Welcomed aboard by U.S. Navy Chief Warrant Officer Anthony D. Atwood’s boatswain’s pipe, a delegation headed by Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart mounted the stage for the Apr. 24 dedication of “Building 25” as the future home of a new Miami Military Museum.
With another creative touch, Atwood supervised officials who collectively hauled on a rope to “move” the 700,000- pound structure five-feet north on rollerequipped steel support beams to a permanent foundation adjacent to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum grounds.
The “lanyard pull” symbolized the final move of the three-story structure from the World War II era Richmond Naval Air Station where its skeleton was rebuilt under a new roof and ship-lapped wall siding on all four sides to further recreate appropriate detail of the 1940-era military building.
The relocation represented “a key step to give Miami’s military history a permanent home,” said Atwood, who steadfastly has guided the concept both as a tribute to Miamians who served in the Armed Forces and a living record of the role played by those stationed here since World War II. The full and proper name is “The Miami Military Museum and Veterans Memorial.”
With its original Dade County pine hardwood beams still intact, the Naval quarters was the last viable structure that could be salvaged from a sprawling base that once housed blimps that hunted for German submarines. The area has become home to part of Miami Metrozoo and the Gold Coast Railroad Museum (GCRR) just south of SW 152nd Street.
A $2 million grant from the Building Better Communities bond issue provided funding to rehabilitate the dilapidated and termite-infested structure with flooring tiles “saturated with asbestos,” according to Atwood. Such hazards have been eliminated to create “a totally sanitized and safe exhibition space,” said the former Naval officer (now an FIU professor) who is stockpiling wartime relics of the 20th Century to showcase Miami- and Floridaconnected history.
With its replicated (but hurricane-proofed) windows, the building also will get a proper coat of white paint to maintain its authenticity said Atwood of the structure that later became a home for training anti-Castro freedom fighters and provided a center for both the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps Reserves.
The new location places the museum-tobe as a partner with GCRR exhibits, forming what is planned as a “Main Street” town plaza, part of Waterpark, Miami-Dade Commission chair Dennis Moss’ dream to open a major tourist destination that annually would attract 400,000 visitors.
Kathleen Slesnick Kauffman of the county’s Office of Historic Preservation, proudly tracing three generations of personal ancestry in military service, said the museum “was a symbol of the foresight of citizens who set aside $10 million for preservation of its culture and history.”
Adding his congratulations was commission vice chair Jose “Pepe” Diaz who pledged both his and the county’s continuing support of the museum project that Rep. Diaz-Balart termed the “most significant reminder of our first responders, the men and women who serve the United States military.”