A Photographer’s Study of the Dade County Courthouse Restoration
Historic Miami: Dade County Courthouse
AUTHOR: Brandon Collura
The Dade County Courthouse is the first subject in the Historic Miami series by photographer Brandon Collura. The project aims to document Miami’s early 20th century high-rise buildings, hoping to generate renewed interest in their magnificent architecture and sculptural ornamentation.
Completed in 1928, the Dade County Courthouse has served continuously as a government building for over ninety years. The iconic high-rise was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, undergoing façade restorations in both the 1980s and from 2013-2016.
The more recent restoration took place between September 2013 and July 2016, led by general contractor Mark 1 Restoration and architect Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates. The scope of the project included the removal, repair or replacement of 9,000 terra cotta units, which were manufactured by Boston Valley Terra Cotta.
The Courthouse was originally designed using Stone Mountain granite for the curtain walls of the first three stories, with glazed terra cotta panels covering the remainder of the façade. The terra cotta in itself remained in good condition and could last another one hundred years if properly cared for. However, as is typical of buildings from this period, corrosion of the underlying steel hangers and supports had caused severe cracking and displacement on many of the panels.
Boston Valley completed several site surveys of the Courthouse façade before beginning work. Samples of individual blocks from the site were brought to our facility and scanned digitally to create accurate shop drawings. Our Glaze Lab developed a unique glaze to replicate the coloring and texture of the façade’s original granite.
As part of our standard quality control process, the restoration project team visited Boston Valley for a final color range inspection in natural daylight conditions. The approved mockup of the terra cotta units served as the allowed tolerance and color range for the duration of production.
Header image: ©Brandon Collura