Rachel Pasteris: Miami as Text

Photo taken of Rachel Pasteris in 2020. Photo by Rachel Pasteris/ CC BY 4.0

Rachel Pasteris is a junior working towards a B.A. in Mathematics Education at Florida International University (FIU), as part of FIU Honors. She recently transferred from Miami Dade College (MDC), graduating with an A.A. in Mathematics as part of MDC Honors. Passionate about education, she is looking to specialize in teaching secondary and college students in the subject areas of mathematics and science. In her free time, she enjoys reading books, making music, playing soccer, spending time with loved ones, and volunteering in her community. As she was born and raised in the multicultural city of Miami, where she grew up surrounded by a large extended family, she is eager to explore what more her home has to offer.


Downtown as Text

Fort Dallas and the William F. English Plantation Slave Quarters. Photo by Rachel Pasteris/CC By 4.0

“History Hidden Through Time”

By Rachel Pasteris of FIU at Downtown, 22 January 2021

Originally called “William F. English Plantation Slave Quarters,” this historic “Long Building,” currently standing in present day Lummus Park, is now known as “Fort Dallas.”  Following the events of the Indian Removal Act in 1830, in 1831, the Second Seminole War transpired.  Consequently, the first three wooden buildings constructed for Fort Dallas commenced in 1835.  Its ownership changed hands when the war ended in 1842.  The fellow who had leased the land in the first place sold the land to his nephew, William F. English, who would adapt the building’s former use at Fort Dallas to plantation slave quarters.  He abandoned the property in 1849 for the California Gold Rush.  Once again, the Army requisitioned it as soldier barracks and a storehouse.

The property continued to be repurposed over time, serving a myriad of means: trading post, county courthouse, post office, restaurant, tea room, and hotel.  In fact, those largely responsible for its successful relocation from Miami River were the Miami Women’s Club and the Everglades Chapter of the American Revolution (DAR).  After being rebuilt in 1929, the city finally designated it a historic site in 1984.  Originally called “City Park,” the site now recognized today as “Lummus Park,” Miami’s first designated park, is the current standing place of this historic structure.

It is quite unfortunate to see how much of Miami’s rich and colorful history has fallen victim to the whims of time.  One may conjecture that few of the residents residing in the city of Miami are even aware of such a complex past. Perhaps in the future society would grow to recognize and appreciate its historic roots.

Source material courtesy of plaque located onsite. Further information may be found online at http://www.historicpreservationmiami.com/pdfs/Fort%20Dallas.pdf


Everglades as Text

Slough Slog at Everglades National Park. Photo by Rachel Pasteris/CC By 4.0

“The Living Amongst the River of Grass”

By Rachel Pasteris of FIU at Everglades National Park, 5 February 2021

As one slogs through the “River of Grass,” is it evident to the trekker how even the air itself is teeming with life, from bough to slough.

The trees, the bald cypress and the pond cypress the two in particular which call this cypress dome home, stand tall and proud, swaying in the wind, their branches bare for the time being, until spring. They carry up on the weight of their limbs several species from the family Bromeliaceae (to which pineapple plants also fall under). These particular kinds, better known as “air plants,” belong to the genus Tillandsia, donning silvery-green leaves as they stay home in the trees.

Several of the cypresses’ bark are speckled with cavities left behind by what one may credit to be some of the prominent local species of woodpecker that can be found year round, among them the pileated woodpecker or “woody woodpecker” (the largest of the woodpecker species), the red cockaded woodpecker (an endangered species that has been reintroduced to the Everglades), the red bellied woodpecker, and the ivory billed woodpecker. Warblers also twitter to and fro, singing about as they go. Many of these have migrated south due to the cold season, currently enjoying the warm weather South Florida is so famously known for, as other “snowbirds” of sorts also flock here during this time of year.

Amongst the numerous insects found onsite, both dragonflies, with approximately 65 species identified thus far, and damselflies (including or the Florida bluet or “the Everglades sprite”) thrive in this Everglades environment.  In fact, a discarded exoskeleton of a dragonfly nymph, remains of the second stage in their life cycles as part of incomplete metamorphosis, was witnessed and photographed by the slough sloggers on the day this post was made. 

