25 Years Ago – Hurricane Andrew and A School Project That Went Far

“Damn You, Andrew” – A house in shambles after Hurricane Andrew hit Miami on August 24th, 1992

As the extremely powerful Hurricane Irma made its way towards Florida on September 10 this year, it stirred some depressing memories in many residents of Miami and the South Florida regions – memories of Hurricane Andrew, which had struck 25 years ago with devastating consequences.

In the early morning hours of August 24th, 1992 Hurricane Andrew, the biggest storm to hit Miami in over 60 years, roared through South Florida. It left many people displaced and injured, reportedly claiming 44 lives and destroying thousands of homes. Twenty five years later the name “Andrew” is still synonymous in Miami for this hurricane that forever changed so many lives.

Among those affected were the students and teachers at Palmetto Bay’s Southwood Middle School. In the aftermath of the storm, many of the students had no place to go while their parents did their best to salvage and rebuild what Hurricane Andrew had left of their homes. The school had suffered some severe damage too, including its popular Magnet Photography Program which had a dark room that the storm had turned into a huge mess. Equipment accumulated by the school over 12 years that was valued at $170.000 at the time had been submerged in four feet of salt water and ruined, including the students’ damaged personal photography equipment. However, instead of letting frustration and sadness get a hold on them, the students created art from the disaster thanks to their passionate photography teacher, Colette Stemple. 

Southwood art teacher Colette Stemple

In order to help the students cope with the trauma and give them –and herself, for that matter– a different focus, Colette organized a project with her photography students. Under her supervision, they forged a record of Hurricane Andrew’s destructive power by photographing the changed environment. “I asked the principal if he would hire us a school bus so that we could drive around Dade County documenting the destruction,” Colette remembers. The principal agreed, and the students and their teacher rode through the heart of the destruction and photographed what Hurricane Andrew left behind, documenting what they saw.

Back in 1992, before cell phones and Instagram, “photographing” meant nothing else but taking pictures with cameras, exposing roll after roll of film, handling slides and negative strips, and printing photographs on paper –in small, medium or large formats. Nobody knows for sure how many pictures were taken by the students, but many of their photographs, negatives, prints, photographic slides, collages and accompanying text fill several of the boxes now being safely housed at University of Miami Special Collections.

Colette realized very early on the significance of the students’ work. “When I saw their images I knew that their work was unique and powerful.  I realized that this was the first time in history that the children victims of a natural disaster had documented the tragedy.” This point of view was shared by many as time went by.

One of the Southwood students involved in the project was Nicholas Wohl. Today a fire captain for the city of Miami, Nicholas was 12 years old when Andrew struck, and he still remembers those days well. The storm had destroyed his family’s home to a good extent, and for several months, he lived in a trailer with his parents, his older siblings, two dogs, and his fragile grandmother. “It was like camping,” he said with a smile before admitting that the sense of adventure soon took a sour turn when all his family members had to help and clean up the site of their destroyed home.

Did young Nicholas understand the importance of the project at the time? “Not very,” he admitted with a laugh during a recent visit to Special Collections with his daughter Ella while looking at some of his own photographs from the collection. Two images had been framed together for the exhibit at the time and also archived that way later. They show the street right outside of the Wohl family’s home – one image had been taken only days before Andrew struck, the second image right after the impact, reflecting the storm’s enormous destructive power that had uprooted trees and destroyed houses in Nicholas’ neighborhood. The photos are among some of the few in the collection which show the “before and after” of the storm, allowing a direct comparison and leaving one feeling eerily unsettled by the amount of significant change.

Nicholas Wohl visiting Special Collections in August 2017

Nicholas Wohl at age 12 – and one of his shared thoughts on the aftermath of Andrew

Were his parents proud of their son’s work? “They had other things on their minds during these tough times,” Nicholas remembered, but he added, “I cannot emphasize enough how special Colette was. She had so much insight and knew what she was doing. She talked about it a lot, for instance she said, ‘This is going to be permanently placed in the University of Miami Library. And you will be forever able to go and visit it.’ And I remember, years later when I was here studying for a promotion, I went up to Special Collections to see the photos and take pictures.”

Actually, before the images became part of the archives at Special Collections, they were in an exhibition. “We all knew that the work had to be exhibited, the students, the parents and me,” said Colette.

