In celebration of Black History Month….The downtown Burdines had a place of real significance when the nation entered the civil right’s era.
Burdines was the flagship for Florida’s first family of retail & a part of the Miami’s history since the beginning. The store’s founder, William Burdine, and his son John came to Miami in 1898, only two years after the city was incorporated. They built the first W.M. Burdine & Son clothing store in the downtown area. That store would go on to be incredibly successful, and so the family would move its company to Miami. Shortly thereafter the store began to build branches in Miami Beach, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and ultimately the suburbs in Dadeland.
The downtown store at 22 East Flagler Street would still be the most important store in Miami into the 1960s. It was a near-perfect archetype of the Streamline Moderne style of architecture that would grow out of the art deco school of design in the 1930s. One of the biggest catalysts for the city’s growth in the 20th Century was tourism, and tourists loved that store. It’s possible the retailers and companies that came to town between the 1900’s to the 1930’s, might never have made their way here if not for Burdines.
The downtown Burdines also had a place of real significance when the nation entered the civil right’s era. Many people think that the first sit-in was launched at the Woolworth dime store in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1960. However, the civil right’s activists of the Miami Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality had staged sit-ins in downtown Miami a year earlier in 1959. Following that Burdines desegregated their lunch counter in 1960, four years before passage of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Many recall when Burdines became Burdines-Macy’s and then just Macy’s. To some who grew up with “The Florida Store” it was sad to see the name change. Even harder when the downtown store shut its doors for the last time in 2018. Unfortunately, this building was never listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings and thereby has no protection from demolition.
Shown is a vintage postcard of Burdines designed by Robert Law Weed in 1937. Located on Lincoln Lane & Meridian Avenue in Miami Beach, it is now a Macy’s Department Store.