Does anyone remember a Miami history event that took place 31 years ago from July 19-22, 1985? I sure do! It was the grand opening of the Miami Public Library in their brand new Cultural Center — a day filled with ceremony and fun.
On the morning of July 19, Flagler Street was cordoned off for a “Parade of Books.”
For two hours, more than 1,000 books pertaining to Florida history were ceremoniously relayed from one librarian to another, from the old Bayfront Park library, to the new library. Their first book was “River of Grass” by Marjory Stoneman Douglas; the last book was about the moon landing.
The old Miami Public Library in Bayfront Park sat forlorn and forgotten. City leaders had already decided on demolition to make way for a new fountain and walkway for Bayside, still under construction.
But they couldn’t decide how to demolish it. Should they make it a dramatic scene for “Miami Vice,” showing the library being blown up by a terrorist bomb?
I hastily fired off a letter to the mayor saying that the old library, for me, was “sacrosanct.” It was a place where my parents had put on plays, puppet shows and productions. Also, it seemed wrong to have such a repository of education and history end in such a grotesque manner.
Eventually, the library was razed by a wrecking ball, with souvenir chunks given to library fans.
In April 1987, the new Bayside and revitalized Claude and Mildred Pepper Bayfront Park opened to the public. Only the Rock Garden has remained unchanged since the 1960s.
Now, in 2016, few people seem to remember the old Bayfront Park library was ever there. And, throughout these past 31 years, I have spent countless weekends and lunch breaks visiting the Cultural Center Library and its collection of 600,000 books, artwork, movies and music.