from the Archives

Burdines home of ‘Sunshine Fashions’

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.

Miami’s legendary department store Burdine’s in downtown Miami. Photo was taken on July 28, 1914. It was the seventeenth anniversary of the founding of the city of Miami. The building at the left of Burdine’s was the AIR DOME movie theater of the silent picture days. Courtesy of Mike Hiscano.

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 was expanded and the other buildings around it were annexed until the beautiful 1938 art deco corner buildings were built. Courtesy of Mike Hiscano.

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 are vintage photographs of the original Burdines at 810 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach designed by Robert Law Weed in 1937. In 1956, the store moved around the block to 17th Street and Meridian Avenue. Shown also are the front and back of a postcard of that new Burdines located on 17th Street. That store is now a Macy’s Department Store.

1940 photograph of original Burdines at 810 Lincoln Road
1940 photograph of the interior of the original Burdines at 810 Lincoln Road
Vintage postcard of Burdines, “The Home of Sunshine Fashions” designed by Robert Law Weed.
Back of vintage postcard of Burdines Dept. Store on Meridian Ave, Miami Beach
Downtown Miami Burdines store on East Flagler Street

What would Miami Beach be like without Historic Art Deco, Mediterranean, and MiMo buildings?

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