Art deco is alive and well in Miami. The art movement, which began in France in the 1920s, thrived in the United States until the 1940s, when Miami was booming. Art deco combined the hyper-modernism of the early 20th century with technology and craft motifs. Representing glamour and luxury, it was the signature style of many burgeoning film stars and rising industrialists. Well-preserved even today, Florida’s most famous city boasts 800 significant buildings from the period. Let’s take a look at a few of the most notable ones.
Search for Miami beach hotels on Venere.com in the Art Deco District and you may find yourself checking into a grand structure like the Park Central on Miami’s South Beach. Designed by Miami’s art deco star Henry Hohauser and built in 1937, this “Blue Jewel” located on Ocean Drive was restored in 1987. When it opened, it was a magnet for Hollywood glitterati of the time, such as Clark Gable and Rita Hayworth. Nearby, you can find the Beacon Hotel, built in 1936, and the Colony Hotel, built in 1939. The Beacon’s signature blue-neon lighting and long history of being a luxurious and artistic place to stay are worth a look. Meanwhile, the Colony is another photogenic architectural marvel, steps from the beach.
Also on Ocean Drive, Lummus Park and the surrounding buildings form the Lummus Park Historic District. This neighborhood includes many art deco buildings and two pioneer buildings as well. Lummus Park itself offers a great place to view the city skyline, especially at dusk when the art deco hotels turn on their neon signs. Bring your camera, and listen to the street musicians who often play in the park. In daylight hours, explore between the boundaries of NW 4th Street to NW 3rd Court, taking note of the quaint residential buildings, which were mostly constructed before the mid-1920s. The Scottish Rite Temple, built in 1924, is one of the most photographed buildings here.
Art Deco Welcome Center
Keep heading north on Ocean Drive from Lummus Park and you’ll find the Art Deco Welcome Center. It’s housed in the same building as the Miami Design Preservation League. You can take a tour of the center and surrounding region. You don’t have to go with a group to find information here though; you can rent a self-guided audio walking tour instead. If the art deco tour doesn’t quench your thirst for knowledge about the area’s architecture, the center also conducts tours on Mediterranean Revival and Miami Modernist–style buildings (also known as “Mimo”).
It’s now known as the Villa by Barton G., but locals still remember it as the Casa Casuarina. Built in 1930, the Casa Casuarina was created by architect Alden Freeman and inspired by the house where Christopher Columbus’ family lived in Santo Domingo. Its 24-karat gold-lined pool and hand-painted frescos should make it famous enough, but tragically the house is best known as the former residence of fashion mogul Gianni Versace. Versace bought it in the 1990s and spent more than $30 million restoring it before he was shot on its steps in 1997 by Andrew Cunanan.
Located between 12th and 13th streets, the 12-story Tides Hotel was designed in 1936 by L. Murray Dixon. As you can expect from the name, the Tides Hotel has sea views from its luxury suites. A prolific designer, Dixon also created the Temple House, the Victor and Raleigh Hotels, the Marlin, the Senator and the Ritz Plaza Hotel. Dixon’s style is known for windows with “eyebrows,” towers and neon elements. As with other art deco designers in Florida, Dixon incorporated pastel tropical colors into his buildings’ design. These pastels are one of the features that set Miami’s art deco buildings apart from European buildings in the same style and even from other American art deco structures.
Image by Terence Faircloth From Flickr’s Creative Commons
About the Author: Louise Vinciguerra is a fantastic joke teller, has a million and one hobbies, and enjoys matching her fonts with her moods. This Brooklyn native dirties her hands in content on weekdays and as a devout nature lover, dirties them in soil on the weekends. When she’s not on Facebook, WordPress or Twitter, she’s traveling in search of fun food, dabbling in urban farming or planning nature trips from her resident city of Rome. When she’s not doing any of the above, she sleeps.