By: Larry Wiggins
Prior to the arrival of Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast (FEC) Railway in 1904, Homestead consisted of pine trees and palmetto scrubs. Soon thereafter, the FEC platted the town site and began selling lots, and nature gave way to a small frontier town that quickly grew up around the railroad with an agricultural-based economy derived from the nearby farms.
Homestead incorporated as a town in 1913; today it is the second oldest municipality, behind Miami, in Miami-Dade County (Florida City, incorporated in 1914, is the third oldest). Hurricane Andrew devastated the city on August 24, 1992. The following year, while still in the depths of recovery, Homestead’s downtown section was named a Florida Main Street Community.
Downtown Homestead now looks better than it ever did and is home to seven properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as unique shops, art galleries, authentic Mexican and specialty restaurants and the Homestead Antique Federation.
Downtown historic area walking tour maps, and maps showing the locations of antique stores, are available at the Old Town Hall Museum and Homestead Main Street located at 43 N. Krome Ave. and at the Greater Homestead/Florida City Chamber of Commerce offices located at 455 N. Flagler Ave.
1. Florida Pioneer Museum
826 N. Krome Ave., Florida City
The Florida Pioneer Museum is housed in an original railroad station agent’s house built in 1904. In that year, Henry Flagler extended his Florida East Coast Railway from Miami to Homestead as an initial phase of his plan to build the overseas railway to Key West. He platted the town of Homestead and constructed this house for the local station agent. The museum depicts the way of life a century ago and exhibits throughout the 10-room house give one an appreciation of the hardships endured by pioneering families. Other displays feature the cities of Florida City and Homestead, early tourist attractions, underwater archaeology of the upper Florida Keys and an authoritative Native American exhibit.
2. The Gold Coast Railroad Museum
12450 SW 152nd St.
Adjacent to Zoo Miami, the Gold Coast Railroad Museum is one of the most unusual in the country. Actual historic railroad cars are on display on a half mile of real track. Its proudest acquisition is the National Historic Landmark Ferdinand Magellan, built for President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s and used by presidents Truman, Eisenhower and Reagan. The museum also displays Florida East Coast (FEC) Railway locomotive 153 and 113, and on Saturdays and Sundays the museum offers rides on the Edwin Link Children’s Railroad. The museum, as well as Zoo Miami, is on the former grounds of the Naval Air Station Richmond, noted for its blimps that were used to combat the Nazi submarine menace during World War II. Some of the pylons from the base’s three airship hangars remain.
3. Old City Hall
41 N. Krome Ave.
Old City Hall (also known as Historic Homestead Town Hall Museum) was designed by Miami architect H. Hastings Mundy and built in 1917. The building housed the city fire department and its two fire engines, the police station and jail cells on the first floor. The second story held the city clerk’s office, municipal offices, the mayor’s office and the city council chambers, which doubled as a courtroom. The small one-story addition to the south, at 41 N. Krome Ave., now used as an entrance to the museum, was added in 1924 as offices for the County Agricultural Agent and the Redland District Chamber of Commerce.
43 N. Krome Avenue is the next set of doors north of the entrance to the museum. The stairs lead up to the second floor, where the offices of Holly Raschein and Main Street Homestead are located.
4. Redland Hotel
5 S. Flagler Ave.
This landmark, opened in 1904, was Homestead’s first commercial building and a general supply store and rooming house. The city’s first post office was also located in the building from 1905 to 1908. A fire severely damaged the structure in 1913, but it was rebuilt almost immediately. The Woman’s Club of Homestead organized here and they opened the first public library at this site in 1914. The hotel was successful until the U.S. 1 “bypass” was built in the late 1950s and the road from Miami to Key West no longer ran in front of it. Closed by the state in 1995 for electrical safety reasons, it remained vacant until undergoing an award-winning total renovation into a bed & breakfast and restaurant in the late 1990s.
5. The Landmark Hotel
55 S. Flagler Ave.
This building dates back to the city’s pioneering days, and like most early pioneers, arrived in Homestead from Miami by train. In 1912, it was a storefront for Miami’s famous Big Fish, a huge preserved whale shark attraction. It was converted to an open-roof theater called the Airdome in 1913, where patrons watched silent films at night while sitting on benches. Later renamed the Colonial, it was disassembled in 1916 and brought to Homestead. It was known as the Seminole Theater until 1921. Remodeled in 1936 to include 26 bedrooms, it operated as a hotel in addition to a cafe. The wide eaves and high windows on the building’s sides are remnant of the early days of silent movie theaters before air-conditioning. They allowed the heat of the projectors to escape while blocking light. Today it is known as the Landmark Hotel and it operates as a rooming house.
