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The first buildings to be built in Miami Beach leaned towards the Mediterranean Revival architectural style, which was popular in Florida seaside towns at the time.
However, by the mid 1920s, Art Deco hotels in Miami Beach were starting to pop up, with the revival lasting into the 1940s.
Streets like Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue were the canvas for many Art Deco accommodations that you can stay at today.
The particular type of Art Decor in Miami Beach, which is now synonymous with the image of America’s Playground, is called ‘Tropical Deco’, a nod to the climate which designers had to compromise their builds with.
It is also referred to as ‘Streamlined Modern’ or ‘Morderne’.
This guide takes a look at the city’s South Beach Art Deco District hotels, providing history about each hotel, and an overview of what the accommodation has to offer guests today.
You can book your stay at the historic hotels in South Beach by clicking the link on the hotel name.
We’ve also included information on the most prolific Modernism architects so you can learn more about the men that built the Miami Beach skyline.
It’s worth noting that most Florida accommodations charge an additional resort fee at check in, and some Miami Beach restaurants with patios add a service charge to the final bill.
Art Deco Hotels in Miami Beach That You Can Stay At
Avalon Hotel History
You can’t miss The Avalon Hotel (700 Ocean Drive) with its neon sign and yellow 1955 Oldsmobile Super 88 convertible parked outside.
Built in 1941, The Avalon is the work of the well-known Art Deco architect Albert Anis.
It has featured in many movies such as Scarface, Random Hearts, and Bad Boys 3, plus the TV show, Miami Vice.
Avalon Hotel Today
The Avalon Hotel is a 59 room/suite hotel located in the heart of the Art Deco District on Ocean Drive.
Classic, Queen, and Ocean View rooms overlooking Lummus Park, are available and rooms have WiFi, a work desk, a TV, a safe, and an iron.
Orchards are the flower of choice at The Avalon.
Bookings include a continental breakfast, happy hour at the bar, and use of beach chairs for sunbathing at South Beach.
For dining, The Avalon Hotel has an award-winning restaurant and a patio looking out and over Ocean Drive.
The Avalon also features in our guide to romantic things to do in Miami.
Essex House Hotel History
In 1938, the Miami Beach Art Deco District saw the birth of the Essex House Hotel by Clevelander (1001 Collins Ave).
The architect responsible was the ‘Great Floridian’, Henry Hohauser, whose firm designed over 300 buildings in the Miami area.
It is said that the Essex House Hotel was built to resemble a ship, which you can see with the tower on the front of the hotel.
Essex House Hotel Today
Today, Essex House Hotel by Clevelander has retained its art connection with an opulent lobby, including an original terrazzo fireplace by artist Earl LaPan.
The 70-room accommodation offers Signature, Deluxe, and Superior rooms, which feature Wi-Fi and an in-room HDTV.
A secret oasis of a small garden courtyard with a compact pool is available to guests who also have access to the neighboring, and bigger, Clevelander Hotel.
Back on-site at the Essex is a hotel bar serving happy hour drinks.
The Clevelander History
The Clevelander (1020 Ocean Drive) is not just a hotel, it is also bar, rooftop, and signature Pool+Patio.
The hotel was built in 1938 by Albert Anis, and was later bought over, along with Essex House Hotel, by the Montreal-based Jesta Group for a total of $28.5 million in 2018.
The Clevelander Today
The Clevelander has Classic, Deluxe, Ocean View, and Rockstar suites with Wi-Fi and a TV.
Guests receive a complimentary Famous Frozen Clevelander Colada.
Two reasons why guests choose The Clevelander is firstly, for the location over the road from the beach, and secondly, for the party scene.
The Clevelander party is pretty legendary in South Beach.
DJs play while visitors party under the stars.
There’s also the Clevelander Kitchen and Bar, Game On and the C-Level Rooftop Terrace.
Hotel Victor History
Florida architect Lawrence Murray Dixon, designed The Hotel Victor South Beach (1144 Ocean Dr) in 1937.
Today, the hotel is owned by the Nakash Family, who also acquired Casa Casuarina, the Versace Mansion next door.
Hotel Victor Today
The Hotel Victor has a mix of 91 rooms, designed by Yabu Pushelberg; Superior, Deluxe, and Penthouse.
Guests have access to the gym, spa, and pool which has a bar and cabanas.
Take advantage of the 10% off coupon for Gianni’s in the Versace Mansion, where you can dine next to the gold lined pool.
The Leslie Hotel History
The Leslie Hotel (1244 Ocean Dr) is another loved Art Deco hotel in South Beach.
The intimate 35-room boutique hotel was built 1937, by the architect Albert Anis.
The Leslie Hotel Today
In addition to the 35 rooms, The Leslie Hotel also has two suites.
