Curiosities

Miami: The Best of Art Deco Architecture

Miami is the kind of city not many people visit for its architecture, unless you aren’t the average traveler. In that case you’ll be amazed by its colorful Art Deco buildings from the very first minute you step on Ocean Drive.  This kind of architecture reminds us of better times in Cuba, when ladies wore white dresses with red lipstick and men smoked cigars on the outdoor terraces of the cafés. Much has happened since then but Miami keeps this amazing atmosphere provided by these historical buildings which are still standing.

Have you visited these buildings? Which was your favorite? These are some shots of my last visit.

If you visit Miami soon, make sure you don’t miss any of these jewels of Art Deco Architecture.


Virginia Duran Blog- Miami- The Best Art Deco Architecture- Park Central Hotel by Henry Hohauser
Name
: Park Central Hotel
Location: 640 Ocean Drive
Architect: Henry Hohauser
Year: 1937
Brief Description: Known as “The Blue Jewel” of Ocean Drive, this pastel-hued classic is the famed street’s tallest Art Deco hotel, and its grand lobby once welcomed celebrities such as Clark Gable, Carole Lombard and Rita Hayworth. The Park Central has elaborate decorative motifs: an inset porch, porthole windows above the entrance, echoed by circular motifs at the top, a tripartite front with vertical fluting, abstract designs in the spandrels of the central bay, and a sleek stainless steel sign. Read more.


Virginia Duran Blog- Miami- The Best Art Deco Architecture- The Colony Hotel by H Hohauser
Name
: The Colony Hotel
Location: 736 Ocean Drive
Architect: Henry Hohauser
Year: 1935
Brief Description: The Colony Hotel is one of the best known hotels in the street. There are several series of thin horizontal bands either side of the sign and short vertical bars along the central part of the roofline with a zig-zag pattern on both sides. At night the character of the whole area changes when the neon is lit. Read more.


Virginia Duran Blog- Miami- The Best Art Deco Architecture- Waldorf Towers Hotel by Albert Anis
Name
: Waldorf Towers Hotel
Location: 860 Ocean Drive
Architect: Albert Anis
Year: 1937
Brief Description: With its round corner, this hotel is one of the most distinctive. In December 2001 it completed a comprehensive multi-million dollar renovation which prevented it from its demolition (which is a destiny many other hotels are facing). Sometimes hotels with nautical motifs, like the lighthouse tower here, are defined as Miami Beach Tropical Deco. The porch is more classical but is hidden by the umbrellas. Read more.


Virginia Duran Blog- Miami- The Best Art Deco Architecture- Breakwater Hotel by Anton Skislewicz
Name
: Breakwater Hotel
Location: 940 Ocean Drive
Architect: Anton Skislewicz
Year: 1936
Brief Description: WWI pilot Anton Skislewicz designed two of the District’s most iconic buildings, the Plymouth and Breakwater Hotels. The Breakwater Hotel shows the use of clean lines, symmetry and ziggurat (zig zag) shapes that typify art deco. Bright colours weren’t used when the buildings were built in the 1930s, but in the 1980s they were repainted. Read more.


Virginia Duran Blog- Miami- The Best Art Deco Architecture- Edison Hotel by Henry Hohauser
Name
: Edison Hotel
Location: 960 Ocean Drive
Architect: Henry Hohauser
Year: 1935
Brief Description: The Mediterranean-style hotel temporarily served as a training headquarters for World War II soldiers. The urge to recreate medieval Spain was popularized in the 1920′s and persisted into the 1930′s. Carrying out this Hispanic myth, Hohauser dressed up this concrete facade with Romanesque motifs, such as the twisted columnettes. Read more.


Virginia Duran Blog- Miami- The Best Art Deco Architecture- Essex House Hotel by Henry Hohauser
Name
: Essex House Hotel
Location: 1001 Collins Avenue
Architect: Henry Hohauser
Year: 1938
Brief Description: The Essex, like the Tiffany, wraps around the corner of the avenue and is prominently announced by a finial which bears its name. This hotel has all the deco elements. Porthole windows along the top storey. Eyebrows proving shade for the windows on the lower storeys. A rounded corner with the hotel name in neon. Read more.


Virginia Duran Blog- Miami- The Best Art Deco Architecture- Victor Hotel by L. Murray Dixon, renovation by Perkins + Will
Name
: Victor Hotel
Location: 1144 Ocean Drive
Architect: L. Murray Dixon
Year: 1936
Brief Description: Much of the building’s original 1936 architecture still remains, but in 2003 it got a huge renovation by Perkins + Will. Interior design by Jacque Garcia. Despite its height, a horizontal emphasis is provided by the extended window ledges. Aside from a decorative feature, these ledges act as an awning. Read more.


Virginia Duran Blog- Miami- The Best Art Deco Architecture- Leslie Hotel by Albert Anis
Name
: Leslie Hotel
Location: 1244 Ocean Drive
Architect: Albert Anis
Year: 1937
Brief Description: I loved this hotel because I already knew it from The Ace Ventura movie, which opens with Ace walking northbound from this hotel. It has the tripartite facade so common in Art Deco buildings with extended vertical fluting and bowed windows as decorative devices on the central bay. Read more.


Virginia Duran Blog- Miami- The Best Art Deco Architecture- The Carlyle Hotel by Richard Kiehnel and John Elliot
Name
: The Carlyle Hotel
Location: 1250 Ocean Drive
Architect: Richard Kiehnel and John Elliot
Year: 1939
Brief Description: Art Deco curves abound in this stylish hotel, which was featured in the film “The Birdcage”. The canopy here for the front porch is also the base for the upper stories, which is supported by delicate fluted columns. The decoration at the top is filigreed masonry. Read more.