Many more creatures may be discovered high and low; these are just but a few of the near and dear flora and fauna which can be seen located along the Slough Slog at Everglades National Park.

Slough Slog with Park Ranger Dylann Turffs. Further information may be found online at https://www.nps.gov/ever/planyourvisit/sloughslog.htm


South Beach as Text

McAlpin Hotel on Ocean Drive. Photo by Rachel Pasteris/CC By 4.0

“Colorful Culture: Miami Beach’s Art Deco Historic District”

By Rachel Pasteris of FIU at South Beach, 19 February 2021

For the past 21 years, I have grown up in Miami, visiting South Beach solely within the vicinity of the South Pointe Park Pier.  Never had I walked far beyond the shore, let alone be aware that a whole world seemingly trapped in time, evidently displaying the wonders originating from the heights of the Roaring Twenties, existed outside of the zone I had begun to strictly associate with South Beach.  Today, living in a contrasting kind of twenties, one overrun with widespread shutdowns due to the current global coronavirus pandemic, visitors may now walk down Ocean Drive since the roads have been closed to traffic.  In fact, the City of Miami Beach is now seriously considering the case for a permanently car-free Ocean Drive, which would, in turn, prioritize pedestrians and, no doubt, benefit local tourism.  That being said, there is much to be said about the roots and influences of this particular district located within the confines of Miami.

Barbara Baer Capitman, writer, artist, preservationist, founded the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) in 1976.  The MDPL is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving, protecting, and promoting the appearance and integrity of the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District.  She lead the crusade to establish the Miami Beach Art Deco District, the first 20th-century neighborhood to be recognized by the National Register of Historic Places, much of which is now preserved and restored to their original style is thanks to her efforts.  The neighborhood is made up of over 800 buildings and structures, built between 1923 and 1943.  Aside from Art Deco, Miami Modern (MiMo) and Mediterranean Revival belong to the three predominant architectural styles found in the Art Deco Historic District.

Four of the local Miami Beach Historic Districts together comprise the National Register Art Deco District.  One of these is Española Way, the first commercial development on Miami Beach in the early 1920s, built to serve as an artists’ colony.  As of May 2017, a revitalization project went underway, making it a pedestrian-only street.  Another notable recent development may be found on the intersection of 12th Street and Ocean Drive: “The Rainbow Crosswalk.”  On the designated plaque, it reads: “Dedicated on November 9, 2018, the Rainbow Crosswalk celebrates Miami Beach as a diverse and inclusive city and salutes the many LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer +) people who worked for decades to preserve and revitalize this unique historic community.”  Bestowed with a beautiful myriad of intricate mosaics, the Jewish Museum of Florida, now owned and run by FIU, was also placed under the National Register of Historic Places.  At the time, Jews were solely permitted to live south of 5th Street.  It is there that they created their first congregation and cemetery in 1913, the beginning of many things for Miami’s Jewish History.  Years later, long overdue, in 1949, a law was passed by Florida’s Legislature that ended discrimination in real estate and hotels.  Many of the Miami Beach Art Deco buildings, now architectural treasures known throughout the world, were designed, built and operated by Jews.  As mentioned before, Barbara Baer Capitman, a Jew, launched the campaign in the 1980s that established the Art Deco District.

Many other colorful cultures not mentioned here contributed to the beauty in art and architecture that tourists travel from far and wide to see for themselves firsthand.  I would encourage anyone intrigued by my brief blurb here to research the representation of those who may have taken part that are not as renowned nor remembered for their part in making Miami the cultural melting pot that it is, that we would rightly respect and honor all for their work.

Source material courtesy of plaques on location, along with various linked websites. Further information may be found online at https://mdpl.org and https://www.miamiandbeaches.com/things-to-do/history-and-heritage/art-deco-historic-district.


Author: rachelpasteris

I am currently a full-time student at The Honors College at FIU. I intend to graduate with my BA in Mathematics Fall 2022. Passionate about education, I am looking to specialize in teaching secondary and college students in the subject areas of mathematics and science.

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