Room amenities include a TV, Wi-Fi, coffee machine, and access to free beach towels.
Breakfast is served at La Trattoria – Mediterranean restaurant located at the hotel.
The hotel’s rooftop terrace boasts of a swimming pool, hot tub, sunbeds, full-service cabanas, and views of Ocean Drive, South Beach, and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Carlyle Hotel History
The Carlyle (1250 Ocean Dr) was constructed in 1941 by the Kiehnel and Elliott firm, who moved to Miami in 1922.
The firm also designed the Old U.S. Post Office and Courthouse in Miami.
The Carlyle has Tropical Deco ‘eyebrows’ which act as a sun shade above windows.
This Miami Beach Art Deco building has been featured in many movies such as Bad Boys 2 (2003), Random Hearts (1999), Pronto (1997), The Birdcage (1996), and Scarface (1983).
The Carlyle Hotel Today
The Carlyle offers luxury condo vacation rentals with full kitchens.
Guests also have access to a bar, restaurant, garden, and 24-hour concierge.
The Carlyle Cafe is located at the bottom of the building serving tacos, burgers, and cocktails.
The Cavalier South Beach Hotel History
The facade has colorful designs that resemble decorative ribbons running from top to bottom.
The Cavalier South Beach Hotel Today
Decor includes brick walls with art and modern fittings including Wi-Fi, TV, and black out shades.
The lobby has striking black and gold furniture, nautical decorations, and terrazzo floors.
The Ocean Bistro Restaurant at Cavalier serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and breakfast is included in the resort fee.
The Tony Hotel History
The Tony Hotel (9801 Collins Avenue) is a landmark Art Deco hotel on Collins Av.
It first opened as The Tiffany in 1939, designed by architect L. Murray Dixon.
In 1998, the hotel was remastered by fashion designer Todd Oldham.
The hotel changed names to The Tony in 2022 to recognize the work of owner Tony Goldman.
Through his preservation efforts on Ocean Drive, which he referred to as ‘Magical Paradise’, the realtor helped change the decaying face of Art Deco in South Beach.
Goldman is also responsible for the development of the Wynwood Walls, the outdoor street art mural museum in Miami.
The Tony Hotel Today
The Tony Hotel is a boutique hotel with a rooftop swimming pool and deck, gym, cafe, and a lounge.
The 74 room hotel offers a range of options from standard through to suite.
Guests are offered complimentary tickets to Wynwood Walls During their stay.
Their apt slogan is ‘appreciate the past. Reimagine your present’.
SLS South Beach Miami
SLS South Beach Miami (1701 Collins Ave) includes the Art Deco tower from the old Grossinger Beach Hotel, which was designed by L. Murray Dixon in 1939.
The 12 floor/62 m tall hotel was the tallest building in Miami Beach for decades.
The hotel was funded by the The Grossinger family who owned the Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel in New York.
After acting as a home to high-ranking officers during WWII, The Grossinger re-opened, changing its name to the Ritz Plaza in 1946.
In 1989, the hotel was bought by Ignacio Contreras and Manuel lerandi who restored it close to its original Art Deco design.
Three years later, the Ritz Plaza was added to the Historic Hotels of America list by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Sam Nazarian purchased the Ritz in 2004 and it re-opened as the SLS South Beach in 2012.
SLS South Beach Today
The room decor is bold, oozing opulence and old French aristocratic vibes, the work of designer Philippe Starck.
The suites are designed by Lenny Kravitz and Kravitz Design Inc.
SLS has a number of restaurants and The Shack for hand craft cocktails.
If you want to hit up a Miami beach pool party, Hyde at SLS is the one.
For more art deco architecture, consider Miami’s Little Havana to see the Tower Theater and the Alfred I. DuPont Building in Downtown Miami.
Other Historic Hotels in Miami Beach
Villa Casa Casuarina History
Villa Casa Casuarina (1116 Ocean Drive) was built in 1930 by Ronin Wolf for gay philanthropist Alden Freeman.
Freeman’s building plans were inspired by the places he visited on his travels, especially the Alcazar De Colon in the Dominican Republic.
There is even a brick from the Alcazar De Colon at the entrance of the mansion.
The villa is an example of Mediterranean Revival, which incorporates Spanish Baroque, Spanish Colonial, Italian Renaissance, and Venetian Gothic, popular in Florida and California seaside towns of the 1920s and 1930s.
After Freeman’s death in 1937, the mansion was bought by Jacque Amsterdam, who named the complex, ‘Amsterdam Palace’.
The building had 24 apartments that Amsterdam rented.
Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace bought the villa in 1992, where he lived until his death by murder in 1997.
Versace was murdered by gunshot at the entrance of his home by Andrew Cunanan, who also killed four other men in Miami Beach.
