florida to rebuild the bare bones and put a roof on the V-shaped structure. About $2.5 million in donations and 14 years later, the project was finished.

It took about only a year for the roof to begin falling apart. The large cypress beams used to support the ceiling were not built to specification, and the building could collapse if they are not replaced.

In a January 15 letter to Gorland and City Attorney Jan K. Seiden, SRHL law firm laid out how much it would charge for its services. The firm's rate is up to $400 an hour, depending upon which attorney is working on any given day. Although the correspondence mentioned Carivon Construction as the defendant, Gorland explains they don't really know who's responsible. All of the contractors and subcontractors who worked on the projects are considered suspect.

"You sue everybody and then you figure out who the culprit is," he says. "It doesn't matter how long it's gonna take, but we're not just gonna sit there and wait to find out."

Reporting contributed by Theo Karantsalis.

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Allie Conti was a fellow at Miami New Times and a staff writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach, where her writing won awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. She's now the senior staff writer at Vice and a contributor to the New York Times, New York Magazine, and the Atlantic.