By: Kara Franker
Tour Miami Beach’s Art Deco Historic District.
Miami’s Art Deco Historic District boasts colorful buildings, interesting décor elements, intricate details and a century-old history that offers a glimpse into a bygone era.
What is Art Deco architecture?
Reaching its “heyday” in the early 1920s and 1930s, Art Deco architecture is a modern take on neoclassical, one that is equally historic, retro and fabulous. Making its first debut in Paris in 1925, today, the style is marked by its characteristic bright colors, from pastel blues and pinks, to bright oranges, vibrant yellows, greens and more.
Buildings in the typical Art Deco style feature exotic flora and fauna motifs inside, along with prominent structural gems, like geometric fountains or statues. Whimsical pastel buildings are embellished with glamorous features, from porthole windows and shiny curves, to glass blocks, chrome accents and terrazzo floors.
History of Art Deco architecture in Miami Beach
The first 20th-century neighborhood to be recognized by the National Register of Historic Places, Miami Beach's Art Deco Historic District is made up of 800+ buildings and structures built between 1923 and 1943.
When decades of neglect nearly caused Miami’s Art Deco scene to be demolished, a named Barbara Baer Capitman founded the Miami Design Preservation League, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving, protecting and promoting the appearance and integrity of the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District.
It was through her hard work and perseverance that Art Deco in Miami gained national protection, motivating designers and developers to bring out the area’s Art Deco elements and restore its pastel-hued boutique hotels to their original style.
Where to see Art Deco architecture in Miami Beach
The Art Deco Historic District is located on Miami Beach between 5th Street and 23rd Street, along Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue and Washington Avenue.
Head to the intersection of 5th Street and Ocean Drive, walk north, and you’ll start to notice the area’s quaint buildings with porthole windows, curved metal rails and duplicated flags from popular ocean liners that once anchored at the Port of Miami in the 1930s. In particular, look for The Celino South Beach hotel, between 6th and 7th Street: an Art Deco gem that was once a popular hangout for Hollywood glitterati like Clark Gable, Carole Lombard and Rita Hayworth.
Nearby, the 1936 Beacon Hotel and the 1935 Colony Hotel have neon accents and giant signs that are hard to miss. And across the street, a stroll through Lummus Park promises enchanting views of the whimsical Art Deco skyline as a whole.
Continue north to 23rd Street, and you’ll notice other prominent Art Deco spots like the popular party place, the Clevelander Hotel, on Ocean Drive; Villa Casa Casaurina, the 1930s Spanish-style mansion where Gianni Versace famously lived and died; and the restored National Hotel, which boasts a two-story lobby and a 205-foot-long pool, the longest in Miami Beach.The latter is just steps away from another world-renowned Art Deco spot, the Delano South Beach, once the tallest building in Miami Beach, and today, an A-list haunt for celebrities and socialites looking to wine, dine and sunbathe.
At one of the outer edges of the Art Deco Historic District, Lincoln Road is Miami Beach’s pedestrian-only promenade and outdoor mall, and is lined by restaurants, shops, bars and more, all with Art Deco nuances on their façade.
Art Deco Welcome Center and tours
Located on Ocean Drive and 10th Street, the Art Deco Welcome Center, and office of the Miami Design Preservation League, is home to books and brochures about the area, and serves as the starting point for guided tours through Miami’s Art Deco past. It was first founded in 1976 to save the area’s then-neglected hotels from being destroyed, and today operates and a full-service Visitor Center.
In addition to the above, it offers lectures, films, exhibits and other events; has an onsite gift store and museum; and can provide information about Miami’s performing arts attractions, national parks and monuments, museums and transit information.
The Art Deco Welcome Center is open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; except for Thursdays, when it’s open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. “Official” Guided Walks depart daily at 10:30 a.m. and twice on Thursdays, at both 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. The price of the tour is $25 for adults; $20 for seniors, students and military; and free for children 12 and under. Self-guided audio tours are also available during opening hours for $15, as well as private tours, which visitors will need to schedule on their own.
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