The Dade County Courthouse: A Beacon of Justice

September 22nd, 2014

 

courthouse

Photo courtesy of the Florida Archives.

A beacon of justice, the Dade County Courthouse has had an illustrious past spanning over 80 years. This historical building was the first high-rise built in downtown Miami. It was also Dade County’s third courthouse. Standard Oil tycoon Henry Flagler donated the land at 73 West Flagler Street where the second courthouse, built in 1904, once stood. The third justice building was built around the second building. This new court of law was designed by A. Ten Eyck Brown and completed in 1928. When it was built this Neoclassical structure was said to have been the tallest building south of Atlanta. It served as the county courthouse, city hall and originally housed jail cells. Convicted criminals were held inside cells located on the top nine floors of the facility. Over 70 prisoners escaped the maximum security prison when they discovered that the locks of their cell windows could be picked. After the 1960′s a new, more secure prison was constructed at a different facility.

In June of 2008, Courtroom 6-1 was fully renovated to its original 1928 glory. Inside this historic time capsule, wooden ceiling beams are intricately carved with floral patterns. Ornate sconces adorn the courtroom’s newly restored plaster walls and polished Florida pine floors. Courtroom 6-1 is also notorious for its many high profile cases. In 1930 Al “Scarface” Capone was found not guilty of perjury. In 1933 Giuseppe Zangara was found guilty of the attempted assassination of President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt. Socialite Candy Mossler and her nephew Melvin Lane Powers were acquitted in the murder trial of Jacques Mossler in 1966. During the 1990’s, America’s momentous tobacco hearing was also held in courtroom 6-1.

court_courtroom_restored_jad                                                                  Photo courtesy of the dailybusinessreview.com.

 Presently, the historic court of law is experiencing maintenance issues, and is now undergoing a $30 million exterior restoration, which is necessary in order to shield the structure from additional interior water damage. This landmark is also plagued by termites, flooded basements and air quality issues due to mold. A referendum for a new Miami-Dade County courthouse will be on the November 2014 ballot. The proposed new courthouse will cost $500 million and will be funded by an increase in property taxes. Currently, there is no planned location for a new courthouse. Developers from All Aboard Florida have expressed interest in acquiring the current courthouse property. They seek to feasibly include the courthouse tower as part of their train station design. Meanwhile, the future of Dade County’s historic justice building remains uncertain.

 -Ursa Gil

 

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