6. Fuchs Bakery
102 S. Krome Ave.
This wooden building that served as a bakery and meat market was erected on this site about 1910. Charles Fuchs purchased it in 1913 because he thought the bread being made was “bitter” and that he could provide a better product. He promptly moved the wooden structure to the rear of the lot and built this concrete building. His bread must have been a big improvement because his business grew dramatically. In the early 1930s it moved to South Miami and became Holsum Bakery.
7. Seminole Theatre
18 N. Krome Ave.
A silent movie theater was built on this site in 1921. It burned down in 1940 and the current structure replaced it. Noted national theater architect Roy A. Benjamin designed it and it remains the city’s only true Art Deco structure. Hurricane Andrew “unroofed” the theater in 1992, but it is currently undergoing renovation by a dedicated and diligent group into a small stage venue and concert hall. Note the majestic replica neon sign on the front of the building.
8. Lily Lawrence Bow Library
212 NW 1st Ave.
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) built this native coral rock and hand-hewn Dade County pine structure in 1939. It was named for an endeared librarian. Senator Claude Pepper gave the principal speech at its formal dedication on December 30, 1939. The building is owned by the city of Homestead and houses the city’s Community Redevelopment Department.
9. First Baptist Church
240 N. Krome Ave.
This impressive building is the former home of the First Baptist Church of Homestead. It replaced the church that was built in 1914. The groundbreaking was held in June 1940 but it was not completed until January 1944 due to World War II. The former Sunday School building in the rear was built in 1926. Today it is the bustling home of ArtSouth, a not-for-profit art campus and performing arts center that offers living, teaching, exhibiting and sales space for juried and emerging artists.
10. Faust House
69 NW 4th St.
This Mission Revival house was built in the 1920s during the Florida real estate boom. It is now the home of Renaissance Antiques.
11. Neva King Cooper School
151 NW 5th St.
Built in 1914 as the Homestead Public School, this building was designed by prominent architect August Geiger in the shape of an “H” with an auditorium at the center.
12. First United Methodist Church
622 N. Krome Ave.
This beautiful Mediterranean-style building was built in 1949, but the congregation had its beginnings in 1909. The sanctuary was renovated in 1974 and included the placement of a round stained-glass window on the east wall that was salvaged from the 1761 North Street Chapel in Brighton, England—John Wesley’s home church.
13. Lindeman-Johnson House
906 N. Krome Ave.
The architect of this 1923 Mediterranean-style dwelling was H. George Fink, Coral Gables developer George Merrick’s first cousin. Fink is credited with being the most prolific designer of Mediterranean-style homes and buildings in Coral Gables. The house cost $10,900 to build and was originally the home of Frank Lindeman, who later sold it to Howard L. Johnson. Both men were prominent Homestead pharmacists.
14. Coral Castle Museum
28655 S. Dixie Highway
Coral Castle is one man’s unique monument to his “sweet 16” girlfriend, who broke their engagement. Without any assistance, Ed Leedskalnin spent 20 years building the castle using more than 1,100 tons of coral rock. The nine-ton gate can be opened with a light touch of the hand. Other features include coral tables, chairs and an observatory. The Coral Castle has been featured in hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles including Life and Readers Digest and on TV programs In Search Of and That’s Incredible.
15. Cauley Square
22400 S. Dixie Highway
Cauley Square is located in the former railroad town of Goulds. It celebrated its 110th Birthday in 2014. It is a delightful combination of Old Florida shops, antique and arts and crafts stores, a famous tea room and a spa. It is the inspiration of the late Mary Anne Ballard, who took an old Goulds apartment building and a group of turn-of-the-20th-century dwellings and created a unique shopping and dining experience. Heavily damaged in 1992 by Hurricane Andrew, Cauley Square is now restored to its past glory.
16. Anderson’s Corner
15700 SW 232nd St.
William Anderson built this two-story wooden frame building in 1911 to operate as a general store. In the 1980s, it was restored and reopened as a restaurant. Although badly damaged by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the building’s exterior can still be viewed. Across the street is the former Silver Palm School, one of the oldest in the area. It is now a private residence.
17. Redland Farm Life School
16001 SW 248th St.
Redland Farm Life School, with an agricultural-based curriculum, was the second largest “consolidated school” in the country when it opened in 1916. It replaced seven smaller Redland schools — some with only one room — and was a community hub until the 1950s. Damaged by Hurricane Andrew, it is currently being restored by the South Florida Pioneer Museum.
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