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From dairy farms to a commercial hub: How Hialeah’s 49th Street evolved over 60 years


Hialeah’s West 49th Street wasn’t always the thriving business destination it is today. A lot has changed since its more pastoral beginnings as an area of dairy farms. The city of Hialeah as well as Miami Springs and Opa-locka began as part of the 120,000-acre Glenn Curtiss and James Bright Ranch and Dairy Farm, according to the book The Curtiss-Bright Cities: Hialeah, Miami Springs & Opa Locka. Almost 10 miles long with four canals, West 49th Street evolved from a green landscape to a lively business community that includes shopping plazas, banks, medical care centers, car washes and small locally owned cafes and restaurants.


“West 49th Street brings back many childhood memories. It’s the street that I visited the most when I was just a girl, every corner connects me with a memory,” said Cristina Valencia, 60, who is of Cuban origin and has lived around the commercial corridor since her childhood. “It has changed a lot, but I think it’s the city’s most important area.” Among Hialeah’s major streets, which include Okeechobee Road and others, West 49th Street stands out for its commercial prominence.


“We can compare West 49th Street in Hialeah with the great commercial streets in other areas of Miami-Dade County such as Flagler Street, Miami Avenue in Miami; Miracle Mile in Coral Gables; Krome Avenue in Homestead, and even Lincoln Road in Miami Beach,” city historian Seth Bramson told el Nuevo Herald.


“West 49th Street is one of the major retail streets in the entire county,” said Bramson, a Barry University professor and author of several books on Miami-Dade cities, included The Curtiss-Bright Cities: Hialeah, Miami Springs & Opa Locka. “You could literally not shop anywhere else ... it has so much to offer, and every possible business is there, from restaurants to department stores and local stores.”


ALL ROADS LEAD TO WEST 49TH STREET


In 1955, the city created a campaign that sought to promote its geographic importance within the county. It was called “All Roads Lead to Hialeah.”


Today, this slogan could apply to West 49th Street, which is also known for drawing crowds to ceremonies, celebrations, carnival troupes, parades and political proclamations.


Every time the Miami Heat basketball team has won the national championship (2006, 2012, 2013), the spontaneous revelry has been on West 49th Street.


It has also been the scene of protests demanding freedom in Cuba and where there were celebrations after the death of Fidel Castro.


Cuban community takes to the streets on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016 near the 1100 block of West 49th Street in Hialeah after hearing the announcement that Fidel Castro died. MATIAS J. OCNER For the Miami Herald


SAME ROAD, OTHER NAMES


This street is one of the major east-west transportation arteries in North Miami-Dade, connecting to Route 27 (Okeechobee Road) in Hialeah Gardens and SR 915 at the other end, near Biscayne Bay. It is officially called Florida State Highway SR 932, but in the Miami metropolitan area it is known as NW 103rd Street, while in Hialeah it is West 49th Street.


The founders of Hialeah, James Bright and Glenn Curtiss, began numbering the city streets from where the sign of the Seminole chief Jack Tigertail was located before it was incorporated in 1925. That’s why Hialeah streets don’t match the county numbering, Bramson explained.


Sign depicting the Seminole Jack Tigertail welcoming visitors to Hialeah in 1921 Colección de fotografías de las Bibliotecas Públicas de Hialeah


“The area between Hialeah and Miami was basically full of farms, there were very few streets. This happened as a consequence of the long distances. There were no highways big enough to connect Hialeah with Miami,” the historian said.


It is not only Hialeah — the names or numbers of the streets in Miami Springs, Opa-locka, Coral Gables, Miami Beach and Homestead also don’t match the county’s system.


The stretch of SR 932 between Hialeah and Hialeah Gardens is lined almost entirely with commercial establishments, including Westland Mall, one of Florida’s oldest indoor malls, built in 1971.


To the east, along West 4th Avenue, is an area that is mostly suburban developments.


Facade of the Westland Mall located in the Hialeah commercial corridor on W 49th St CORTESIA


The land where the mall now stands was previously one of many properties in Hialeah owned by Henry Milander, former mayor, council member and creator of most of the city’s parks, according to the book The Curtiss-Bright Cities: Hialeah, Miami Springs & Opa Locka.


Aerial view of W. 49th Street from Palmetto to W 12th Avenue, Hialeah, 1963 CORTESIA


Across West 49th Street is Miami Dade College – Hialeah Campus, which opened in 2007, eight miles from the North Campus that was founded in Miami 26 years earlier.


