In Class with Dr. George: Themes in South Florida History

Wednesdays in August from 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Journey through time with Dr. George during our In Class with Dr. George series! In Class with Dr. George delves into the layered histories of Miami and greater South Florida. Hosted by HistoryMiami Museum’s Resident Historian, Dr. Paul S. George, and presented in conversation with a community stakeholder, this lecture series will include a thematic exploration of topics ranging from South Florida’s unique environment, transportation, aviation, and architecture.

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South Florida’s Unique Environment
Wednesday, August 7, 2024

Delve into the history of South Florida’s unique environment. Learn how early peoples and settlers adapted to this tropical wilderness – from Biscayne Bay to its mangrove studded shoreline and beyond.

Dr. George will be joined in conversation with Erin Cover, Education and Outreach Manager at Miami Waterkeeper. Miami Waterkeeper protects South Florida’s waters by advocating for resilient solutions grounded in science, rooted in nature, and driven by community.

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Miami Architecture
Wednesday, August 14, 2024

Reflect upon the distinctive styles of Miami architecture from Art Deco and Miami Modern (MiMo) to Frame Vernacular and Mediterranean Revival. Dr. George will be joined in conversation with Jose R. Vazquez, a professor at Miami Dade College’s School of Architecture and Interior Design.

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A History of Transportation in Miami
Wednesday, August 21, 2024

Learn about the history of transportation in Miami – from dugout canoes to cruise ships; and the arrival of the train to the introduction of trolleys and cars.

Dr. George will be joined by Javier Betancourt, Executive Director of the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust (CITT), an independent agency of Miami-Dade County charged with oversight of the “half penny” transportation surtax and implementation of the associated People’s Transportation Plan.

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Aviation in Miami
Wednesday, August 28, 2024

Explore the history of aviation in Miami. Learn about some of aviation’s iconic figures from Amelia Earhart to Bessie Coleman and Glenn Curtiss. Reflect upon the site of the former Pan American Seaplane Terminal – today’s Miami City Hall – and hear stories of naval aviation and flying boats in Dinner Key.

Dr. George will be joined by Irene Schwarz and Renate Van Kempema with World Wings International, Inc. who will share their own lived experiences as a Pan Am Stewardess and their work with World Wings International today.

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Featured Speakers:

Erin Cover
Education and Outreach Manager, Miami Waterkeeper

Erin inspires the next generation of ocean heroes as Miami Waterkeeper’s Education and Outreach Manager. A Michigan native, Erin followed her passion for marine science to sunny Florida where she earned her Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies from Rollins College and Master’s in Marine Conservation from the University of Miami’s prestigious Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science. With over eight years of experience at conservation organizations nationwide, Erin brings a wealth of knowledge about marine ecosystems and a contagious enthusiasm for protecting our blue planet. She develops and leads Miami Waterkeeper’s hands-on education and outreach initiatives, empowering students of all ages to become advocates for South Florida’s treasured waterways.

Jose R. Vazquez
Professor, Miami Dade College’s School of Architecture and Interior Design

Jose R. Vazquez is a professor at Miami Dade College’s School of Architecture and Interior Design. With over twenty years of academic experience, he has taught courses in architecture, interior design, and history. He was a Fulbright scholar in Mexico in 2022. He has curated architectural exhibitions focusing on Miami’s historic architecture, including A Concrete Presence: The Architecture of Miami Dade College 1960-70Miami Bungalows, and Opa Locka Mirage City. Currently, he serves on the board of directors of the Vernacular Architecture Forum.

A person wearing a blue suit and tie sits in front of a bookshelf.

Javier Betancourt
Executive Director, Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust (CITT)

Bio pending

Irene Schwarz
Miami Chapter President and International VP Operations, World Wings International, Inc.

Irene Schwarz’s flying career lasted for 32 years after a rocky start with Pan Am as stewardess from 1973-1974, furloughed after just one year during the energy crisis. National Airlines came to her rescue in the summer of 1974, until the merger in 1980 landed her back at Pan Am until 1991, when Pan Am ceased operation. Irene continued to fly with Delta until retirement in 2005 and was based in New York and Miami.

In 1993, she joined the very active Miami chapter of World Wings Int’l and has since worn many hats; President from 1997-2003 and 2014-2020 and still going. She also served 3 terms on the International WWI Board as VP Ways and Means from 2008-2011, VP Membership & Development 2017-2020 and presently as VP Operations.

A person smiles wearing a baby blue bowler hat with matching Pan Am Stewardess uniform. They have short red hair.
Sepia toned image of a person wearing a Pan Am Stewardess uniform and hat

Renate Van Kempema
World Wings International, Inc.

