Founded in 1972, Dade Heritage Trust has been the leading advocate for historic preservation in Miami-Dade County for 50 years Dade Heritage Trust’s mission is to preserve Miami-Dade County’s architectural, environmental and cultural heritage through education and advocacy.
– By Christine Rupp
The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 established a national policy regarding the preservation of the nation’s historic places and artifacts and its influence slowly began to spread across the states. In the words of the Act, the Federal Government’s role would be to “provide leadership” for preservation, “contribute to” and “give maximum encouragement” to preservation, and “foster conditions under which our modern society and our prehistoric and historic resources can exist in productive harmony.” Indeed, an underlying motivation in passage of the Act was to transform the Federal Government from an agent of indifference, frequently responsible for needless loss of historic resources, to a facilitator, an agent of thoughtful change, and a responsible steward for future generations.
In the late 1960’s, in response to the federal legislation, a small group of preservation advocates came together to form a state-wide organization devoted to preserving significant historic buildings. They turned to the State of Florida Historic Preservation Officer who advised them that the state was not ready for such an effort and recommended they start a county-wide organization first. And so, in 1972, Dade Heritage Trust (DHT) was founded to be a county-wide, membership-based nonprofit, open to all who had an interest in the mission to save historic resources.
The core group, which included Dolly McIntyre, Sallye Jude, Sam Boldrick and others, began meeting in each others’ homes and building the organization. The first step was to do a survey to determine just what historic places existed, followed by the creation of legal protection for sites worthy of preservation in the form of a county preservation ordinance. Bolstered by community interest and governmental cooperation, the organization flourished and in 1978, DHT moved into its current headquarters, the City of Miami-owned 1905 Dr. Jackson’s Office and Surgery. With a long-term lease to operate out of the newly restored building, DHT now had a home in a lovely historic building.
The following year, Miami’s oldest residence, the 1855 William Wagner Homestead of 1858, was acquired, relocated and moved to the City of Miami’s Lummus Park. DHT members sleeves and removed later additions to the wooden vernacular cottage and prepared it for movement to Lummus Park. (photo above).
Today, the historic buildings in Lummus Park are integrated into Dade Heritage Trust’s Historic Places, Green Spaces K-12 education program.
Over the past 50 years, DHT originated and implemented annual awards for outstanding projects and advocates, produced publications, hosted conferences and workshops, and funded and partnered on building restoration projects for community benefit. These traditions continue with the next Annual Meeting and Preservation Awards planned for April 2022, the upcoming publication of Preservation Today Magazine (first published in 1983), announcement of the 2022 Endangered Dozen List of neglected, significant historic resources in Miami-Dade County and planning for the National Trust for Historic Preservation annual conference coming to Miami in November of next year.
Significant past planning, restoration and advocacy efforts include:
• Recovery of historic sites damaged by Hurricane Andrew and administration of funds dedicated for that purpose.
• Relocation and restoration of old Miami High, now located in the City of Miami’s Southside Park
• Relocation and restoration of the Dice House, the oldest residence in Kendall which now serves as a community center in Miami-Dade County’s Continental Park
• Purchase and restoration of the Hubbard-Alvarez bungalow in Little Havana, now home to Citizens for a Better South Florida
• Historic designation for the Miami Marine Stadium and establishment of the Friends of the Marine Stadium established to pursue restoration of the iconic venue
• The Miami Circle preservation as a public space
• Preservation and restoration of the Hampton House
• Protection of the historic the Miami City Cemetery
In 2020, Dade Heritage Trust purchased a 1938 Art Deco apartment building with funding from Miami-Dade County. The project requires preservation and restoration of the building and preservation of the affordability it provides. DHT also gained title to an historically designated wood-frame cottage in the City of Miami’s Lummus Park Historic District. The 1917 residence will be restored and integrated into community education efforts.
Through governmental grants and foundation funding, DHT has assisted local governments in identifying historic resources in the City of Miami’s Shenandoah, Silver Bluff, Allapattah, Grove Park, Westmoreland, Coconut Grove and Overtown neighborhoods. Currently, DHT is working to identify and preserve West Coconut Grove’s shotgun homes, coral rock homes across Miami and Little Havana’s bungalows. In 2020, DHT was the recipient of a $50,000 National Park Service African American Civil Rights Grant grant to research and document significant historical residential and commercial venues in Miami-Dade County’s Brownsville neighborhood. This work continues today.
Dade Heritage Trust’s office also serves the community as the historic building welcomes residents and tourists as a designated Heritage Tourism Visitors Center. Open seven days a week, DHT’s headquarters offers original exhibits: Miami Medicine: Dr. James Jackson and the History of Medicine in Miami, and Biscayne Bay: Our Water, Our World. The buildings and grounds provide a refreshing stop in a neighborhood of glass towers. DHT is home to a Little Free Library, a partner in Fairchild Gardens’ Connect to Protect Program and is a designated Bike Friendly Business by the League of American Bicyclists.
DHT also presents programs to educate about Miami’s historic places and neighborhoods and the importance of preserving these special places that tell the story of our community. On pause due to COVID, programs to begin again in 2022 include Urban Miami Bike Tours, Brickell Avenue Walking Tours and the popular Baking in Historic Places series. In addition, the Historic Places, Green Spaces educational program, deemed a STEAM partner by Miami-Dade County Public Schools, has expanded with new tracks, Miami Urban Tree Trekkers and African American Heritage in Miami.
The future promises to keep us on our toes as we deal with the ongoing challenges of saving historic places and the memories they engender, from the crush of economic pressure for constant growth. Climate change and sea level rise pose yet another challenge, forcing us to rethink how and where we build and how we preserve those special places already built, often at the edge of the sea. Dade Heritage Trust is ready for the challenge.
You are encouraged to join and support our important mission. DHT is a member of the Southeastern Reciprocal Museum program, and your membership provides complimentary admission to over 70 museums in the southeastern United States. For information on programs, initiatives, and membership, please visit dadeheritagetrust.org. You can also follow DHT on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.