Miami's Art Deco Architecture Tour, Miami

Miami's Art Deco Architecture Tour (Self Guided), Miami

The South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach, Florida has long been associated with Art Deco architecture, distinguished for its eye-catching bright pastels. Pops of color combined with the style’s notable geometric lines, sleek curves, chrome accents, window “eyebrows” and fountains abound in the area, but even more so in the historic Miami Beach Architectural District.

More popularly known as Miami Art Deco District, this part of town holds the largest collection of historical Art Deco buildings in the world (numbered in 960), constructed predominantly between the Great Depression and the early 1940s, and covering a range of styles, such as “Streamline”, “Tropical” and “Med-deco”. Nearly a century on, the aesthetics of the 1920s and 1930s are still just as vibrant and easy to spot in Miami Beach, making it one of the most distinctive cityscapes in the United States.

As you stroll the streets of the neighborhood, you can't help marveling at the prominent Art Deco buildings, such as the Clevelander South Beach, presently well known for its party vibe and DJs by the pool, and the stunning Villa Casa Casuarin, formerly known as the Versace Mansion (home of Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace), but now a stately hotel with 10 guest suites.

Further down Ocean Drive you are greeted with a variety of more boutique hotels like The Tides, The Cardozo, The Carlyle, all reflecting the influences of Art Deco.

Two of the most prolific Art Deco-era architects, Henry Hohauser and L. Murray Dixon, left their distinctive marks in the area. At Hohauser's Essex House Hotel you can look up to admire its neon-lit spire and curved “eyebrow” windows. L. Murray Dixon’s works include the Hotel of South Beach, the Marlin Hotel and others.

If you want to learn more about Art Deco style and its role in Miami’s history in a fun way and explore the astounding historical structures, you can do so on the self-guided walking tour offered by GPSmyCity.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Miami's Art Deco Architecture Tour Map

Guide Name: Miami's Art Deco Architecture Tour
Guide Location: USA » Miami (See other walking tours in Miami)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 15
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Author: stacey
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Art Deco Welcome Center
  • Clevelander Hotel
  • Versace Mansion - The Villa Casa Casuarina
  • Tides Hotel
  • The Carlyle
  • Cardozo Hotel
  • Cavalier Hotel
  • McAlpin Hotel
  • 1450 Collins Avenue
  • Webster Hotel
  • Marlin Hotel
  • Essex House Hotel
  • Hotel of South Beach
  • Colony Hotel
  • Breakwater Hotel
1
Art Deco Welcome Center

1) Art Deco Welcome Center

The Art Deco Welcome Center located at Ocean Drive in Miami Beach is run by the Miami Design Preservation League and hosts tours, lectures, films, and exhibitions about the Art Deco district of the city. The purpose of the center is to preserve the unique architecture found on the three streets that make up the district.

The Art Deco district of Miami consists of three parallel streets, Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, and Washington Avenue. In the 1920s and 1930s, Art Deco was regarded as an ultra-modern style of architecture. Today, it has become retrograde. The Art Deco buildings in Miami are pastel colored with uniqueness and intricacy in a design. Built in the second and third decade of the 20th Century, they house hotels and restaurants. The original facades are preserved thanks to the efforts of the Miami Design Preservation League.

The center also has informational maps, pamphlets, and books about art deco, including the Art Deco Guide, which describes all the buildings in the district. Guided group tours conducted by local historians are available at the Art Deco Welcome Center. There is also a shop selling gifts with an art deco theme.
2
Clevelander Hotel

2) Clevelander Hotel

Built in 1938 by the famous architect Albert Anis and restored in 2009, this beautiful hotel is an icon in the heart of Miami’s Art Deco district and is located right across the street from the Art Deco Welcome Center. It appeared in many episodes of the popular TV show Miami Vice and became the quintessential South Beach experience.

The hotel recently went through an extensive renovation while retaining its original Art Deco flavor of the 1930s. The hotel features a stylish patio bar and a nightly schedule of live entertainment, including live DJs, fire shows, and go-go dancers.
3
Versace Mansion - The Villa Casa Casuarina

3) Versace Mansion - The Villa Casa Casuarina

The Villa Casa Casuarina, also known as Versace Mansion, for being the former home of the late Italian designer Gianni Versace. The mansion was originally built in 1930 by architect and philanthropist Alden Freeman. When visiting Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, he saw the Alcazar De Colon, the first fortified Spanish palace, built by Diego Columbus (Christopher Columbus’s Son) during the early 16th century. Freeman was impressed by the beauty of Alcazar De Colon, and he built his private mansion modeled after Alcazar De Colon.

Villa Casa Casuarina was later purchased by the Italian clothes designer Gianni Versace, hence the new name. Tragically, Gianni Versace was murdered in front of the building in 1997.

