Celebrating the History of the Tallest Buildings in Florida

September 3rd is National Skyscraper Day!


Happy National Skyscraper Day! Did you know the term skyscraper was first used in the 1880s?  This was for buildings over 10 stories in height. Today in order to be a skyscraper, a building must have at least 40 stories!

Florida has a rich history of skyscrapers, with the tallest building in Florida changing hands multiple times. For comparison, the tallest building in 1896 was 82 feet, and today the tallest building in the state stands at 868 feet!

Celebrate by visiting the tallest buildings in Florida, either past or present, and learn more about their historic background!


1896 – 1902 – Florida Brewing Company, Tampa


Photo of Florida Brewing Company in Tampa Florida
Florida Brewing Company – Source: https://floridabeerblog.wordpress.com/tag/florida-craft-beer/

First on our list is the Florida Brewing Company! Originally known as Ybor City Brewing Company, the Florida Brewing Company was the first brewery in the state of Florida. It was the tallest building in the state from 1896 – 1902 at 82 feet. Eventually, the brewery closed due to competition in the area. However, it then became a storage place for fresh tobacco in the 1960s. It was later a bomb shelter during the Cold War and eventually was abandoned. In 1999, a law firm bought and repaired the building. You can still see it in Tampa today!


1902 – 1909 – Dyal-Upchurch Building, Jacksonville


Photo of the Dyal-Upchurch Building in Jacksonville Florida
Dyal-Upchurch Building – Source: https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/39209

After Jacksonville’s Great Fire of 1901, the Dyal-Upchurch Building was the first building with multiple floors built in the city. Owners Frank Upchurch and Benjamin Dyal built the building for their investment company. Other renters included the Atlantic National Bank and the National Weather Service. In 1980, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places and it is currently owned by Duda & Sons of Oviedo.


1909 – 1910 – 121 Atlantic Place, Jacksonville


Photo of Atlantic National Bank Building Jacksonville
Atlantic National Bank Building – Source: https://digitalcommons.unf.edu/flapostcards/17/

When the Atlantic Nation Bank left the previous tallest building in Florida, they made their own office. Their new home became the tallest building in Florida in 1909. The building was built in a three-way race to become Jacksonville’s first skyscraper. They were able to hold the title for a year! Today, the name has changed to 121 Atlantic Place and remains an office building in downtown Jacksonville.


1910 – 1912 – Seville Tower, Pensacola


Photo of Seville Tower in Pensacola Florida
Seville Tower – Source: https://www.pensapedia.com/wiki/Seville_Tower

Architect J.E.R. Carpenter designed the Seville Tower, also known as the America National Bank Building in 1910 for $250,000. It was the tallest building in Florida for two years. Interestingly enough, it was also the location of the very first telephone exchange in Florida! In 1978, The U.S. National Register of Historic Places added the Seville Tower. Today, the Seville Tower still stands in Pensacola as an office building.


1912 – 1913 – Florida Life Building, Jacksonville


Photo of Florida Life Building in Jacksonville, part of the Laura Street Trio
Florida Life Building, Laura Street Trio – Source: https://www.abandonedfl.com/laura-street-trio/

The Florida Life Building in Jacksonville is part of three historic buildings known as the Laura Street Trio. This group also includes the Bisbee Building and the Old Florida National Bank. The building was first the home of the Florida Life Insurance Company before they went out of business. In the 2000s, the Laura Street Trio was recognized as historically important. The buildings passed through many hands over the years for repairs. Currently, the trio is under construction to become a boutique Courtyard Marriott hotel.


1913 – 1925 – Heard National Bank Building, Jacksonville


Photo of the Heard National Bank Building in Jacksonville Florida
Heard National Bank Building – Source: https://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2011-nov-the-great-skyscraper-extortion-scheme-of-1911

Ten years after the Great Fire of 1901, Jacksonville had become a large city, with a population increase of 103%. Eventually, John Joseph Heard decided to move to Jacksonville and invest in the city. In 1911 he announced his plans to build a skyscraper that would house his bank. He even paid one million dollars to build it! Heard’s bank closed in 1917, but his building was still the tallest building in Florida until 1925. Unfortunately, the building was torn down in 1981. However, you can still see one of the tall columns on Water Street in downtown Jacksonville.


1925 – 1926 – Freedom Tower, Miami


Photo of Freedom Tower in Miami Florida
Freedom Tower – Source: https://www.miamiandbeaches.com/things-to-do/arts-culture/museums/freedom-tower

The Freedom Tower in Miami was first the main office for The Miami News. Architects Schultze and Weaver designed the building in a Mediterranean Revival Style. In the 1960s, the building was used to document refugees from Cuba and give them medical services. This led to the building being designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2008. Miami Dade College uses the building as an art museum and office today!


