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Miami Beach may have a reputation as a cutting-edge hot spot, but this resort city owes much of its fashionable image today to an unmistakable style of yesterday.
During the 1930s and ’40s, Miami Beach emerged as an oceanfront oasis for everyday Americans who sought the same kind of Florida vacations they had seen wealthier travelers enjoying in nearby Palm Beach. To accommodate the demand, developers built hundreds of hotels, apartment buildings and retail spaces using the predominant architecture of the day—art deco, with its trademark geometric designs, rounded corners andbright colors.
But by the late 1960s and early ’70s, art deco had fallen out of favor, and many of Miami Beach’s buildings were showing their age. In 1979, preservationists managed to have approximately 80 square blocks—encompassing about 700 buildings—added to the National Register of Historic Places, saving them from wrecking balls.
Those buildings now make up the city’s Art Deco Historic District, which lies mostly along three parallel roads (Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue and Washington Avenue) between Sixth and 23rd streets in Miami Beach’s South Beach neighborhood. Many buildings have been restored to their heyday luster, including beachfront hotels like AAA Four Diamond-rated Fontainebleau, a hangout for Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack, and AAA Three Diamond-rated Claridge Hotel, dating to 1930.
Especially emblematic is the AAA Four Diamond-rated Delano Hotel, built in 1947 and outdated by the 1980s. That’s when a group led by Ian Schrager (co-founder of New York nightclub Studio 54) purchased it with an eye on building Florida’s first “urban resort.” In 2007, the American Institute of Architects validated the investment by naming the Delano to its “America’s Favorite Architecture” list.
Today, Miami Beach—the Florida of postcards—is home to about 90,000 people and welcomes more than 13 million visitors a year. No doubt, both groups are enthralled by the opportunity to enjoy a modern taste of the past. So book your hotel with us now and save hundreds of dollars.
This first appeared in AAA Magazine 2013