If you live in Miami, there's no doubt you've seen the Freedom Tower’s silhouette lighting up in the night sky. It is a distinctive part and almost the only constant in the city's ever-changing skyline. Its rich history and symbolism have now been preserved for all to enjoy for many generations to come.
Freedom Tower was built in the Mediterranean Revival style in 1925 when it housed the offices of the Miami News & Metropolis. It is said that it was inspired by the Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain. The cupola tower contained a beacon light to shine over the Miami Bay, which would have served the practical purpose of acting as a lighthouse while symbolically announcing the enlightenment brought by the Miami News & Metropolis to the rest of the world.
When the newspaper went out of business more than 30 years later, the building lay vacant for some time. Then the Castro regime came to power and political refugees flooded South Florida looking for a new start. At this time, the tower was taken over by the U.S. government to provide services to Cuban immigrants. It contained in-processing services, basic medical and dental services, records on relatives already in the U.S., and relief aid for those starting a new life with nothing to their name. For many thousands of immigrants, the tower provided nothing less than freedom from Castro and the hardships Cuba had shown them. It rightly earned its name then and the Freedom Tower, as we know it today, was born.
Falling Into Disrepair
When its services for refugees were no longer necessary, the Freedom Tower was closed down in the mid-70s. After being bought and sold many times in the following years, the building fell further and further into disrepair. While many of the beautiful architectural elements remained, vagrants using the tower as a shelter had transformed the tower from a thing of beauty to a wasteland of broken windows, graffiti, and filth. Worse yet, it became apparent that the building was rotting away and was structurally unsound. An unwise investment, there seemed to be no one willing to take on the restoration project here.
Finally, in 1997, hope sprang up from those most touched by the Freedom Tower — the Cuban-American community. Jorge Mas Canosa purchased the building for $4.1 million. Using sketches, blueprints, and anecdotal evidence, plans were put into motion to recreate the Freedom Tower exactly as it had been in its full glory.
Today, the tower is used as a monument to the trials of Cuban-Americans in the USA. The first floor is a public museum detailing such things as boat lifts, life in pre-and post-Castro Cuba, and the advances made by Cuban-Americans in this country. There is a library containing an exhaustive collection of books written about fleeing Cuba and life in America. The old newspaper offices have been converted to offices for the Cuban-American National Foundation, and meeting halls are set up for events, conferences, and parties. The rooftop terrace space, ideal for receptions, overlooks Downtown Miami, Biscayne Bay, port facilities, the American Airlines Arena, hotels, condos, the Perez Art Museum and the Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science.
The Freedom Tower is a marvel, not only for its rich history and structural beauty but also for what it symbolizes for so many people who live in Miami today. Thankfully, the restoration has assured that it will be around for all to appreciate and enjoy for many generations to come.