Downtown Miami

Miami’s oldest house was damaged by Hurricane Irma. Now help is on the way.

The Wagner Homestead, which sits in downtown Miami’s Lummus Park, is Miami-Dade County’s oldest known house. Built in 1855, it was home to one of Miami’s first permanent residents, William Wagner.
The Wagner Homestead, which sits in downtown Miami’s Lummus Park, is Miami-Dade County’s oldest known house. Built in 1855, it was home to one of Miami’s first permanent residents, William Wagner. Miami Herald staff

The rustic frontier home that sits mostly unnoticed in a downtown Miami city park is, by a long shot, the oldest known house in Miami-Dade County. Thanks to Hurricane Irma, it’s now in line for some badly needed love.

The storm damaged the Wagner Homestead, stripping off roof shingles and blowing out windows. But the house will get a new shake-shingle roof and carpentry repairs courtesy of a $150,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express.

The house was built around 1855 — ancient times by local standards — of hand-hewn lumber by William Wagner, one of Miami’s first permanent residents.

The grant to Dade Heritage Trust will also help repair damage from Irma at the city’s oldest doctor’s office — the 113-year wood bungalow in Brickell that was once the office and surgery of Dr. James Jackson, after whom Jackson Memorial Hospital was named. The city-owned bungalow is headquarters to Dade Heritage, the county’s largest historic-preservation group.

DHT will also improve the house’s resiliency in future storms, said executive director Chris Rupp. New electrical and AC systems will better resist salwater intrusion, and safe attic storage will help secure documents and historic materials, she said.

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Pioneer doctor James Jackson, after whom Jackson Memorial Hospital is named, had his office and surgery in this 1905 bungalow that was later moved to its present Brickell location. Dade Heritage Trust

The cottage will also get storm shutters for the first time: Before Irma, DHT staff had to put up plywood to protect the building’s original double-hung, rope-and-pulley sash windows.

The Wagner house, which underwent full restoration in the past, needed a new roof, and the damage from Irma prompted the decision to replace it, Rupp said. DHT will handle the contracting out of the work, she said.

Originally located on nearby Wagner Creek, the house was acquired by DHT and moved to Lummus Park in 1979. William Wagner came to Miami in the 1850s to set up a provisioning shop supplying Fort Dallas, the military installation on the Miami River that predates the city’s founding. Stone barracks from the fort, originally built as slave quarters for a local plantation, sit near the house today at Lummus Park.

Both the Wagner house and the Jackson office are designated as historic landmarks by the city of Miami. So are the former slave quarters.

The DHT grant was among $450,000 in Hurricane Irma repair grants announced this week by the National Trust, based in Washington, D.C., and American Express.

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