1926 – 1928 – Coral Gables Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables


Photo of Miami Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables Florida
Miami Biltmore Hotel – Source: https://www.biltmorehotel.com/resort

Inspired by a medieval tower in Spain, architects Schultze and Weaver designed the Coral Gables Hotel. At the time it had the largest pool in the world! George Merrick and hotel tycoon John McEntee Bowman built “a great hotel…which would not only serve as a hostelry to the crowds which were thronging to Coral Gables but also would serve as a center of sports and fashion.” Unfortunately, the building stood abandoned for many years but became a hotel again in 1987. You can still stay in it today!


1928 – 1966 – Miami-Dade County Courthouse, Miami


Photo of Miami-Dade Courthouse in Miami Florida
Miami-Dade County Courthouse – Source: https://www.jud11.flcourts.org/About-the-Court/Courthouse-Locations/Dade-County-Courthouse

Before long, a new building became the tallest in the state of Florida. The Miami-Dade County Courthouse cost $4 million to build in 1928 and first contained the Miami City Hall as well. The top nine floors were jail cells since the height of the building was considered escape-proof. However, more than 70 prisoners escaped from the “secure” cells. Later on, the U.S. National Register of Historic Places added it to their list in 1989. What’s more, it remained the tallest building in Florida for nearly 40 years! Today, the building is the main civil courthouse of Miami-Dade.


1966 – 1974 – Vehicle Assembly Building, Meritt Island


Photo of the Vehicle Assembly Building in Merritt Island Florida
Vehicle Assembly Building – Source: https://www.nasa.gov/content/vehicle-assembly-building

Next on the list of the tallest buildings in Florida will look familiar to most of us! NASA’s famous Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) was the tallest building in Florida from 1966 until 1974! Today it is still the largest one-story building in the world. Located on Florida’s Space Coast, it was designed to build large space vehicle pieces! This includes rockets like the Saturn V and also the Space Shuttle. The building is also the tallest building in the United States outside of a city.


1974 – 1981 – Wells Fargo Center, Jacksonville


Photo of Independent Life Building in Jacksonville
Independent Life Building – Source: https://vintagejacksonville.net/2018/03/22/the-new-independent-life-building-1955/

The Independent Life and Accident Insurance Company built this tower in 1974, first known as the Independent Life Building. Later on, the company moved operations to Nashville in 1995. The building went through many hands until Wells Fargo bought the location in 2011. Today, the building is still the location of Wells Fargo and is the second tallest building in Jacksonville.


1981 – 1984 – One Tampa City Center, Tampa


Photo of One Tampa City Center
One Tampa City Center – Source: http://www.tampacitycenter.com/

Standing at 39 stories tall and 537 feet, One Tampa City Center was the tallest building in Florida for three years. This building, the second-ever skyscraper built in Tampa first went by a different name – the GTE Building. In 1991, the building was the first in Florida to start a building-wide recycling system! You can visit the building today as well as many of the businesses that call the City Center their home.


1984 – 2003 Southeast Financial Center, Miami


Photo of Southeast Financial Center in Miami Florida
Southeast Financial Center – Source: https://www.hines.com/properties/southeast-financial-center-miami

The Southeast Financial Center in Miami was the tallest building south of New York City and east of the Mississippi River when it opened in 1984. It was first built to be the home of Southeast Bank until it went out of business in 1991. The building can be seen as far away as Fort Lauderdale! You can even watch night space shuttle launches from the top floors of the building. The building was in the Wesley Snipes movie Drop Zone and in episodes of Miami Vice. In 2016 the owner of Zara, Amancio Ortega, purchased the building for over $500 million! Consequently, this made it one of the largest real estate deals in South Florida.


2003 – 2017 – Four Seasons Hotel, Miami


Photo of Four Seasons Hotel in Miami Florida
Four Seasons Hotel and Tower – Source: https://www.bermelloajamil.com/portfolio/four-seasons/

The Four Seasons Hotel in Miami was the tallest building in Florida, standing at 781 feet, until quite recently in 2017. It remains the second tallest building in Florida and the city of Miami. Not only does the building contain a Four Seasons hotel, but it also has office spaces and 186 luxury condos on the top floors. With a total floor area of 1.8 million square feet, the building also contains three lobbies!


2017 – Present – Panorama Tower, Miami


Photo of Panorama Hotel in Miami Florida
Panorama Tower – Source: https://www.panoramatower.com

Last, but not least, Miami and Florida’s current tallest building is the 868-foot tall Panorama Tower. The building includes 85 stories of apartments, hotel, retail, and office space. If you want to call the tallest building in Florida home, you can expect some amazing perks! Amenities include ocean-view pools, poolside cafes and bars, yoga studios, saunas, private movie theaters, a pet spa, barbershop, and also a post office. And of course, a 208 room Hyatt hotel!


Since so many of the tallest buildings in Florida call Miami home, make it a day trip with our favorite things to do in Miami!

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