Neighborhoods
10:43 am
Tue September 24, 2013

How I-95 Shattered The World Of Miami's Early Overtown Residents

Agnes Rolle Morton (left) and her sister Naomi Yvonne Rolle reminisce about growing up in Overtown before the construction of I-95 through the neighborhood on Jan. 29, 2012 in Liberty City.
Credit Daniel Bock
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When Naomi Rolle talks about her childhood home in Overtown, tears fall from her eyes.

Historic Overtown as a bustling community.
Credit Historical Museum of South Florida

Her father, Jerod Hastings Rolle, and his mother — her grandmother — constructed the cozy peach-colored home with swirling concrete pillars in the 1920s.

“It was beautiful,” she said. “It was one of the only houses built with concrete and stucco. The other homes around us were made out of wood.”

Agnes Rolle Morton (left) and her sister Naomi Yvonne Rolle in Liberty City. The two were born in Overtown before the construction of I-95 tore through the neighborhood.
Credit Daniel Bock

Rolle, who now lives in Liberty City, is among thousands who were forced out of their homes in the 1960s to make room for Interstate 95 and later, Interstate 395.

Today, a concrete beam that holds up I-95 stands where Rolle’s front yard used to be.

Her home was razed to make room for the highway.

“I get choked up every time I talk about it, just like my dad used to get choked up,” said Rolle, 70. “In 1965 they ran him out of that house.”

For those who called Overtown home, theirs is a story of remembrance and loss.

They fondly recall the glory days of Overtown, then a segregated neighborhood of Miami called the Central Negro District or Colored Town.

Bahamian musicians marched down Fifth Place on Friday nights playing a spicy blend of Calypso. Teenagers flirted over jukebox sessions at neighborhood restaurants. On summer afternoons black children from as far as Key West splashed in the Dixie Pool.

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General White, who was born and raised in Ovetown, points out on Feb 1 the former location of Northwest Fifth Court, the street he grew up on. It's been replaced by I-95 and apartment buildings.
Credit Daniel Bock
General White talks about some of the business that were replaced by an I-395 overpass on Northwest Third Avenue in Overtown.
Credit Daniel Bock