The original home of the Miami News, a now-defunct evening paper founded in 1896, the Freedom Tower has housed celebrities, refugees and iconic art over its 93-year history. La Torre de la Libertad, as it’s known in Spanish, was a beacon of hope for Cuban exiles fleeing the Castro regime throughout the 1960s and ’70s: Around this time, famed singer Celia Cruz left the island, and she would become one of the few people to have her funeral inside the property in 2003. The tower, considered the “Ellis Island of the South,” was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 2008, three years after Miami developers donated it to Miami Dade College.
The interior finally matched the exterior in 2012, when Terra Group developers donated the Mediterranean Revival–style property to Miami Dade College for its MDC Museum of Art + Design. The split-level facility houses a 15,000-square-foot art space, with exhibits on Cuban exiles and the diaspora as well as offices for the college’s large-scale community cultural programs—including Miami Film Festival and MDC Live Arts. Just as its walls honor those who sought refuge, the Freedom Tower’s facade is illuminated regularly (e.g., red for World AIDS Day) for causes that match the institution’s philanthropic and democratic values.