Miami Dade College's Freedom Tower

Miami Dade College

Miami's most distinctive historic building.

A National Historic Landmark, Miami Dade College’s Freedom Tower is one the most treasured and beloved buildings in Miami because of what it represents: freedom of the press and freedom for formerly oppressed people fleeing tyranny for democracy and the American Dream.

The facility first housed the Miami News, the city’s first newspaper, and later was the site where hundreds of thousands of Cuban refugees got their first taste of America.

Today the Freedom Tower is a fully operational cultural center. It is home to the premier cultural programs of Miami Dade College: Miami Book Fair, Miami Film Festival, MDC Live Arts, the Museum of Art and Design, and the Cuban Diaspora Cultural Legacy Gallery, and opening in 2018, The Kislak Gallery of Exploration and Discovery.

In addition to its historical significance, Freedom Tower is also an excellent example of Spanish Renaissance Revival style architecture inspired by Bertram Goodhue's 1915 Panama-California Exposition in San Diego.

Along with the Biltmore Hotel and Miami Beach's late Roney Plaza Hotel, it was one of the three tower structures in Miami-Dade County modeled on the Giralda Tower of Seville, Spain.

The construction of Freedom Tower - then the Miami Daily News Tower - in 1925 represents the confidence of early business enterprises in Miami’s future during the boom years.

Freedom Tower reaches 17 stories, a significant achievement at the time, and contains over 82,000 square feet of space.

Inspired by the Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain, the building was designed by the nationally-known architectural firm of Schultze and Weaver and is noted for its well-executed design, elaborate detailing, and outstanding craftsmanship.

While the original Giralda Tower was constructed over centuries and provides an architectural narrative in stone from the time of the Moors to the Baroque era, Schultze and Weaver liberally blended these epochs into a hybrid style unique to the 1920s South Florida.

A tall, slender, octagonal cupola rises from the tower and is topped by a belvedere and dome roof.

The emphasis of the applied ornament at the top, and around main openings is in typical Spanish Baroque fashion.

Striking in its architectural detail with its octagonal tower 11 stories high and three bays deep and richly ornamented façade, it remains one of South Florida’s most distinctive historic buildings.

Details such as the oak main doors, a cast iron decorative transom, wrought iron balconies, Corinthian capitals on the columns, groined ceilings, and cast concrete cherubs, add to the allure of this Spanish Renaissance-style building.

Using a blend of Spanish and Italian architectural techniques with Moorish ornamental embellishments, Freedom Tower rose as a permanent distinctive feature on the Miami Skyline.

The frontispiece is defined by two composite, travertine columns which support a large, bold swan’s neck pediment.

Below this pediment, a tall, round arched opening, with foliated scroll spandrels and an elaborate escutcheon resting on a projecting keystone, forms the main entrance.

Exterior walls are build of a steel fram with reinforced concrete, faced in pink stucco.

A composition of native stone cast and colored to imitate travertine marble was used by John B. Orr Construction Company for the ornamental details.

A molded travertine water table defines the basement story, while a similar molded belt course defines the sill line and bases of the shallow balconies.

The lobby ceiling is a wooden coffered floral medallion design made of Floridian pine.

A cast stone bas relief stands above the elevators.

The relief depicts Gutenberg Printing Press on the first level and Queen Isabella of Spain on the top layer.

The interior was embellished by vaulted ceilings, stone bas reliefs, murals and multi-colored handmade ceramic tiles imported from Spain, Africa, South America and Cuba.

During a restoration of the Freedom Tower in 1987, a group called the Miami Artisans brought new life to the piece with the creation of the New World Mural in 1988.

The lost 1925 version was faithfully reconstructed from old black and white photos. Remnants of it where discovered behind temporary panels by the commissioning Architect R. Heisenbottle in 1987.

The mural is included in the National Registry of Public Fine Art.

The mural is a recreation of an original tapestry from the 1920’s that had decayed over the course of the century. Due to the Freedom Tower's long-time closing from 1974 to 1987, this beautiful symbol of the meeting of the Old World and the New World fell in disrepair and remained unknown to most Miamians.

Today it serves as an iconic visual reference of Miami's history.

The mural design was originally commissioned by the Tower's developer, James Middleton Cox in 1925, with the expressed intention to celebrate Ponce de Leon's discovery and naming of Biscayne Bay and Tequesta Miami Mound town.

The New World 1513 mural’s poem was composed by poet laureate Edwin Markham in 1925. It celebrates the naming and discovery of the Florida territory by Juan Ponce De Leon in 1513.

The New World 1513 mural now serves as a backdrop for many important ceremonies and events that Miami Dade College hosts in the Freedom Tower's Ballroom.

World leaders, change-makers and cultural icons are regular guests of MDC's the Freedom Tower.

In this image Miami Dade College president Dr. Eduardo Padron greets their Royal Highnesses King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain in November 2013 when they presided over the inauguration of the Miami Book Fair.

Prominent Cuban Americans Gloria and Emilio Estefan attend the inauguration of Freedom Tower’s The Exile Experience: Journey to Freedom exhibit.

Opened in 2014 and sponsored by Miami Dade College and the Miami Herald Media Co., the exhibit was a pictorial and memorabilia account of the struggles that the Cuban exile community has endured since Fidel Castro’s 1959 rise to power, and the successes exiles have achieved in the United States.

Miami Dade College's Freedom Tower's magnificent façade is illuminated nightly to honor and celebrate causes that represents the democratic values the institution stands on.

Freedom Tower is home of the premier cultural programs at Miami Dade College: Miami Book Fair, Miami Film Festival, MDC Live Arts, the Museum of Art and Design, and the Cuban Diaspora Cultural Legacy Gallery, and opening in 2018, The Kislak Gallery of Exploration and Discovery.

Miami Dade College's Freedom Tower
Credits: Story

- Miami Dade College Cultural Affairs Department.
- Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archives.

Additional Sources:
- Shulman, A., Robinson, R., & Donnelly, J. (2010) Miami Architecture, an AIA Guide Featuring Dountown, the Beaches, and Coconut Grove. Gainesville, FL. University Press of Florida.
- Metropolitan Dade County. (1992). From Wilderness to Metropolis. Office of Community Developmet, Historic Preservation Division.
- Historic Preservation Miami.
- National Park Services.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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