To mark the first anniversary of Hurricane Andrew in 1993, the photographs were shown at the Miami Art Museum at the Congressional Gallery in Tallahassee and in Santa Fe, New Mexico under the title “Eye of the Storm thru the Eye of a Child”. The title came from Aurelio Sica, a famous Florida advertising photographer whose daughter, Amanda, was in Colette’s class.  Asked if she feels that the exhibit generated a heightened awareness of the situation in South Miami, Colette answered with a straight ‘Yes’. “In Tallahassee I was told that the students’ images were viewed by Congress to help determine monies to be allotted to different areas for recovery. The children were thrilled that they were part of the healing process.”

Nicholas Wohl’s photo became the exhibit’s promotional image

University of Miami professors Michael L. Carlebach and Eugene Provenzo were instrumental in bringing the photographs to Special Collections. Just like Colette Stemple, they considered the images a testament to the ingenuity and resiliency of South Floridians in the face of such devastation.

The “Hurricane Andrew Collection”  can be viewed any time at Special Collections, located on the eighth floor of the Otto G. Richter Library.

Now Accepting Applications: The Dave Abrams and Gene Banning Pan Am Research Grant 2017

The Dave Abrams and Gene Banning Pan Am Research Grant

Abrams Banning Winner Graphic (275x105)The Pan Am Historical Foundation announces the tenth annual Dave Abrams and Gene Banning Pan Am Research Grant competition. Up to $1,500 will be awarded to support scholarly research using the Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records held by the University of Miami Libraries’ Special Collections. The grant honors two of Pan Am’s most avid historians, Dave Abrams and Gene Banning.

Since its first international flight in 1927, Pan Am positioned itself as a world leader in American commercial aviation. The Pan Am records date from 1927 to the 1990s and include administrative and financial files; technical and research reports; public relations and promotional materials; internal publications including newsletters, journals and press releases; and thousands of photographs. Image015

The grant is open to advanced graduate students, independent scholars, and faculty. Priority will be given to research proposals that will result in publication in any media.

Application Procedures

Applicants must submit a proposal of no more than two pages describing their research project, include a curriculum vitae or résumé, and provide two letters of recommendation.

Application deadline is November 15, 2017

Please send inquiries and applications to:

The Dave Abrams & Gene Banning Pan Am Research Grant
c/o Jay Sylvestre
University of Miami Libraries
1300 Memorial Drive
Coral Gables, FL 33146-0320

About Dave Abrams and Gene Banning

After graduating from the University of Miami, Dave Abrams (1919-2005) joined Pan American Airways and worked for 42 years as a meteorologist, navigator and Director of Flight Operations for Latin America. Abrams was instrumental in the formation of The Pan Am Historical Foundation after the company shut its doors in 1991, and in finding a home for the Pan Am’s archives and memorabilia.

Gene Banning (1918-2006) was one of the longest serving pilots for Pan Am. His aviation days started with the infamous flying boats in 1941 and ended with Boeing 747s in 1978. An avid researcher, Banning was a guiding member of The Pan Am Historical Foundation from its inception and the author of Airlines of Pan American since 1927 (McLean, Va.: Paladwr, 2001).


About the Pan Am Historical Foundation and the University of Miami Libraries

The Pan Am Historical Foundation is a group dedicated to preserving the heritage of Pan American World Airways. For more information about the Foundation, visit http://www.panam.org/. The Special Collections of the University of Miami Libraries preserves and provides access to research materials focusing on the history and culture of Florida, the Caribbean and Latin America. The Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records consists of hundreds of boxes of materials and reigns as the most avidly consulted single resource in Special Collections. For more information about the Special Collections of the University of Miami Libraries, visit http://library.miami.edu/specialcollections.

Past Winners

2016: Sean Seyer, “Independent Internationalism in the Air: Pan American Airlines, the Pan American Union, and the 1928 Havana Convention”

2015: Josue Sakata, Boston Public School Primary Source Sets

2014: Hadassah St. Hubert, “Visions of a Modern Nation: Haiti at the World’s Fairs”

2013: Ken Fortenberry & Gregg Herken, “Point of No Return: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Clipper”

2012: Felipe F. Cruz, “Flight of the Toucans: Technology and Culture in the Brazilian Airspace”

2012: Gordon H Pirie examined Pan Am’s role in civil aviation to, and from, in post-colonial Africa

2011: Jonathan Ruano, “Pan American Airways, the South Atlantic Route and Rise of the American Empire”

2010: Houston Johnson, “Taking Off: The Politics and Culture of American Aviation, 1927-1929”

2009: Augustine Meaher “Pan Am Arrives Down Under: A Diplomatic and Aeronautical Accomplishment”

