The Spanish tower was both visually striking and relatively easy to replicate, explains Allan Shulman, an architect and associate professor at the University of Miami.
“Perhaps what is so effective about the Giralda is that it efficiently adds an iconic or monumental feature to an otherwise mid-rise building block,” Shulman says.
But perhaps no U.S. city had more “Giralda” towers in a single moment than Miami, says Parks, the historian.
Just two years after Merrick announced he would replicate the Spanish monument, four Giralda-inspired towers had been built in South Florida. Downtown Miami’s Freedom Tower, completed in 1925, was designed by the New York firm of Schultze and Weaver, which also designed the Biltmore Hotel, opened in 1926. That same year, the Roney Plaza opened in Miami Beach; it also featured a Shultze-and-Weaver-designed Giralda-inspired tower. During that same 1926 boom, the New York-based Fred F. French Cos. incorporated a similar tower into downtown Miami’s Everglades Hotel.
Unfortunately, says Parks, two of them — both part of luxurious hotels — were demolished with little opposition. The Roney was torn down in 1968, to be replaced by the Roney Apartments. At the Everglades, a television aerial replaced the tower in 1949; the hotel was later demolished in 2005. Like the Roney, a condo of the same name was built in its place.
The Biltmore and Freedom towers were saved from a similar fate only after preservationists intervened. Both are now protected as national historic landmarks.
The fifth Giralda to be built in South Florida, the West Tower of the Alhambra Towers, was built by the Allen Morris Co. in 2002. The idea, says Morris, was to “honor the vision and inspiration of George Merrick and Walter DeGarmo,” a 1920s architect whose work appears through South Florida.
The Giraldillo topping the West Tower was reproduced by the sculptor Gary Rager, of Rager Studios in Orlando. It is the only “Giralda” tower in South Florida crowned by the iconic Sevillian Spinner.
But the female statue does have another sister relatively nearby. Since 1634, the Giraldilla weathervane has guarded Havana Bay from a watchtower on The Castillo de la Real Fuerza, the Castle of the Royal Force. It, too, has become of the best-known symbols of Havana.