With its warm beaches and tropical surroundings, Miami Beach in the early 20th century was establishing itself as America’s winter... more » playground. During the roaring ‘20s luxurious hostelries resembling Venetian palaces, Spanish villages, and French châteaux sprouted up. In the 1930s, middle-class tourists started coming, and more hotels had to be built. Architects chose Art Deco for its affordable yet distinctive design.
An antidote to the gloom of the Great Depression, the look was cheerful and tidy. And with the whimsical additions of portholes, colorful racing bands, and images of rolling ocean waves painted or etched on the walls, these South Beach properties created an oceanfront fantasy world for travelers.
Because the district as a whole was developed rapidly and designed by like-minded architects—Henry Hohauser, L. Murray Dixon, Albert Anis, and their colleagues—it has amazing stylistic unity. Nevertheless, on a single street, Ocean Ave., you can trace the evolution of period form from angular, vertically emphatic early deco to aerodynamically rounded Streamline Moderne. less «