Your Place Matters
2016 is an important year for preservationists, as the United States observes several milestone anniversaries. The Antiquities Act commemorates its 110th birthday, the National Park Service observes its centennial and the National Historic Preservation Act celebrates a half-century. But do old places still matter?
Yes, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Several years ago, the organization launched a national campaign titled “This Place Matters” to bring awareness to historic places that matter.
One person saving old places is Avra Jain. At a recent event hosted by the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables, Jain noted that “historic preservation is magical” and economically rewarding. Jain is a respected developer and a pioneer in the rebirth of Miami’s MiMo District. Her purchase and subsequent renovation of the Vagabond Hotel sparked a new interest in Miami Modern architecture. After that, she acquired the historic Miami River Inn in 2015. Made up of a cluster of buildings, the hotel faces the Miami River. The oldest of the structures was built in 1906—110 years ago. The 1.5-acre property has been a boarding house and a hostel and is considered the city’s longest-operating hotel. Today, it runs as a “co-living” property—bedroom suites with common areas such as kitchens—that’s been fully renovated and historically preserved, down to the original windows and floors.
The late 19th century opened dialogue about the importance of preserving our country’s cultural patrimony and set the stage for the creation of preservation laws that protect our “old” places and historical landmarks.
In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act, allowing presidents to declare a piece of land a national monument. In 1916, the Department of the Interior established the National Park Service, the nation’s first agency to regulate and manage public space, including the national monuments. In October 1966, the National Historic Preservation Act became law, putting preservation on the national stage. It protects historic and archeological properties and sites. The act also led to creation of the National Register of Historic Places.
Closer to home, Pinecrest, Coral Gables and other communities are also marking their own historical anniversaries. Pinecrest Gardens received historic designation in 2011 when the Park Service added it to the National Register. In Coral Gables, home to many landmarks and historic districts, the Biltmore Hotel celebrates its 20th anniversary as a National Historic Landmark—an elite title offered to only 3 percent of all historic structures. The city of Miami, celebrating its 120th anniversary, is installing eight new Florida historical markers throughout Coconut Grove, including the Coconut Grove Playhouse, the community library and the Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove (formerly known as the Housekeepers Club). Tropical Park, one of the earliest horseracing tracks, also will get a marker.
Old places do matter. Protect them. Preserve them. Celebrate them.
Karelia Martinez Carbonell is president of the nonprofit Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables, celebrating its 25th anniversary. For information, visit historiccoralgables.org.