Florida’s South Beach is Art Deco Heaven

Cardozo Hotel on Ocean Drive

My husband and I spent two nights in Miami’s South Beach last week before going on a Cayamo songwriters’ cruise in the Caribbean. I hadn’t been to Miami for at least 30 years, and what a difference three decades makes. Most impressive is the preservation of the Art Deco District. Thanks to Barbara Capitman and the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL), a one-square mile area that includes 1,200 Art Deco buildings was saved from the wrecking ball in 1976. It is the first 20th Century art district in the world and in 1979 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

David Sochet, Art Deco Guide

We signed up for a walking tour with the MDPL and found it to be a fun and fascinating trip back in time. Our guide David Sochet, a native Miamian who is an events planner, provided entertaining and fact-filled commentary as we walked along Ocean Drive (called “Deco Drive” and formerly “God’s Waiting Room”) and other South Beach streets.

South Beach, long called the “St. Tropez of the Atlantic,” was booming from 1913-1926. Today it is home to Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival and MiMo (Miami Modern) architecture. Around 50,000 people live in the district. Some of the tour’s highlights included:

  • Congress Hotel, 1936, architect Henry Hohauser
  • Versace Mansion, 1930, architect Alden Freeman. The famous designer was murdered on the front steps in 1997. Now a private club
  • Hotel Victor, 1937, now a Hyatt boutique hotel. Has a full spa in the basement, day passes available (co-ed sauna, no clothing)
  • Cardozo Hotel, 1938, scenes from movies “A Hole in the Head” (1959) and “There’s Something About Mary” (1998) filmed here. Gloria and Emilio Estefan, owners
  • Jerry’s Deli, 1940, architect Henry Hohauser. Formerly the Warsaw Ballroom, now open 24 hours if you need a reuben at 3 AM

The Former Warsaw Ballroom and Hoffmans Cafeteria
Photos by Sue Frause

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