View of the Miami Dade College - Hialeah campus at 1780 W 49th Street in Hialeah on May 5, 2022 Al Diaz adiaz@miamiherald.com


Other educational institutions in the area include the John F. Kennedy Library, founded in 1965, and Hialeah Senior High School.


J.F.K. Public Library Hialeah at 190 W 49th Street May 5, 2022. Al Diaz adiaz@miamiherald.com


HOW THE WEST OF THE CITY BEGAN TO DEVELOP


Sixty years ago, the entire western part of the city, including this street, was a vast uninhabited territory. In 1960 came development with the construction of the first shopping center in the area, The Palm Spring Village Shopping Center at the intersection of West 49th Street and Red Road. Now called Palm Springs Mile, it is a major commercial hub with 157 stores.


Ceremonia de inauguración del centro comercial Palm Springs Village el 30 de marzo de 1960, Hoy Palm Springs Mile en el mismo lugar en 1001 W 49th St, Hialeah, FL 33012. El alcalde Henry Milander junto a Miss Florida otorga la llave simbólica del centro comercial. Colección de fotografías de las Bibliotecas Públicas de Hialeah


Most of what is now known as the Palm Springs area was once part of the expansive White Belt Dairy, a dairy farm owned by Dr. John G. DuPuis that was destroyed by the Great Miami Tornado on April 5, 1925, according to Grass Variety in the United States.


Parades have been held on this iconic Hialeah street since at least 1964, according to archives at the John F. Kennedy Library.


Parade of “our beautiful ladies” in Palm Springs Mile, Hialeah in 1964. Colección de fotografías de las Bibliotecas Públicas de Hialeah


The city was founded in 1925, but it was activity in the last 60 years that has had the greatest impact on West 49th Street, mainly because of the industrial development and the arrival of Cuban nationals and other Latin American immigrants. Hialeah’s population has grown from 67,000 in 1960 to 233,876 in 2020, according to the most recent census.


Also located on West 49th Street is the Gus Machado Ford dealership, founded by its namesake, one of the icons of the Cuban community’s success who recently passed away at the age of 87.


Gus Machado, the name behind Gus Machado Ford car dealerships in South Florida, is seen here in an April 16, 2012 file photo. Machado had been in Miami since 1956. He died on May 16, 2022. C.W. Griffin Miami Herald file


Another popular venue is a branch of El Palacio de los Jugos, an institution in Miami’s Latin culinary culture, that offers such South Florida favorites as guarapo (sugar cane juice) and guava juice.


“This restaurant is the best Cuban food restaurant in all of Miami.” said Maikel García, 45, a regular customer who has lived in Miami for more than two decades.


A street view of El Palacio de los jugos at 1275 West 49th St, Hialeah in Hialeah, Florida, on Thursday, May 12, 2022. Daniel A. Varela dvarela@miamiherald.com


AN ERA OF CHANGES


Not everything in this area has been a success story. Many businesses have disappeared, such as the famous Black Angus Steakhouse, one of the first restaurants in the area, which closed its doors in the 1980s.


On September 14, 1965, partners Jack Silver, first left, and Herb Brodsky, first right, were planning the opening of a new Black Angus restaurant in the Palm Springs Mile shopping area at 885 West 49 Street. Colección de fotografías de las Bibliotecas Públicas de Hialeah


It is not only restaurants, but also hotels such as the Ramada, which sold its premises in the Hialeah corridor to make way for a rental apartment building.


The four-story Alture Westland building includes 251 rental units at 1950 W. 49th St., said Jeffrey Ardizon, director of Miami-based Estate Companies. The development firm secured $29.5 million to dismantle and renovate the old Ramada Hotel, transforming it into an apartment building. Plans include more than 5,000 square feet of retail space.


Don Quixote Plaza greets visitors at the entrance to Hialeah via the Palmetto Expressway toward 49th Street. Above is Altura Westland, a boutique apartment community for rent May 11, 2022 Al Diaz adiaz@miamiherald.com


“Everyone loves 49th Street. It’s the vibrant heart of our city, with tremendous sense of belonging and identity,” said Rick Pérez, an online storyteller from Hialeah who does historical reviews through his Instagram @HialeahLove1925 account.


July 2022. Miami Herald.

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/hialeah/article262392822.html