There’s no question Miami has a signature look. Part art deco, part shiny glass, and part beach chic, it’s the stuff of a million postcards. On your next family day in Miami, experience another facet of the city’s architectural history with a visit to one of its most iconic downtown landmarks, the Freedom Tower. This Mediterannean Revival masterpiece is a colorful anomaly amid the neighborhood’s glimmering towers, its pastel-yellow facade and graceful octagonal tower calling to mind a simpler time when Henry Flagler’s railroad brought more and more northerners down south every winter and air conditioning was still a novelty.
As you approach the building–the centerpiece of Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus–you’ll have to crane your necks to take it all in. At 17 stories, it was one of the tallest buildings in town when it opened in 1925, and still commands majestic views of the city and Biscayne Bay from its upper floors. Enter the lobby and make your way to the second floor main room. There you’ll find the New World Mural, a replica of a tapestry that hung in the building when The Miami News–the tower’s original occupant–was in its heyday. Complete with rolling ships and intricate compasses, this sprawling, ambitious work of art is a powerful depiction of the settling of the Americas. On the same level, you’ll find the Miami Dade College Museum of Art + Design. Head in and watch the building come to life with the riveting artwork lining its walls, including the complete etchings of Francisco de Goya and Salvador Dalí’s illustrations on “The Divine Comedy.” Currently on long-term loan is the CINTAS Fellows Collection, which might be the largest collection of Cuban exile art in the world.
If your kids have a taste for fantasy, they’ll be captivated by Pablo Cano’s retro aluminum robotic structure made from recycled materials, and intrigued by Tomás Marais’ dramatic “Winged Devil With Sword.” And with this museum’s eclectic and diverse collection of paintings, sculptures, photography, and mixed media, there’s no chance you’ll hear their typical whine of “Can we go home yet?”
Beyond being a history- and art-filled architectural masterpiece, the Freedom Tower has solidified itself in downtown Miami as a symbolic cultural icon and a great learning experience for the young minds who pass through its doors.