2009: Roger Turner, “Pan-Am’s Contribution to the Development of Aeronautical Meteorology”

2007: Jennifer Van Vleck “No Distant Places: Aviation and American Globalism, 1924-1968”

THIS JUST IN: Dissecting Gender Roles through Greeting Cards

By Yvette Yurubi, Special Collections Archives Assistant

According to the Greeting Card Association, greeting cards have their recorded origins dating as far back as the Ancient Egyptians, who would often include messages of goodwill on papyrus scrolls. Greeting cards had a prolific growth in use with the advent of the printing press and the rise of systemic, government-operated mail delivery that made it easier to transmit letters over greater distances. They experienced a cultural rebirth in the late 1800s and 1900s when Valentine’s Day celebrations in Great Britain popularized the exchange of small tokens of affection, the most notable being Valentine’s Day cards. Since then greeting cards have become ubiquitous in expressing all kinds of sentiments, from “get well” wishes to birthday and anniversary regards.

Because of their growth in popularity, greeting cards contain a wealth of information about the evolution of social history, and they present a more intimate depiction of how historical events were being interpreted by businesses trying to cash in on widespread, popular attitudes of the time. Most notably, they help illustrate the casual use of sexist images and terminology, much of it embodied in the images of children, who were often the recipients of these cards, without any thought or care for the subtle way they were emphasizing societal views on gender roles. Our newly acquired Vintage Greeting Card Collection represents a sample portion of how much traditional gender roles had permeated our social conscience with the cards aimed at girls, often including women either in sexually implicit context or in domestic roles, such as doing housework or nurturing children. There is also a heavy dosage of flowers, lace, hearts, pink backgrounds, and other imagery traditionally associated with femininity spread throughout them. In contrast, the cards which feature boys or men in them usually have them playing with cars or trucks or taking on the role of doctors, cowboys, and astronauts, and the cards are generally more restrained in color and decoration.

Interestingly enough, not all cards adhere firmly to gender roles, as there are numerous cards that blatantly depict women in non-traditional career roles, performing activities such as mining, piloting airplanes, sailing, and even being portrayed as soldiers. One of the more unique acquisitions is a World War II-era card in which female soldiers are disciplining each of the leaders of the Axis powers in a manner befitting of a mother scolding a small child. Likewise, among the cards featuring men, there are a few of them showing men in a nurturing role as fathers and caretakers. One card even shows a female kitten and a male dog riding on a bike together with the female kitten steering while the male dog holds a bouquet of flowers.

The writings inside the cards contain an extra layer of story-telling that often contributes to the unique rarity of these cards. For instance, one card with racy women on the cover has writing in pencil stating, “Gee kid don’t you wish you had a shape like this, SLIM,” to an unknown recipient named Vera. It’s easy to weave a tale around such messages as these, imagining who both the sender and receivers were, and what kind of relationship they may have had with one another. Not knowing the truth provides an intriguing mystique to these cards that bids our imaginations to run wild.

You can see more cards like these now at the Special Collections Department, currently located in the eighth floor of the Otto G. Richter Library.

THIS JUST IN: Motoring through the Depression: to Florida & New England by ‘House Car’

By Nicola Hellmann-McFarland, Special Collections Library Assistant

What exactly is a “house car”? It is, indeed, what it sounds like -a house that is also a car, very much like any other recreational vehicle (RV). However, it is often custom-built on a truck frame or a small bus, converted into a bulky sleeper and touring car made to allow its driver and inhabitants to romance the road with maximum convenience, celebrating their freedom to explore.

This was the idea of Winfield L. Markham from Lakewood, NY, who took to the road with his box-shaped house car in the early days of the Great Depression during the winters of 1930 and ’31. One of our latest additions to the Florida Photograph Album Collection at Special Collections, an album entitled “Motoring through the Depression: To Florida & New England by ‘House Car,’” showcases this excursions.

Camping-friendly alterations were generally made to cars almost as soon as they were introduced. Allegedly, the first version of a house car was the Pierce-Arrow’s Touring Landau from 1910 (America’s premiere prestige automaker at the time), which attracted quite a crowd when it was shown at the Madison Avenue Motor Show in New York that year. It was a nifty car to own, and only three Landaus were made, one of which was purchased by cereal magnate Charles William Post. A few years later, refusing to be outdone by Post, another famous cereal magnate, Will Keith Kellogg, requested his own vehicle -only fancier, of course. Known as the “Ark”, it was built from a white motor truck and was modeled after a classy Pullman railroad car.

