The New World Mural adorning the walls of the Freedom Tower`s mezzanine level was painted by the Miami Artisans in 1987.
New World Mural, 1513
New World Mural, 1513
Among the Freedom Tower's notable aspects is the New World Mural, a spectacular 40foot by 20
foot mural on the mezzanine level. The mural is a recreation of an original tapestry
from the 1920’s
that had decayed over the course of the century. Due to the Freedom Tower's long-time closing
from 1974 to 1987, this beautiful symbol of the meeting of the Old World and the
New World fell in disrepair and remained unknown to most Miamians. On the heels
the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest of Florida, today it serves as an iconic visual
reference of Miami's history.
The mural's center image presents Ponce de Leon and the Tequesta chief before a map of the New
World. They are flanked by symbols of discovery, power, myth and adventure. Galleons
rigged for full
sail end the corners of a pyramidal layout hidden by the imposing circles of the map background.
The mural is a fantastical celebration of unity and fate. Mermaids, fruit, fantastic
sail boats and galleons, conquistadors with muskets and American Indians in
canoes set the scene for half a millennium ago. Juan Ponce de Leon's ship logs recorded their
first Native American town encountered, known as Tequesta Miami, a mound town with
surrounding villages and fishing camps around newly named Biscayne Bay, on the north
bank of the mouth of the Miami River in June 1513.
The mural design was originally commissioned by the Tower's developer, James Middleton Cox in
1925, with the expressed intention to celebrate Ponce de Leon's discovery and naming
Bay and Tequesta Miami Mound town. It would later become an important point of reference for
and now serves as a backdrop for many important ceremonies and events in the Freedom Tower's
Ballroom. The mural is included in the National Registry of Public Fine Art.
The New World 1513 mural’s poem was composed by poet
laureate Edwin Markham in 1925. It survives today to celebrate the State
of Florida‘s Viva 500th Anniversary of Naming and Discovery by Juan Ponce De Leon in 1513 to
which the mural was dedicated and commissioned in 1925 by Gov. James Middleton Cox
whilst building the Daily News Tower, now known as the National Land
marked Freedom Tower and home to the MDC Museum of Art + Design. Markham had written and recited
the epigram for the Lincoln Memorial ceremony in 1922. His recital of his “Lincoln,
Man of the People” had an immediate recognition which prompted Gov.James Middleton
Cox to request Markham’s pen for a homage to the history of Miami, Florida and “these
import moments in our distant histories.” (James Middleton Cox biography)
Here once by April breezes blown,
You came O gallant De Leon,
Sailed up this friendly ocean stream
To find the wells of ancient dream-
The Fountain by the poets sung
Where life and love are ever young
You found it not, O prince and yet
The wells that make the heart forget
Are waiting here- yes ever here
With touch of some immortal sphere
For here below these skies of gold
We have forgotten to grow old-
Here in this land where all the hours
Dance by us treading upon flowers.
-Edwin Markham (1842-1940)
The Miami Artisans
During a restoration of the Freedom Tower in 1987, a group called the Miami Artisans
brought new life to the piece with the creation of the New World Mural in 1988.Lead
artists and researchers
on the mural were Wade Stuart Foy (1959-1996), John E.P. Conroy and William Mark Coulthard.
The ground, tone and script artists were Phylis Shaw, Gerome Villa Bergensen and
The lost 1925 version was faithfully reconstructed from old black and white photos. Remnants
of it where discovered behind temporary panels by the commissioning Architect R.
in 1987. The Miami Artisans also worked at the Coconut Grove Playhouse and were involved in
renovation of the Opa Locka City Hall Chambers. The group disbanded in 1997 after
the death of founder Wade Foy.