Renate Van Kempema was born in 1942 in Northern Germany on the farm belonging to her family since 1515. She came to the USA in 1965 for one year of adventure and that adventure is still ongoing!

As a Stewardess and Purser for Pan Am she flew from 1966 to Pan Am’s end in 1991. She continued as an International Flight Attendant with Delta Air Lines, based in Miami, Atlanta, New York and Detroit. After 54 years, due to COVID Renate’s flying career came to a sudden end, as most international flights were canceled.

Paul S. George, Ph.D.
Resident Historian

For over three decades, HistoryMiami Museum’s Resident Historian Dr. Paul S. George has toured his way to local, national, and international acclaim with his continuing series of historic tours. Through walking, coach, and boat tour experiences, Dr. George has welcomed tour participants on a memorable journey of South Florida through its historic neighborhoods, landmarks, and sites. As a Miami native, author, and former college professor, Dr. George has gained fame for his uncanny ability to recall the most impressive details about the people and places that make South Florida so unique.

Dr. George, wearing a blue pinstripe suit, burgundy striped tie, and white shirt stands in front of a gallery of black and white archival images against a gray wall.

Past Courses:

A black and white photograph of Downtown Miami in the 1930s. Trolley cars can be seen heading down a street alongside cars. A group of pedestrians are crossing the street with assistance from a police officer who stands in the middle of the road directing traffic.

In Class with Dr. George: Defining Moments in South Florida History

Delve into the history of Miami and South Florida with our Resident Historian, Dr. Paul S. George. Over the course of 5-weeks, Dr. George will lead you on an exploration of the defining moments of our region’s history. Each class session will include lecture and discussion followed by tours of either the museum’s exhibitions or historic sites in Downtown Miami.

Lecture topics to include: the area’s early history and peoples; the homesteading era; incorporation and the early years of the City of Miami; Boom/Bust and the 1920s; Depression and war; the post WWII Boom; and the emergence of an international city.

This lecture will focus on the area’s indigenous peoples, who lived here at least 10,000 years ago. Important archaeological discoveries along the Miami River and near Biscayne Bay in the past half century have opened our eyes to this fact. Others who will be discussed here include the Tequesta Indians, arguably the descendants of the first peoples, Spanish missions to the Tequesta and Seminoles, who came to South Florida in the early 1700s, and played a consequential role in shaping its development in subsequent centuries.
Before there was a city of Miami, there were numerous homesteading communities that dotted the areas looking out upon Biscayne Bay in the second half of the nineteenth century. Although these settlements were small in size, they were consequential in laying the foundations for not only the future City of Miami, but also other important centers of vast Miami-Dade County. These pioneers helped give direction to the evolving communities following the railroad’s entry into Miami in the late 19th century.
The entry of Henry M. Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway in Miami in 1896 brought monumental changes to the area, since it connected it by land, for the first time, to points north. The City of Miami grew quickly after the rail’s entry and influenced the development of many other portions of the county. Early on the nascent city was a magnet for various races and ethnic groups.
The great real estate boom of the mid-1920s transformed Miami and its environs from a frontier city surrounded by several agricultural settlements into an emerging metropolitan area. For the first time, the area was in the national limelight, as visitors and investors rushed to its sunny shores to get rich in real estate ventures. New communities like Coral Gables, Miami Springs and Miami Shores were products of the Boom. The bust that followed in 1926 and thereafter previewed for the nation the Great Depression that descended upon it following the stock market crash in 1929.
Despite challenging economic conditions, the Depression Decade was eventful, with Greater Miami experiencing growth in many sectors while positioning itself as a major tourist and aviation center. Further, the area arose from the economic quagmire more quickly than much of the rest of the nation. Greater Miami thrived in the wartime decade of the 1940s, serving as an immense training base for hundreds of thousands of men and women in uniform, while positioning itself through its exposure to many who migrated here after the conflict.
The construction, population, and tourism booms that followed the end of World War II drove the area to new heights, placing it squarely in the front ranks of America’s metropolitan regions. Areas that were still swampland and piney woods before the war were now hosting new suburban communities. A robust airport and seaport exposed millions over the course of the postwar decades to the magic of the Magic City. Beneath the gloss of this sparkling area, minorities were fighting for rights, environmentalists were lobbying for the protection of its unique ecology, and law enforcement agencies were tamping down on spiraling crime.
Miami and Dade County recognized early in their development that geography often determines destiny. The area’s close proximity to Cuba, the Caribbean, the West Indies and even South America made it a haven for people fleeing the tyranny and economic malaise of nearby countries for the freedom and opportunity afforded by the United States. Miami became ground zero for this process and, in the process, was transformed into a flourishing international city. With its increased urbanity came a cultural renaissance and a rebirth of venerable center city neighborhoods.