New lease of life for Aladdin-style town in Florida

,A slice of Middle Eastern splendour built in Florida in the 1920s is being recovered. Opa-Locka was founded in 1926 during a construction boom. The exotic lure the Middle East stirred in the US at the time inspired millionaire entrepreneur Glenn Cur
PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A slice of Middle Eastern splendour built in Florida in the 1920s is being recovered. Opa-Locka was founded in 1926 during a construction boom. The exotic lure the Middle East stirred in the US at the time inspired millionaire entrepreneur Glenn Curtiss, who ordered a town featuring minarets and domes, and streets with names like Ali Baba and Aladdin. But while it was under construction, the real estate bubble burst. Then Mr Curtiss died in 1930. It became, instead, just another poor, crumbling US community. Of 100 buildings planned, only 70 were built and only 50 or so remain. Twenty feature on the national registry of historic buildings, including the town hall which is now being restored. The Opa-Locka Community Development Corp has spearheaded the facelift with US$2.5 million (S$3.4 million) for art projects. Public and private subsidies are supporting construction and restoration of public parks.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2015, with the headline 'New lease of life for Aladdin-style town in Florida'. Print Edition | Subscribe