Virginia Duran Blog- Miami- The Best Art Deco Architecture- Cardozo Hotel-
Name
: Cardozo Hotel
Location: 1300 Ocean Drive
Architect: Henry Hohauser
Year: 1939
Brief Description: Like the Carlyle Hotel across 13th Street, the Cardozo Hotel is also curvilinear. Although there is a strong sense of horizontality, accented by the bands of eyebrows and modified string courses, both the side and front facades have emphatic central bays as well. Read more.


Virginia Duran Blog- Miami- The Best Art Deco Architecture- Winter Haven Hotel by Albert Anis
Name
: Winter Haven Hotel
Location: 1400 Ocean Drive
Architect: Albert Anis
Year: 1939
Brief Description: Unlike many of the Art Deco hotels, this one is taller. Still it has the typical tripartite front and extended eyebrows around the corners. Although its façade went through intensive restoration in 2008, it looks very much the same. Oh, don’t miss the grand cruise ship inspired staircase and the floors of ubiquitous terrazzo. Read more.


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Name
: Crescent Hotel
Location: 1420 Ocean Drive
Architect: Henry Hohauser
Year: 1938
Brief Description: Unlike most Art Deco facades, this one is asymmetrical, although one could still see it as a three-part facade. Like some Art Deco structures, though, it has relief decoration. Located just beside another jewel, Mc Alpin Hotel.  Read more.


Virginia Duran Blog- Miami- The Best Art Deco Architecture-Mc Alpin Hotel by L. Murray Dixon
Name
: Mc Alpin Hotel
Location: 1424 Ocean Drive
Architect: L. Murray Dixon
Year: 1940
Brief Description:  This hotel, created two years after the Crescent Hotel, relates to its sister next door. Both are about the same height with roof lines that seem continuous and even windows and eyebrows are the same height. Unlike the Crescent Hotel, the McAlpin, has the standard Art Deco tripartite facade. Read more.


Virginia Duran Blog- Miami- The Best Art Deco Architecture- US Post Office
Name
: US Post Office
Location: 1300 Washington Ave
Architect: Howard Lovewell Cheney
Year: 1937
Brief Description:  This building was manufactured in a “stripped classic” design, in a style known as Depression Moderne.  By 1977, it had seen better days, and the MDPL petitioned the federal government to refurbish it.  That they did, and what we have today is perhaps one of the most striking of its kind. Inside, muralist Charles Hardman, with funding from the WPA, created an elaborate painting of Ponce de Leon’s invasion of Florida. Read more.


Virginia Duran Blog- Miami- The Best Art Deco Architecture- Old City Hall by Martin Luther Hampton
Name
: Old City Hall
Location: 1130 Washington Ave
Architect: Martin Luther Hampton
Year: 1927
Brief Description: A symbol of the city’s resurrection after the disastrous Hurricane of 1926, the 9-story city hall tower included a fire station in the north wing. Disused when City Hall moved to City Center in 1975, it regained civic importance as an element of the Miami Beach Police and Court Facility complex, serving as the home of the Miami Beach branch of the county court system. Read more.


Virginia Duran Blog- Miami- The Best Art Deco Architecture-11th St. Diner
Name
:11th St. Diner
Location: 1065 Washington Avenue
Architect: –
Year: 1948
Brief Description: An original Art Deco diner built in 1948 by Paramount Dining Car Company of Haledon, New Jersey and transported to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and opened the same year. Although this diner was moved to Miami Beach, its Art Deco style is compatible with the indigenous buildings. Read more.


Virginia Duran Blog- Miami- The Best Art Deco Architecture-Wolfsonian-FIU by Robertson and Patterson
Name
: Wolfsonian Museum (originally the Washington Storage Company)
Location: 1001 Washington Ave
Architect: Mark Hampton
Year: 1926
Brief Description:  Originally designed as a storage facility, the current Wolfsonian Museum building stands today very much as it did in the 1920′s, a large block building with marginal fenestration. The decoration is in the best spirit of the Spanish Baroque Revival. Above and around the doorway is a nice example of cast stucco work in a Neo-Churrigueresque style. Read more.


For more amazing buildings check the map below or download my Free Architecture Guide of Miami.

38 thoughts on “Miami: The Best of Art Deco Architecture

  1. You know your stuff Virginia. My favourite from your post is The Essex House Hotel. I have to admit I didn’t really look at the architecture of Miami while i was there in 1990 but as you have pointed out there are some stunning buildings there.

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    • Thanks for your kind words Mark! The Essex House is the most simple of all, is that’s why it is your favourite? I think a little bit of color makes these buildings look better, like the Breakwater Hotel with its blue and yellow colors. However, I’ll admit that the Mc Alpin Hotel and the one beside it have too much “Barbie color” on them, and I don’t quite like those!

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  2. I like the Carlye and the Park Central Hotel the most. As always, Virginia, you’ve done your research well. My wife has family near Miami that we would like to visit. But now I know something for sure I’d like to see: Ocean Drive.

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    • I also like the Park Central Hotel a lot. I wonder if they’ve painted some of the buildings again. Every time I return to Miami there’s more color, and this is one thing I really like. So you’ve got the perfect excuse to visit😉 Oh, and although this post is only about architecture, some of these hotels offer the best cocktails on Miami beach (fun fact :D). Anyways, don’t visit Miami in summer…

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      • I’ve never been to Miami. I would love to go. My wife visited once and loved it, especially the food. She was also there in February, escaping from Michigan to a conference. Summers in Florida sound like summers in Shanghai; very hot and humid. Though sipping a cold drink in the shade, might make that heat more palatable.

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  3. Pingback: 23 Spots You Shouldn’t Miss in Miami If You Love Architecture | Virginia Duran

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  5. Pingback: The Free Architecture Guide of Miami | Virginia Duran

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