History of Opa-locka

Developed in the 1920s, the Miami neighborhood of Magnolia North is among the poorest urban areas in the nation. More than eight of every ten households in Magnolia North are receiving some sort of government assistance, with a third of the families in the City of Opa-locka living below the poverty line. Magnolia North’s high concentrated poverty results in chronic lack of employment or opportunities for economic mobility.

At the height of the South Florida real estate bubble of the 1920s, Opa-locka was the poorly-timed entrepreneurial dream of Glenn Curtiss, one of the founders of the aviation industry in the United States. (The business Curtiss founded would later merge with the Wright Brother's aeronautical firm and remains active today.)

In 1925 Curtis founded Opa-locka Corporation to begin developing agricultural land that he had purchased just a few years prior. He hired architect Bernhardt Muller to design a town in an Arabian Night’s motif.  Resembling a sort of orientalist kitsch film set, the gimmick was inspired by the popular success of the recently released film, The Thief of Baghdad (1924), starring Douglas Fairbanks.

In 1926, just a year after Curtis unveiled the first phase of Opa-locka, a major hurricane helped to burst the Florida land bubble. Nearly from the start Opa-locka was economically disenfranchised.

Possibly the hardest hit , a (roughly 30 churches within just a few square miles).

During the 1980s, the Triangle was named as one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the nation. The County’s 1986 statistics described one-in-four chance of being assaulted and a one-in-60 chance of being murdered in Opa-locka. Nine homicides were recorded that year in a neighborhood with a population of less than 600.

Given the near impossibility of controlling the triangular neighborhood and its many entrances and exits, the following year the city placed metal highway barricades to block all but one exit and prevent drug runners from driving away.

The barricades helped somewhat, but if they didn’t let dealers in they also didn’t let residents out. XXXX a neighborhood of last resort.

violence, drug dealing, and gangs

plagued by “frequent gun battles” and notorious drug spots

Unoccupied buildings serving as outpost for drug dealers

Most houses are boarded up or windows filled in with concrete cinder blocks

Many buildings in the neighborhood have bullet-pocked façade

sometimes using AK-47 assault rifles

The Triangle was renamed Magnolia North in 2011

Arabian Nights and Hunt Building  (Romer Collection, Miami Dade Public Library)

Arabian Nights and Hunt Building (Romer Collection, Miami Dade Public Library)