The Ten Best Art Deco Buildings in Miami Beach
1450 Collins Ave., Henry Hohauser
Another one of Hohauser's classically enduring designs, the 1939 building currently occupied by Jerry's Famous Deli sports a streamlined or nautical style of Art Deco, with a curving frontage and six decorative porthole-esque shapes atop the fascia. When it was originally constructed, the building housed Hoffman's Cafeteria, and after that it would bear a number of other names, like the "China Club" and "Ovo," before it became the immensely popular Warsaw Ballroom. It would remain one of Miami Beach's most famed gay bars until 2002, when it came full circle and transformed back into an eatery with Jerry's.
1040 Lincoln Road, R.A. Benjamin
The Colony Theatre, completed in 1935 and commissioned by Paramount for its expanding theater chain, has evolved into a full-blown 430-seat performing arts center that is as much sought after for its prime location on the corner of Lenox Avenue and Lincoln Road as for its beautiful Art Deco trappings. The theater's Deco merits are not only found outside among its perfectly maintained marquee and facade, but also from the restored ticket box and the entryway decorated with bold lines and geometric patterns in the pristine terrazzo flooring.
940 Ocean Dr., Anton Skislewicz
Skislewicz's 1936 resort hotel bears many of the stylistic qualities of Art Deco design - the strong line, the emphasis on symmetry, etc - but it also exhibits an aspect of this architectural mold that is just as emblematic as far as the image of South Beach is concerned: copious amounts of neon. At night, the Breakwater's towering central facade that bears up its name lights up like a radioactive sword of blue and orange and white, a sight that can be seen from nearly anywhere in Lummus Park.
5. Cadillac Hotel
3925 Collins Ave., Roy France
Standing slightly beyond the confines of South Beach, the Cadillac Hotel, erected in 1940, is the second tallest building on this list and the only one that can claim to have been designed to look like a car, from the grey finial peak that resembles chrome center trim leading up to a glimmering hood ornament, to the cantilevered portico over the driveway that looks something like a hood itself. The design is stark and distinctly less flamboyant than many other Art Deco buildings, but the Cadillac remains an arrestingly attractive building and a fine place to reminisce on the days when Jackie Gleason and the Rat Pack were still running around the Beach, reveling in the magic of this town when it was still nascent and new.
4. The McAlpin
1424 Ocean Dr., L. Murray Dixon
Dixon, one of the great minds that designed so much of the Art Deco district we know today, contributed this 1940 design to the South Beach landscape. Today, it is one of the most widely photographed buildings in South Beach, and with good reason. The McAlpin is arguably the purest distillation of Miami's Art Deco style on this list, with its perfectly symmetrical design, the wonderfully Miami pastel hues of pink and turquoise, the patterns of lines that stretch the length and breadth the building's facade, not to mention the face formed in the center of the building by three windows and some of the dividing lines. It is an exceptionally pretty little building.
3. The Plymouth
336 21st St., Anton Skislewicz
Skislewicz's second appearance on this list earns him a spot in the top three with a design from 1940 that is decidedly more modern and cutting edge than the Breakwater or any other preceding artifice. The narrow slit windows give the building a futuristic and mysterious ambiance, while the massive blade of concrete that cuts through the center of the rounded facade pronounces the Plymouth's presence as it towers over the street corner. It's a building that would raise eyebrows if it were proposed today, much less what it must have 70 years ago, making it an even more precious gem from this fascinating period of building.
2. The Delano
1685 Collins Ave., Robert Swartburg
This choice may not sit particularly well amongst purists, who might argue that this 1947 building meanders into the Miami Modern style as much as it dabbles in Deco. Fortunately, they aren't writing this article -- I am. And I love this building. The bevelled brilliant white frontage has the amazing quality of looking variably beautiful from different angles and the unmistakable finned Delano finial that crowns the building is both unostentatious and grand. The rooftop lounge area offers a wonderfully refreshing perspective that's far from the flatland ground-level view that's so easy to become accustomed to when looking around South Beach. This is one of the places where the sheer coolness of old school Miami Beach continues to live and breathe.
1. Bass Museum
2100 Collins Ave., Russel Pancoast
The finest example of sublime Art Deco architecture in Miami is also the oldest building on this list. Originally built in 1930 as the Miami Beach Public Library and Arts Center, Pancoast's design has a regal air to it, in its width and the visual strength of the wings on either side of the steps. The Museum also has a one of a kind skin, as the building is covered in fossilized paleolithic coral that adds texture and a naturally aging hue to the structure. Perhaps most engrossing are the bas reliefs above the main entrance facing Collins Avenue that depict everything from glorious pelicans to the conquest of Florida by the Spanish. It stands apart as a gorgeous building that lacks neither subtlety nor gravitas, that has stood for 83 years as a keystone of Miami Beach architecture.Previous Page
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