Across the street from the Hotel InterContinental, site of the 2011 Society of Environmental Journalists Convention, a U.S. president-elect came close to being assassinated just weeks before he was to take office.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was vacationing in Florida in February 1933, the last year that U.S. inaugurations were still being held in March. Roosevelt, who was concluding a 12-day fishing trip, accepted an invitation to talk about the impact of the Great Depression on Feb. 15 in Bayfront Park.
According to historical accounts written by local historian Paul George and others, Roosevelt was addressing an estimated 4,000 people from the back of an open car when gun shots rang out from the crowd. Roosevelt narrowly missed the bullets aimed at him and his entourage.
Giuseppe Zangara, an Italian immigrant bricklayer, was charged and convicted in the attempted assassination and the murder of six people, including Chicago Mayor Anton Cermack.
At trial, Zangara said he was angry about the government’s handling of the nation’s poor economy. Zangara, 32, was later electrocuted in March of 1933.
Over the years, the park, which first opened in 1925, has outlived the notoriety associated with the shooting.
During World War II, the land in Bayfront Park was taken over by the Navy for training operations and recreation for its soldiers. The park became so littered with holes and other military equipment that the Navy was eventually fined and asked to clean the property.
Later, in the 1982, the InterContinental Hotel was built on the edge of Bayfront Park. The modernist hotel has brought and continues to bring tourism and numerous conventions to the park.
The park is located on Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami. Its 32 acres stretch along Biscayne Boulevard north from Bayside Marketplace, an open-air mall that attracts 12 million people per year, south to the Hotel InterContinental. Redesigned in the early 1980s by Isamu Noguchi, the park is managed by Bayfront Park Management Trust. Features of the park include a small sand beach, tropical rock garden and waterfall dating back to 1926, a playground, a cascading fountain and Light Tower. The park’s monuments include the Challenger Memorial, located at the former site of the main branch of the Miami-Dade County Public Library, and a World War II Veterans’ Memorial.