The Park Central Hotel
Sophisticated South Beach had a rather modest beginning, purchased in 1870 for 75 per acre by the Lum brothers for the purpose of growing coconuts. Unable to make a profit, the Lums sold to John Collins, a New Jersey Quaker with a passion for farming and a keen adventure for investing. By 1907, Collins had become tremendously successful harvesting mangoes and avocados and was eager to build a canal that would speed delivery of his produce. In order to fund the construction, Collins looked to his children for financial help. Upon visiting the area, the children were immediately struck by its potential for tourism and growth and agreed to the deal if their father would also build a bridge that would allow access for automobiles.
In 1914, the W. J. Brown Hotel opened as the first hotel on Miami Beach. In 1920, the land boom began in earnest, with mansions, hotels and single-family homes being constructed at record speed. The 1930s brought the popularity of the Art Deco style and many of the area’s buildings were imbued with its distinctive flavor. The Park Central Hotel, built in 1937, was designed by master architect Henry Hohauser, whose work and influence dominated South Beach. The hotel’s trademark portal windows are reflective of Nautical Moderne architecture, which calls to mind the luxurious oceanliners of the day and which enjoyed a great following during the 1930s and 1940s. Miami continued to boom in population and popularity and was a glamorous playground for celebrities and socialities.
By the 1970s and early 1980s, the area had sadly deteriorated. The glamour was gone and many of the brilliant Art Deco structures had fallen into disrepair. However, with foresight and imagination, a handful of developers were drawn by the potential of South Beach. A resurgence began and today the area boasts one of the finest collection of Art Deco structures in the world. Its eclectic mix of restaurants, nightclubs, hotels and of course the beach itself, draws vacationers from all over the globe.