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By: Shayne Benowitz

From Miami’s Black heritage to soul food restaurants and captivating art, this is your insider’s guide to Historic Overtown

Just west of Downtown Miami, Historic Overtown is a neighborhood steeped in Miami’s Black heritage. During its heyday starting in the 1930s, it was a bustling entertainment district nicknamed Little Broadway for its similarities to Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance. Stars such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday all performed on its stages and mingled in its clubs. In the 1960s, Overtown fell on hard times after the construction of two major freeways cut through the community and displaced thousands of residents. Today, Historic Overtown’s spirit continues through its art, music and soul food, which you can discover with our guide to the best things to do.

Lyric Theater in Historic Overtown
The Lyric Theater in Historic Overtown was built in 1913

Explore Historic Overtown’s History & Culture

Once called “the most beautiful and costly playhouse owned by colored people in all the Southland” by the “Miami Metropolis” newspaper, Overtown’s Lyric Theater was built by Georgia native Geder Walker in 1913. Through the years, countless legendary performers graced the stage, from Cab Calloway and Count Basie to Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr. and Josephine Baker.

After a period of dormancy, a newly restored Lyric re-opened during Black History Month in February 2014, reclaiming its title as the oldest operating theater in Miami. Under the stewardship of the Black Archives History & Research Foundation, The Historic Lyric Theater is once again a top performing arts destination. Regular programming includes Lyric Live amateur nights and the Glasshouse Comedy Experience.

The Black Police Precinct and Courthouse Museum is another historically significant site in Overtown, home to the city’s first Black police officers, who patrolled the area starting in the 1940s. It also housed the municipal court where Black defendants were tried, usually before a Black judge. Packed with artifacts, documents, video and oral history, the museum provides insight into Miami’s rich Black heritage and this unique time in Miami’s history.

Purvis Young Mural in Historic Overtown
Purvis Young's murals can be found on the streets of Historic Overtown

Street Art in Historic Overtown

Throughout the streets of Overtown, the art of Purvis Young can be found on walls and freeway overpasses dating back to the 1970s. Young painted scenes inspired by life on the streets in Overtown and his daily observations. While his work is often classified as folk art, his style of mixing bold, saturated colors resonates with contemporary art movements. His influences included Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Gauguin, El Greco and Picasso.

Painting on found materials, Young’s subjects were African Americans depicted as angels in chains or without homes, pregnant women, wild horses and scenes of social unrest, funerals and lynchings. Look for his work throughout Overtown, including on the overpass wall at Northwest 11th Street and 3rd Avenue, the Culmer/Overtown Public Library branch at Northwest 13th Street near Gibson Park, and the Northside Metrorail station.

Jackson Soul Food
The oxtail platter at Jackson Soul Food is a classic

Where to Eat

Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson recently opened an outpost of Red Rooster, his beloved Harlem restaurant, in Overtown. Embraced as a new place for people to gather over a delicious meal of globally inspired soul food, Samuelsson’s signature playful gourmet twist is on display in popular dishes like the hot honey fried yardbird and Poppa Eddie’s shrimp and grits. Inspired by Miami’s melting pot of Caribbean and Latin cultures, the menu also features fresh ceviche and locally sourced seafood dishes. With live music and walls covered in art by Black artists, the lively scene at Red Rooster Overtown has made it an instant neighborhood classic.

Established in 1946, Jackson Soul Food is home to some of the best authentic Southern comfort cuisine in all of Miami. Enthusiasts over the years have included the late Nat King Cole, as well as NBA stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Pull up a chair in the spacious and welcoming dining room for breakfast or lunch, and go for classics like fried catfish and biscuits, oxtail, collard greens or liver and onions. And save room for a slice of peach cobbler. It’s so worth it!

Lil Greenhouse Grill has come a long way since its beginnings as a humble food truck. This charming neo-soul cuisine restaurant in the heart of Historic Overtown puts its own twist on classic dishes such as chicken & waffles and smoked BBQ ribs. A wide selection of craft beers and fine wines complements the food.

Copper Door B&B in Historic Overtown
The stylish Copper Door Bed and Breakfast has 25 vintage rooms and suites

Where to Stay

Thanks to The Copper Door B&B, there’s now a stylish place to spend the night in Historic Overtown. With 25 guest rooms and suites, as well as the onsite Rosie’s for breakfast and lunch, the bed and breakfast is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in everything Overtown has to offer. Situated inside a historic building that dates back to the 1940s, the vintage-inspired rooms feature crisp white bedding with colorful floral accent wallpaper for a hip and inviting launching point into the neighborhood.

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