The Shenandoah Presbyterian Church is an icon that is also going to serve as the perfect example of what cannot continue to happen in our community.
We need to stand together against developers that want to compromise our Hispanic Heritage and what makes Little Havana a place to visit worldwide in their attempt to rob our community of its historic culture.
As I sit here wrapping up our special Hispanic Heritage edition, I can’t help but be saddened and obligated to have to write this editorial. I do not live in Little Havana, but I am very much attached to its buildings, businesses, locals and in this case the Shenandoah Presbyterian Church. As you can imagine that the editor of a community newspaper by the name of Calle Ocho News might be. I went to La Progresiva Presbyterian School for 15 years of my life from the age of 3 to 18 which is minutes away so if it were that church, I would be as destroyed about the news that came to light on September 27th.
The fact that the Shenandoah Presbyterian Church is a church and is being torn down by what some would call thieves in the night makes this news even more horrific. I believe the most important among our buildings are the churches that carry in them the most important memories for many families that baptized their children there, members of the congregation that accepted Jesus Christ as their lord and savior there, couples that made vows to each other, losses of family and friends that were mourned there, etc. These memories cannot be duplicated like many of the members of the congregation that still gather there today now hope that their church might be. The place where their memories were created in what once stood on 20th avenue and Calle Ocho are GONE for those families like the walls that came crumbling down.
A church is a place of worship and reverence. A place where the community comes together with one common objective for the most part. When people go to a church they go for different reasons. Some go because they are desperate for help from a higher power, some for fellowship among like-minded community members, and some just go for comfort and security to help them through their present turmoil. They say when you do not know where else to turn IN LIFE for help to look up and turn to GOD and as we stand on 20th Avenue and SW 8 St. and look up we know it is only a matter of time before the beautiful steeple of the Shenandoah Presbyterian Church that has graced the Little Havana community since the late 1920’s will soon be a thing of the past if the wheels are not turned back fast.
But why? The reason behind what happened is still unknown and being investigated. In one letter Mayor Francis Suarez says the building fits all the criteria of a building worthy of historical preservation, in another letter he says the exact opposite. In fact, while the Shenandoah Presbyterian Church was being torn down, Dade Heritage Trust was reviewing the support letters for designation written by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Florida Trust, as well as the Plusurbia report that clearly shows the importance of this building to the community as an icon to Calle Ocho and all Miamians. Little did they know the bulldozers were already onsite after the demolition ban had been lifted. The fact that it happened suddenly and with little regard for vehicles that were in the vicinity that had concrete landing on their car is absurd. A bulldozer started knocking down the church with no precautions taken on the passing vehicles for safety or even possible pedestrians that could have been in harm’s way.
How could the City of Miami have allowed such a horrific and threatening act to come upon such a vulnerable community you might ask? I spoke to many residents and we l agreed that this kind of thing would not happen in a city like Coral Gables where the community sticks together in preserving the style and culture of the character we have come to know as Coral Gables. The Little Havana community is outraged, hurt, distraught and tired of being pushed aside while our elected officials say one thing then do another. The fact is that Little Havana was robbed of their oldest place of worship and we must do something to avoid this happening to the rest of the buildings. I was able to interview some local residents and here is how they feel.
“The demolition of cultural or historical value to our community without a review is upsetting and it saddens me. We will lose the composition of our community if we don't review and analyze future development. I would love to speak with the Mayor on the effects of this demolition on Little Havana and what it means for our "National Treasure. "
"The SHENANDOAH PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH not only played a huge role within our community, it was also an emblematic religious institution throughout OUR COUNTRY’s Presbyterian Community! This church began with 16 members in 1927, and it grew to well over 4,000! Its role in our Hispanic community, which continued its Presbyterian legacy, was to serve Hispanics."
“It breaks my heart knowing that it is a CHURCH because it is sacred. The culture, the people, the preservation of it all spoke for itself. I do not know how it can get to this point after all the steps to avoid this happening had been taken.”
"It is an abomination and a travesty. A complete disregard for history and ecological preservation. As a resident neighbor I take tours with Paul S.George all the time so this place will be missed. Not to mention, the way it was done through the backdoor channel was very shady of our city to allow.”
“Maybe through this example we can prevent it happening again. In my opinion, the only thing that will make this right is for the church to be replicated.”Brigid Baker