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By: Zebrina Edgerton-Maloy

From a Rooming House to an Art Gallery

The arched entryway in the Historic Ward Rooming House welcomes you in, as you lay eyes on the Bahamian-inspired architecture and Mediterranean Revival design influences. Built in 1925, the Historic Ward Rooming House served as a haven for African American, Bahamian and Native-American travelers during segregation in the early to mid-20th century.

Located in Historic Overtown, which was once called “Colored Town,” the Ward Rooming House was one of the few places that allowed people of color to enter during the Jim Crow era. During its prime from the 1930s to the 1950s, Overtown was a thriving, successful Black community bustling with a vibrant arts, music and cultural scene. When you visit today, you can walk on the same streets where icons like Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald would hang out after performing in Miami Beach’s segregated nightclubs.

Unfortunately, the historic neighborhood was devastated by the construction of major expressways built straight through Overtown in the mid-20th century. Now you can witness Overtown’s modern-day renaissance firsthand, as places like the Historic Ward Rooming House are renovated and transformed into historical landmarks.

Historic Art Gallery Showcases Black Artistry

Stroll through powerful art galleries that highlight Black artists and their creative talents while honoring Miami’s Black history. The Historic Ward Rooming House was designated a historic site in 2006, and then it was renovated, restored and repurposed as an art gallery in 2010 by the City of Miami and the Southeast Overtown / Park West Community Redevelopment Agency. The Ward Rooming House is one of the few buildings that remain in Overtown from the early 20th century that you can walk into. Thanks to The Black Archives History and Research Foundation, the renovation of the Ward Rooming House is part of efforts to preserve, restore and revitalize Overtown into the cultural mecca it once was.

Dive into the epicenter of Miami's Black art scene as you walk through the Historic Ward Rooming House’s art gallery, operated and curated by the Hampton Art Lovers. Find your muse at the Ward Rooming House’s current exhibit, “Starry Crown: Art of #BlackGirlMagic.” Running until August 28, 2022, the curated exhibition celebrates Black women’s powerful contributions to equality in America through portraiture and sculptures of African American women. Explore the various art installations, featuring creations by Elizabeth Catlett, Samella Lewis, Faith Ringgold, Ruth Carter, John Biggers, Basil Watson, Barkley Hendricks, Ebony Broadsides and many others.

Lyric Sign
Don't miss The Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater Cultural Arts Complex

Explore Historic Overtown & Miami’s Black History

From contemporary inns to award-winning restaurants, there is something for everyone in Historic Overtown as you tour what was once known as the “Harlem of the South.”

Continue your stroll down history lane by visiting The Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater Cultural Arts Complex, where legendary artists like Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway and Count Basie once performed. Saunter through its art exhibits, attend festivals and listen to live multicultural performances in the 400-seat Lyric Theater.

Delve more into Black history at the Black Police Precinct and Courthouse Museum as you listen to the moving stories of former Black Miami police officers sharing what it was like in Miami during segregation.

Red Rooster
Enjoy upscale comfort food at Red Rooster

Indulge in Soul Food

To refuel after a day well spent perusing the theater and museum, visit Jackson Soul Food, a longtime local favorite. Enjoy heavenly Southern cuisine that will have your mouth watering the moment you step through the front door. Since 1946, Jackson has served traditional “soul food” like its famous catfish to Overtown residents, visitors and celebrities.

Or grab a seat at the popular Red Rooster, owned by critically acclaimed celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson. Indulge your taste buds in Red Rooster’s culinary masterpieces like charred suya octopus and fire roasted wagyu oxtail that honor Overtown’s dynamic history and diversity.

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