According to the legend, the name of the mansion came from the last tree that remains on the lot where the mansion was built, after a hurricane that hit Miami in 1926. It was the only tree remaining, while all other trees were uprooted by the hurricane. The name of the tree was the Casuarina Equisetifolia, which is more commonly known as the Australian Pine Tree.
4
Tides Hotel

4) Tides Hotel

Often called the Diva of Ocean Drive, the Tides Hotel is one of the tallest and most elegant Art Deco hotels in Miami Beach. The iconic hotel, made of white linens and candles, is located just steps from the crystal water of the Atlantic Ocean and Miami’s most exciting dining and nightlife locations. It is considered a sophisticated, sedate, and luxurious building in a contemporary atmosphere.

The hotel was designed by L. Murray Dixon, one of the city’s most prolific architects of the Art Deco era. When Tides Hotel was completed in 1936, it was the tallest building in South Beach.
5
The Carlyle

5) The Carlyle

The Carlyle is another iconic landmark in South Beach. Its façade remains virtually unchanged since the original building was completed in 1941. The Carlyle frequently serves as a backdrop in Hollywood movies - you may have seen it in Scarface, The Birdcage, Random Hearts, Bad Boys, and more.

The design of The Carlyle combines contemporary architecture with rounded edges and a stand-out paint scheme that catches everyone's attention. It was a natural fit for being the place of the gay nightclub in the movie The Birdcage.

A short walk from Gianni Versace’s former mansion, this historic building was designed by the late German architect Richard Kiehnel and opened its door as a hotel in 1941. The Carlyle is now a private residential building with condos available for vacation rental.
6
Cardozo Hotel

6) Cardozo Hotel

One of Miami’s first beach hotels, The Cardozo is yet another fine example of traditional Art Deco style. Designed by Henry Hohauser, one of the principal architects of South Beach Deco, this building was completed in 1939, featuring rounded edges combined with the straight lines of the windows. The hotel was named after Benjamin Cardozo, one of the first Jewish jurors appointed to the US Supreme Court.

In the early 1990s the building was purchased by pop music icon Gloria Estefan and underwent an extensive $15-million renovation. Today, the hotel has a sleek, contemporary all-white aesthetic whilst maintaining its heritage. The newly remodeled rooms and suites offer a quiet and luxurious space to retreat.

The Cardozo has appeared in several Hollywood movies, such as Any Given Sunday, There’s Something About Mary, Marley & Me, and The Birdcage. In There’s Something About Mary, it was here that they filmed the scene where Mary infamously borrows Ted’s “hair gel.”
7
Cavalier Hotel

7) Cavalier Hotel

Regarded as a masterpiece of the Art Deco movement, the Cavalier South Beach Hotel was one of the first hotels ever to be built on Ocean Drive. It was designed by architect Roy F. France in 1936.

Unlike most Art Deco buildings in the area, using horizontal lines as the main feature in their design, The Cavalier Hotel bucks this trend by going for a more vertical style. The decorative stucco friezes outside the building draw your eyes upward. As a result, the hotel looks strikingly different from the nearby structures.

Despite having been recently updated with extensive restorations, The Cavalier maintains its original brightly-colored exterior. Upon entering the building, you are welcomed by black and gold furniture, nautical decorations, terrazzo floors, and a fireplace surrounded with candles and art pieces. A rather unique space to snap some truly cool Instagram shots!

Each guest room is decorated with wood paneling and brick walls that give a warm and inviting ambiance.

Much like The Carlyle and The Cardozo, The Cavalier also frequently serves as a filming spot in Hollywood productions.
8
McAlpin Hotel

8) McAlpin Hotel

The McAlpin Hotel is one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in Miami with its perfectly symmetrical design, eye-catching Miami pastel hues of pink and turquoise, and the cute face formed in the center of the building by three windows and the dividing lines. It was designed in 1940 by Lawrence Murray Dixon, considered one of the great minds in the Art Deco movement, and left behind several other buildings in South Beach.

Today The McAlpin is one of the most popular selfie spots in the Art Deco Historic District. The hotel is now owned by Hilton Worldwide Holdings and is available for reservations for your ultimate Miami Beach stay.
9
1450 Collins Avenue

9) 1450 Collins Avenue

Designed by Henry Hohauser in 1939, this Art Deco style gem has a distinctive Streamline Moderne style with its sleek, splendidly curved facade and six decorative porthole windows. Hohauser is credited as one of the principal architects behind the Art Deco styling of South Beach.