The house car owned by Winfield L. Markham was not as dandy as those owned by Post or Kellogg, but it sure went places. In it, he made at least three long trips – a 5000 mile trip to Florida with a friend, a 1675 miles trip through New York and the New England States with his mother and a party of friends, and another trip to Florida, again with his mother and the same friends.

One of Mr. Markham’s hobbies was to produce travelogues of his trips, and he documented these voyages by taking many photographs of the places he went, with or without his travel companions posing in them. Afterwards, he arranged 95 of his images in a beautiful, hand-made photo album, each neatly captioned with typed titles, echoing both the diversity of the places traveled and the curiosity and eagerness of the travelers to explore unknown territories.

In his images, Mr. Markham’s eye for the quirky managed to capture the details of life on the road and his appreciation of nature side by side with his interest in cultural history. On one of the trips south to Florida, for instance, Mr. Markham and his travel companion Glenn W. Harris had made a stop in Georgia at the site of “Stone Mountain,” the gigantic memorial to the Confederacy of which had only been partially completed at the time –a surprising scene for today’s onlooker-, and in the following year, on their way back north from the Sunshine State, the group traveled through Florence, SC, where Mr. Markham took pictures and also gave a lecture at what his photos’ captions describe as the town’s “first colored high school”.

His pictures also reflect a fascination with Florida’s lush nature. He visited the state’s “Largest Cypress Tree” near Orlando twice, and there are several images in the album depicting the beauty of Florida’s royal palms and live oaks.

Furthermore, he documented himself and his travelers savoring Florida’s oranges, a Seminole Indian man fishing in the waters of the Everglades, and scantily-clad bathers and suit-wearing businessmen side by side at Miami Beach.


During his trip through New York and New England, his images brought a different set of interests into focus. There are images of the travel party roughing it between boulders in the Adirondack Mountains and marveling at the 228 feet high Taughhannock Falls near Ithaca, NY. The travelers were also captured admiring some Art Deco at Bok Singing Tower near Lake Wales and enjoying the simple pleasure of an Atlantic Ocean beach.

Throughout the entire photograph album, we get to see the quirky house car, framed by the great outdoors of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, on a snowy road somewhere in North Carolina, gawked at by a group of nosy school children in Clinton, NC, and appearing majestic by the rolling waves of Daytona Beach.

In our day and age, we often take travel experiences for granted and might not even be easily impressed by them anymore. But in 1930 when personal motorized transportation -let alone inside a bulky custom-made house car- was still a relatively new thing and other American states beyond one’s own hometown were thought to be far and mysterious destinations, it is easy to imagine how much of an adventurer’s heart Mr. Markham and his travel companions must have had to embark on such long expeditions. They belonged to the early camper culture of Americans, following their wishes to take to the road and explore their country while enjoying “the intimate pleasure of traveling in a vehicle that was both an oversized car and an undersized house.” (Home on the Road: The Motor Home in America by Roger B. White)

The photo album, “Motoring through the Depression: To Florida & New England by ‘House Car,’” can be viewed as part of the Florida Photograph Album Collection at Special Collections on the eighth floor of the Otto G. Richter Library.

When the Illusory is Real: Richard Haas’ Fontainebleau Trompe-l’oeil Mural

Perhaps it was foreboding, ominous, or just plain bad luck, but in 1986, when Richard Haas’s iconic mural on a side addition of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach was christened, the Mayor of Miami Beach Alex Daoud tried to smash a champagne bottle on the wall and couldn’t. The bottle didn’t break. Around a decade later, Mayor Daoud was indicted on forty-one counts of bribery and sentenced to federal prison. Yet another decade passed and Haas’s mural came down, reduced to rubble, despite the pleas of residents fighting for its preservation.

Miami Beach isn’t historically known for its iconic public art, but for nearly twenty years, a beloved 13,000 square foot, six-story trompe l’oeil mural allowed passersby to take an illusionary peek inside the Morris Lapidus designed Fontainebleau Hotel. The mural figuratively opened up the supplemental building that was obstructing the original hotel at the time. That work is still remembered fondly amongst Miami Beach natives and visitors from the old school.  Some still lament the decision to tear down the building with the mural, as Head of Special Collections Cristina Favretto explains, “Miami’s skyline changes at a vertiginous pace. Buildings appear and disappear almost overnight. Sometimes the change is good, and sometimes it most definitely is not.” She goes on to explain that, “the destruction of the Haas mural is not only in the ‘not good’ side of the story, but in the ‘what were they thinking?’ side.”

