Art Deco Walk in the South Beach District of Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Logo of the Art Deco Museum (presented by the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL)), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Logo of the Art Deco Museum (presented by the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL)), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

One of the wonderful things our community at sea does is to bring aboard world experts who can lecture and/or lead tours, explorations, and expeditions as we circumnavigate the globe every two years.  Before sailing into Miami Beach we had a terrific illustrated slide lecture on the founding of Miami and the development of the city by Professor John Stuart of FIU (Florida International University), who is also a practicing architect. [The first land in Miami Beach was purchased in 1870; the city was chartered in 1915 and became a city in 1917, largely through the leadership of John Collins and his wife.  Development was rapid until the hurricane of 1926, with building and tourism picking up again in the mid-1930s.  Investors then constructed the mostly small-scale, stucco hotels and rooming houses, for seasonal rental, that comprise much of the present Art Deco historic district.] 

The focus of the lecture was on the Art Deco architecture which thrived there in the 1930s and early 1940s in what is now known as South Beach.  After we docked in Miami, we joined Professor Stuart on a bus ride to South Beach where we had a guided tour of the Art Deco district and then a guided tour of the Art Deco artifacts at The Wolfsonian (museum), detailed in our upcoming blog. 

South Beach has one of the world’s most concentrated collections of Art Deco buildings, many of which have been preserved and refurbished on the interior (landmark status — which many of the buildings have —  precludes any changes to buildings’ exteriors).

Essex House Hotel (1938), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Essex House Hotel (1938), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

The Essex House Hotel is a 1938 Streamline Moderne gem by Henry Hohauser and features a tour-de-force of Deco in the well-maintained lobby, featuring a cinematic mural by a self-taught artist.

Congress Hotel (one of five art deco buildings), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Congress Hotel (one of five art deco buildings), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Our guide, John Stuart, is Associate Dean for Cultural and Community Engagement, Director of Miami Beach Urban Studios, and Professor at Florida International University.  His most recent book, The New Deal in South Florida: Design, Policy and Community Building, 1933–1940 (Gainesville: The University Press of Florida, 2008) was co-edited with political scientist and FIU professor John Stack.

Leslie Hotel (1937), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Leslie Hotel (1937), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Professor Stuart also serves on the planning commission for Miami Beach and is intimately familiar with the renovation projects that have taken place and are in the planning stages for the area.  All-in-all, a terrific walk through architectural history with Miami’s most knowledgeable architect about the area  — educational and fun.

Exterior balconies of private residence, South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Exterior balconies of private residence, South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

United States Post Office (designed by Howard L. Cheney in 1937), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

United States Post Office (designed by Howard L. Cheney in 1937), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

South Beach’s Post Office, designed by Howard L. Cheney in 1937, reflects the austere, classically inspired institutional architecture popular in Europe in the late 1930s. 

United States Post Office lobby ceiling, South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

United States Post Office lobby ceiling, South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

The highlight of the interior is the mural by Charles Hardman depicting the meeting of the Spanish Conquistadors and the Native Americans, the two groups in battle, and the signing of a nominal treaty between the Native Americans and the U.S.

United States Post Office lobby interior featuring an historical mural and individual post office boxes, South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

United States Post Office lobby interior featuring an historical mural and individual post office boxes, South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

An early highrise, South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

An early highrise, South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

The Taft Hotel is an Art Deco building designed by Henry Hohauser. It is located in Miami’s Art Deco District and is noted for its geometrical design. The Taft Hotel has the characteristic Art Deco tripartite symmetry, as well as abstract zigzag and curvilinear designs on the facade.

Taft Hotel (1936), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Taft Hotel (1936), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

 

2 thoughts on “Art Deco Walk in the South Beach District of Miami Beach, Florida, USA

    • Thanks for the “comment”; they are much appreciated! Stay tuned for the Wolfsonian Art Deco collection, coming up. We were surprised at how well everything is being preserved in Miami — certainly different from many communities and countries where the past is knocked down to make way for the present.

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