It originally opened the business as Hoffman’s Cafeteria before hosting a few other tenants over the years, such as the China Club and Ovo, before becoming the Warsaw Ballroom, the famed gay bars that inspired the 1996 Hollywood movie, The Birdcage. Today, this iconic Art Deco building hosts probably the world’s most glamorous Senor Frogs, a Mexican-theme franchised "infamous party scene" bar and grill.
10
Webster Hotel

10) Webster Hotel

The Webster Hotel is another masterpiece of the architect Henry Hohauser. The Webster perfectly captures the spirit of Miami with its straight lines, ornate carvings, and neon accents. Conforming to Hohauser’s "law of three," the three-story building is sliced into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, with a trio of windows running across its facade.

It was initially a hotel before becoming a high-end fashion boutique, with luxury designer names from Acne to Lanvin. The guests can also order a cup of coffee in the lobby and admire the original polished terrazzo floors, gleaming staircases, and pastel-colored decor.
11
Marlin Hotel

11) Marlin Hotel

For a true sense of 1930s' Art Deco, one should definitely not fail to check out The Marlin! Originally designed by architect Lawrence Murray Dixon, a principal figure in the tropical Art Deco movement, this landmark structure was one of Miami’s first boutique hotels. Constructed in 1939, the building features Dixon's trademark design known as "eyebrows" over the windows. In a way, its style reminds the science fiction serial Flash Gordon.

Back in the 1980s, the hotel accommodated South Beach Studios, a tropical retreat where Aerosmith, Jay-Z, and Pharrell Williams recorded their music.

Nowadays fully renovated to preserve its timeless Art Deco character, the hotel offers its guests every modern luxury. As a member of a Miami-based hospitality group, the MRK Hotel Collection, The Marlin welcomes those who want to combine their love of history, the beach, the ocean, and fantastic South Beach nightlife.

Nestled in the heart of the Art Deco District, The Marlin finds itself at the epicenter of Miami Beach’s iconic shopping, nightlife, and entertainment scene, while a quick walk away from the beach. Also, if you ever get hungry, note that The Marlin is a home to the award-winning Northern Italian restaurant Osteria Del Teatro.
12
Essex House Hotel

12) Essex House Hotel

The Essex House Hotel is another masterpiece designed by the Floridian architect Henry Hohauser. The 1938 gem features a style of Maritime Deco, also known as Nautical Moderne. The building resembles a cruise ship heading into the ocean. In Miami, the Art Deco movement wasn’t just about bright and rich colors, it was also about trying out various architectural design styles.

The Essex is rich with marine elements, from the rows of porthole style windows and the natty racing stripes to the towering smokestack-like sign. The racing stripes that wrap around the building even continue inside the lobby, where the visitors can admire a rare mural painted by the Floridian painter Earl LaPan above the fireplace. LaPan left behind more than 300 paintings across South Florida, but many of his works were sadly removed or painted over. This painting not only survived but also was restored by LaPan himself in the 1980s.
13
Hotel of South Beach

13) Hotel of South Beach

This beautifully restored hotel is another design by Lawrence Murray Dixon. The Hotel of South Beach was previously called The Tiffany, and it changed to its current name after fashion designer Todd Oldham bought the building in the late 1990s.

When the building was erected in 1939, neon light was still a novelty. The hotel's original, Tiffany, was spelled vertically in eye-catching neon on the building’s iconic aluminum spire. The use of neon and the spire’s rocket-like shape create a futuristic look influenced by the science fiction themes then pervasive in popular culture. Although the hotel has been renamed, the new owner elected to keep the Tiffany sign, and it is still in use to this day.
14
Colony Hotel

14) Colony Hotel

Built in 1935, the Colony Hotel was another design of the Floridian architect Henry Hohauser. The Colony was one of the first Art Deco buildings in South Beach after the horrific hurricane of 1926 practically wiped out the city of Miami. The building's facade underscores the Art Deco style - simple and symmetrical. The bold geometric elements like the inverted "T" in the front of the building bears the hotel's name. The horizontal eyebrows above the windows give a little extra shade to the guests as they look into the ocean.

Beautiful during the day, the Colony truly comes alive at night when the glowing neon lights up, illuminating in electric blues and bright purples. The Colony's iconic blue glow has been a symbol of South Beach since it was built in 1935.
15
Breakwater Hotel

15) Breakwater Hotel

Designed in 1936 by Yugoslavian architect Anton Skiskewicz, the Breakwater Hotel remains one of Miami’s most iconic Art Deco buildings. The building features a perfect symmetry, emblematic of the Art Deco movement during that period. The Art Deco style is also reflected in its use of bright yellow and blue colors against its cream base. The tower in the middle rises above the neighborhood and can be seen almost anywhere in Lummus Park when the electric-blue sign lights up at night.

The Breakwater Hotel was extensively renovated in 2011, restoring the 99-room boutique hotel to its former glory.

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