Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Democracy's College Gains Freedom: The Freedom Tower in Miami Is a Beacon in the Community and a Symbol of Pride and Diversity

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Democracy's College Gains Freedom: The Freedom Tower in Miami Is a Beacon in the Community and a Symbol of Pride and Diversity

Article excerpt

LIKE MANY OF THE CUBAN REFUGEES AND IMMIGRANTS WHO PASSED THROUGH ITS DOORS IN THE 1960S AND 1970S, THE FREEDOM TOWER IN MIAMI, FLA., HAD A TUMULTUOUS HISTORY BEFORE FINDING ITS PLACE. Designed by famed architectural firm Schultze and Weaver, the structure was built as the Miami Daily News Tower in 1925 and served as the headquarters for the Miami Daily News, the city's first newspaper. Inspired by the Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain, the Freedom Tower reflects a Mediterranean Revival architectural style, which is often characterized by stucco walls, terra cotta and tile roofs, decorative arches and keystone detailing.

"Architecturally, Freedom Tower is elegant and rustic at the same time," said Mercedes Quiroga, president of the Wolfson Campus of Miami Dade College, the current owner of the building. "It is a building that you can pick it out from anywhere. If you are on the beach at Miami Beach, you can see it. It has its own definite style, and it is very prominent in the Miami skyline."

Likewise, the views of Miami from within the Freedom Tower are unparalleled. The top floors of the tower are quite narrow and only accessible via a spiral staircase. Once visitors have trekked up the staircase, they are rewarded with spectacular views of the city. Additionally, there is an area at the top where visitors can walk outside and view the city from outside the building.

Freedom Tower functioned as the Miami Daily News headquarters and printing facility from 1925 until 1957, when the Miami Herald purchased the paper and moved operations to the Herald's present facilities.

After the newspaper moved out, the building remained dormant until the 1960s when Fidel Castro's communist regime took power in Cuba and a wave of Cuban refugees came to Miami. The federal government took ownership of the building, renamed it the Freedom Tower and used it as a sort of Ellis Island for Cuban refugees. Refugees were processed, documented and given medical services and personal supplies at Freedom Tower. With its prominent location facing the Biscayne Bay, the Freedom Tower stood as a gateway landmark to Cuban immigrants seeking freedom in a new country.

As the large number of Cuban refugees began to taper off in the early 1970s, the government sold the building in 1974. For the next 20 years, the building went through a number of different owners and uses.

"There were several different owners and there were times when the building was abandoned and not used at all," said Quiroga. "Then it would have an owner, and it would be used for a public event or banquet. It had a somewhat shady, rocky past history."

Despite these difficult times, the building evaded demolition because it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

In 1997, Jorge Mas Canosa, founder and leader of the Cuban American National Foundation, bought and restored Freedom Tower. He converted the building into a monument to Cuban refugees, with a museum, library, meeting hall and offices of the Cuban American National Foundation.

In 2004, developer Pedro Martin and the Terra Group purchased the building, hoping to redevelop the property into condominiums. However, a group of committed preservationists successfully halted these plans.

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In 2008, the Terra Group donated the Freedom Tower to Miami Dade College. The college's mission to make higher education accessible to all people is reflective of the building's history. …

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