shotgun houses in Overtown
Miami’s early growth and development relied on the labor of
African-American and Caribbean workers to build the railroads and service the
hotels that brought tourists to the region. "Colored Town" (later called Overtown)
developed just west of the tracks of Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast
railroad, which reached Miami in 1896. Adjacent to downtown Miami, Colored Town
was one of the oldest black neighborhoods in the city and became a thriving
business, entertainment, and cultural district for Blacks in a city shaped by
These wood-frame or "shotgun" houses, as they were popularly
called, reflect the style of much of early black housing in Miami. The shotgun
house developed from West African and West Indian building traditions, and was
brought to the United States by black West Indians migrating to New Orleans
during the Haitian Revolution.
The style was well-suited to a tropical climate, and also fit
within the narrow lots allocated for black housing in many Southern cities.
These houses were photographed by Miami photographer G.W. Romer during a survey
of housing conditions among blacks in the 1930s and 1940s. Eventually, many of
them would be destroyed during several phases of urban renewal that ultimately
destroyed the heart of Overtown and its black business district.