CATEGORY: Architecture

This might be the first time I’ve been excited to see a post office but this was definitely the most interesting post office I’ve ever seen. My favorite building on Darcy’s walking tour of Art Deco South Beach was the Miami Beach Post Office.

Walking down Washington St. we spotted this rare example of Streamlined Federal Art Deco style architecture. Built in 1937, it was saved from the wrecking ball in the mid-century.

Walking in the main entrance I entered a detailed and shiny rotunda. A famous mural by Charles Hardman depicting Ponce de Leon’s invasion of Florida does a semi circle opposite the entrance.

The rotunda ceiling light is designed as an art deco sun complete with reddish light beams.

Some of the shiny, brass post office boxes are original and still in use.

©2011 Danee Gilmartin All rights reserved

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After spending this New Year’s Eve in Nashville with my good friends, Mr. MuseumChick and I pondered, “well, we are half way to somewhere warm. Should our next stop be L.A. or Miami?” Our decision was based solely on weather predictions, “It’s going to be warmer in Miami- solved, so Miami it is”.  That was easy. Plus, South Beach has fun and very unique art deco architecture that I always love to see.

I know what you’re thinking,”Going to South Beach to check out architecture!” Please don’t think I’m that much of a stick in the mud.  I do like to party, go to the beach and relax at the pool but I can only do that for so long. Plus, I need to make Darcy a cultured puppy.

After a little fun in the sun at the Fontainebleau, my little family (me, Mr. MuseumChick and Darcy) headed to South Beach to do the self guided art deco walking tour. It was one of the few activities that didn’t alienate poor Darcy.

This is the Art Deco Welcome Center on Ocean Drive. It’s a modern building. Not to be picky but wouldn’t it be more suited in an art deco building?

For $15 a person (puppies are free), they set us up with an iPod Nano and a numbered map of the architectural highlights.

Darcy found the narrator’s voice soothing but looked confused as to why we weren’t stopping for the Cuban cooking smell coming from the restaurants on the row.

I read at National Geographic that Miami Beach’s Art Deco District is the first 20th-century neighborhood to be recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. There are 800 historical structures built between 1923 and 1943. One of my first stops on the walking tour was the now vacant Leslie Hotel, originally built in 1937.

One of the distinguishing features of the Leslie is its pale lemon-colored eyebrows that wrap around the building. Eyebrows are one of the identifying characteristics of art deco. They often look like shelves over the windows and were originally designed for shade.

Close by on Ocean Blvd. is the buzzing Cardozo. It was built in 1939 and is now owned by Gloria and Emilio Estefan. It features another popular art deco characteristic- rounded corners. New construction technology along with new designs in planes, trains and automobiles influenced this design. The rounded corners are made for the building to appear aerodynamic and sleek.

The elegant Carlyle also features two of the previously mentioned design features in one building- sleek rounded corners and eyebrows that wrap around the building.

The iPod lead us up Ocean until we crossed to Collins and began to head south. So, basically we did a big loop. On Collins Ave. is the famous Tiffany Hotel (now called the Hotel of South Beach because Tiffany and Co. barred the use of the name). It was built in 1939 by architect L. Murray Dixon, who designed it to look like a rocket from the front because of new American trends in popular movies.

The famous icon spire is fragile but managed to survive hurricanes and is still the original. The Tiffany Hotel also has a membership in Historic Hotels of America’s historic preservation.

Looping back around on Ocean Ave, one of the last stops was the Park Central Hotel, complete with a 50s style car waiting out front. The colors of the hotel were designed to resemble the ocean, sky and waves, and with the three portholes above the door, this hotel embraces the idea of Nautical Art Deco or sometimes called Tropical Deco style seen a lot in South Beach.

Darcy loved the tour, mostly for the people-watching and all the women that run up to pet and kiss him (he’s like walking around with a celebrity). But Darcy was ready for the beach. His mission- to dig in the sand all the way to China.

©2011 Danee Gilmartin All rights reserved

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