Richard Haas

Richard Haas (b. 1936) has a decades-long and much-celebrated career of architectural murals. A 2005 book on his work entitled The Prints of Richard Haas 1970-2004, describes his work as “depicting in painstaking detail the physiognomy of particular buildings,” and later, “a clear eyed view of western civilization’s achievement through its mastery of scientific engineering.” Countless of Haas’s murals have peppered the American and international urban landscapes, putting architecture on architecture, in a wondrous and somehow playful style, inspiring and delighting onlookers.

The original Fontainebleau mural design maquettes—or preliminary design sketches—for the project were recently donated to the Special Collections by the artist himself. The larger maquettes, painted in gouache on board, are quite large themselves, measuring at around four and a half by three and a half feet. Today, Haas looks back on the project fondly and describes the mural’s style as it “really related to a kind of deco meets moderne.” Haas and his patrons wanted to respect Lapidus’s original building. They wanted the rest of Miami Beach to see the majestic Fontainebleau. So they opened it up the only way an artist could: through mirage.

Alternative Design No. 1

Also in the donation are three alternative design collages, constructed of mixed media and depicting early scrapped schemes that Haas clearly didn’t utilize. Alongside preliminary street photographs, which appear to be used for references, these images of depictions that didn’t make it are fascinating to show the artist’s working and thinking process.


Mural Overlay on a photograph of Collins Avenue

Haas admits that his client, the Muss family, owners of the hotel, asked for more prominence of the pool, which would be a major draw for patrons, and you can see this process unfold in the folders at Special Collections. You can also see extensive documentation about the project, including correspondence between the artist and client, periodicals, as well as later letters from supportive residents when, after more than two decades, the project appeared to be doomed. Favretto explains that she is “very grateful to Mr. Haas for his generosity in donating these materials to Special Collections, where [staff] can retain tangible documentation of the mural as evidence of a time when creativity didn’t automatically have to bow down to practicality or the almighty dollar.”

Haas’ prepared “canvas”

The mural—which stood from 1986-2003—was remarkable; two Art Nouveau style stanchions flank the main image of the Fontainebleau Hotel, itself inspired by the stylings of Finnish architect Gottlieb Eliel Saarinen, father of the famed architect and industrial designer Eero Saarinen. On top are two native birds intertwined with local foliage. The intention is to frame the image of the original hotel, standing firm as guardians of the opening, which by precise detail brings the Lapidus building through a six-story wall. Its lush pool invites the viewer to paradise. The mural itself stood as a striking unity of architecture and art, mischievously showing the hotel behind the hotel. Haas explains that the building “needed a dramatic opening” and then jokes that it was “very hard to come upon the original Lapidus building as you’re driving” because the view is obstructed. So he opened up the wall.

Preparing to photograph one of Haas’ framed maquettes for this post.

Looking back over this work in the context of his career, Haas explains, “I’ve lost a lot of murals, probably that’s the biggest loss.” Haas laments today, and goes on to explain poignantly, “it had been so long [that] it had almost detached itself from me and become part of the city itself.” Favretto puts the work and its donation further into context, explaining that Miami is “now a city of murals,” noting, “but so many of them will be gone without a trace a few years from now. I hope other artists will have Mr. Haas’s presence of mind, and that they’ll think about contributing to our ‘Amazing Things That Aren’t Here Anymore’ collections.”

Much like its home on Miami Beach, Richard Haas’s Fontainebleau mural was a beautiful act of artifice. We are not here to speculate on the future of the island itself (and thankfully, disgraced Mayor Daoud has no christening power), but the mural lives on in Special Collections, forever reminding us of a time when private business took large-scale creative risks and we could all enjoy a brief peek into paradise.

Off the record, the writer was able to confirm one case of a motorist driving into the trompe l’oeil mural staring a little too deeply into that paradise. In addition, there has been unconfirmed speculation that American Pie and Orange is the New Black star Natasha Lyonne ran into the mural during her 2001 Miami Beach DUI. When asked of this potential other outcome of his mural, Haas was somewhat shocked.

“Oh dear,” he gasped. But it seemed a little knowingly.

Maybe this gargantuan symbolic vision of paradise on a multimillion-dollar hotel is like everything on Miami Beach. It is an artificial reality, beautiful and serene, which has the always present potential to hit you in the head. And like all beloved things here, it was eventually destroyed under the guise of making more money.

Nathaniel Sandler, Book Detective for UM Special Collections