The Five Architects Who Shaped Miami

The Essex House, circa 1939EXPAND
The Essex House, circa 1939
Courtesy of HistoryMiami

The Magic City is relatively young compared to other world-class metropolises around the globe, but it definitely wasn't built in a day. The earliest pioneers — such as Mary Brickell, Henry Flagler, and Carl Fisher — began by carving areas out of mangroves and murky swamp. Their efforts ushered in railroads and roadways that make Miami a desirable place for sunshine-loving tourists. And because vacationers need a place to crash, the nation's most innovative architects lent their talents to get the job done.

Boasting landmarks such as the iconic art deco buildings of Miami Beach and the Miami-modern façades of the MiMo District (which is having a renaissance), the Big Orange draws plenty of architecture-loving history buffs. Plus, the city's warm shores lure even high-profile designers, or "starchitects," who get excited to cash in on building projects or simply make their mark.

But a discussion about Miami's most emblematic structures is incomplete without paying tribute to the draftsmen who started it all. Creating everything from waterfront palaces to Mediterranean towers that have become symbols of freedom, these five architects helped shape the Magic City. 

East side of Villa Vizcaya, circa 1919.
East side of Villa Vizcaya, circa 1919.
Courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

5. Francis Burrall Hoffman and Paul Chalfin: A Mediterranean Palace in a New Frontier
Millionaire tycoon James Deering suffered from anemia and longed for relief. The humid climate of a newly established city seemed like the antidote. Along with Paul Chalfin — Deering's primary collaborator, who was well-versed as a painter, curator, and art historian — he began the construction of Villa Vizcaya on 180 acres of mangroves in 1914. Chalfin enlisted the aid of Francis Burrall Hoffman, who was better trained in engineering and architecture, to carry out Deering's vision. A stunning, Italian-inspired palace with ornate baroque flourishes overlooking splendidly lush grounds was soon a reality. Today, Vizcaya remains one of Miami's most recognizable historic landmarks – and one of its grandest.

The Essex House, circa 1939EXPAND
The Essex House, circa 1939
Courtesy of HistoryMiami

4. Henry Hohauser and L. Murray Dixon: A Race to Build Miami Beach Art Deco
In the 1930s, Miami Beach was booming with bootleggers capitalizing on the city's proximity to the Caribbean for their rumrunning operations. Construction of hotels in which to party and hide cash was in full swing. Two architects dominated the scene, introducing a modern style that was all the rage at art fairs and design shows in Europe. While both earned their stripes studying and working in New York, L. Murray Dixon and Henry Hohauser made their lasting impact in Miami. The pair is credited with the majority of South Beach's now-iconic hotels, including the Tides, the Temple House, the Marlin, the Raleigh, and the Essex House.



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