Mini-Post | Miami Art Deco District

The Art Deco District, otherwise known as the Miami Beach Architectural District, entered the National Register of Historic Places on 14th May 1979.

The Cavalier Hotel, designed by Roy F. France in 1936.

It was thanks to the determination of Barbara Baer Capitman (1920-1990), who founded the Miami Design Preservation League with industrial designer Leonard Horowitz in 1976.

Leonard Horowitz was responsible for the palette of light, bright pastels in the Art Deco district.

Capitman was highly committed to saving the buildings she loved so much, frequently protesting and chaining herself to them.

Designed by Henry Hohauser and built in 1935, the Colony Hotel.

Her ideal was the area be restored both for the beauty of the architecture, and for the low- and middle-income residents who lived there. Unfortunately, we know what gentrification can do in pricing out residents, even if the original intention kept them at the centre of the idea.

Originally The Tiffany, this hotel was built in 1939 and was influenced by sci-fi elements. It was designed by L. Murray Dixon, and the neon sign was particularly novel.

More than 800 buildings were saved thanks to her and the Preservation League’s efforts. It resulted in a square mile of these buildings being designated the historic district.

The Tides was designed by L. Murray Dixon, and was the tallest building in South Beach when it was built.

Capitman’s book, “Deco Delights: Preserving the Beauty and Joy of Miami Beach Architecture”, was published in 1988. By the end of her life, she and Horowitz were travelling around the USA, highlighting other Art Deco masterpieces and trying to encourage similar preservation societies in other cities.

Another L. Murray Dixon building, completed in 1939.

“My whole life had been Art Deco… I was born at the beginning of the period and grew up during the height of it. It’s a thing of fate.”

Barbara Baer Capitman (1920-1990)
The Cardozo was designed by Henry Hohauser and finished in 1939.

Read more about Barbara Baer Capitman in Sophia Dembling’s article for the National Trust for Historic Preservation here.

Tour the Art Deco district on foot by yourself with this self-guided tour.

2 comments

  1. As a kid I used to be sniffy about Art Deco styles, possibly because growing up in the 50s and 60s I was relatively close to their heyday and probably was a bit of an ultra conservative when it came to modern architecture! (It might’ve been due to living in a flat in Hong Kong which in retrospect I think may have smacked of this style, all parquet flooring and horizontal metal frame windows.)

    Now of course, being older and perhaps wiser, I can appreciate the clean lines and aesthetic curves, and appaud any efforts to conserve and refurbish the best examples, whether on a grand scale or with restrained ambition. Thanks for sharing these, hopefully the interiors are as elegant as the façades!

    • That is so interesting, thank you for sharing! I can understand that – for a long time I really was not that enamoured with Art Deco styles, but seeing all these buildings together really gave me a new appreciation! I really hope the interiors are as beautiful – I unfortunately didn’t get inside… next time hopefully!

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