Villa Casa Casuarina Today
Today, you can stay in one of the themed Villa Casa Casuarina suites, a once in a lifetime experience for most!
Guests can swim in the gold lined swimming pool and dine at Gianni’s Restaurant by the Versace mosaic.
Staying or dining at Casa Casuarina is akin to visiting a museum, if museums were designed by fashion houses.
If you like the look of Mediterranean architecture, make time for The City Beautiful, Coral Gables, where you’ll find the the City Hall, Biltmore Hotel, and the Venetian Pool.
Casa Casuarina also features in our guide to hidden gems in Miami.
The Betsy Hotel History
The historic oceanfront hotel, The Betsy Hotel (1440 Ocean Drive) was built in 1942 by L. Murray Dixon.
However, while it intended to open as a hotel in 1942, it actually became the base for US troops who were stationed in Miami during WWII.
Today, it is the only standing Florida Georgian architecture on Ocean Drive.
The hotel, which was originally called The Betsy Ross, has four-column portico, shuttered windows, and is enlisted on the State Registry of Historic Places.
In 2017, The Betsy expanded to include the former Carlton Hotel, the two buildings are joined by an orb-shaped sky bridge by Robin Hill.
The Betsy Hotel Today
The Betsy Hotel is a beachfront hotel with 130 rooms, suites, and a penthouse.
Rooms have luxury furnishings, walnut floors, and marble bathrooms.
Some rooms have balconies overlooking the South Beach Art Deco District and the hotel’s Atrium.
There is also a beautiful rooftop pool with 360 views, and a restaurant.
Esmé Miami Beach Hotel History
The historic Esmé Hotel (1438 Washington Avenue) was originally The Clay Hotel, built in 1925 at Miami Beach’s Spanish village, Española Way.
The Clay Hotel has an interesting past!
Once a hideaway for criminals and gangsters like Al Capone who gambled there, it was also where Cuban-born Desi Arnaz (from I Love Lucy) is said to have kicked off the rhumba craze in Miami Beach in the 1930s.
Esme Miami Beach Hotel Today
The award-winning Esmé Hotel is located on 0.6-acres, covering the whole of the south side of Española Way.
The hotel has 145 guest rooms in queens, kings, and suites, and 5 Latin-inspired bars and restaurants across its eight buildings.
Guests also have access to the rooftop pool and bar.
Fontainebleau on Millionaire’s Row
Miami Beach’s historically largest hotel, the Fontainebleau Hotel (4441 Collins Avenue), was designed by architect Morris Lapidus and built by Ben Novack.
This mega-resort sits on top of Harvey Firestone, of tyre fame, estate.
The curvilinear Fontainebleau opened in 1954, impressing guests and the media, with its modern amenities, like air-conditioning, and Millionaires Row location.
Celebrities also loved the Fontainebleau, Frank Sinatra performed at the nightclub, and filmed at the hotel many times.
Sinatra even welcomed Elvis back from the army at the Fontainebleau, the stars did a duet which was taped and broadcasted!
Fontainebleau Hotel Today
Today, the Fontainebleau Hotel is a 22-acre oceanfront hotel with over 1500 rooms and suites.
Guests and celebs visit the hotel restaurants with award-winning chefs, and the popular nightclub (LIV).
There’s also a two-story spa, 11 pool experiences, and miles of beach.
LIV also features in our guide to Miami at night.
Miami Beach Architects
Henry Hohauser (1989-1963)
New York born Henry Hohauser studied at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NYC.
He arrived in Miami Beach in 1932 and practiced architecture in the Miami area for over 20 years.
Hohauser is known as the ‘Originator of Modernism’ in Miami Beach and his firm was known to work on 8-10 building designs at one time.
They are responsible for over 300 designs in and around Miami.
Hohauser Art Deco builds in Miami Beach include The Colony, built in 1935 (736 Ocean Drive), which is one of the first buildings erected during the Art Deco era.
The Essex House Hotel which was built in 1938 (1001 Collins Avenue).
And, along with the help of H. Fraser Rose, the Beth Jacob Social Hall and Congregation, today’s Jewish Museum of Florida, (301 and 311 Washington Avenue) which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
L. Murray Dixon (1901-1949)
Laurence Murray Dixon was born in Live Oaks, Florida and studied at the Georgia Institute of Technology from 1918 to 1919.
Dixon moved to Miami Beach in 1929 and from 1933, designed over 100 buildings including The Tiffany (now The Tony), built in 1939 (801 Collins Avenue) and The Betsy Ross, built in 1942 (1440 Ocean Drive).
His style is known for its curvilinear design.
Roy F. France (1888-1972)
Roy F. France was born in Hawley, Minnesota in 1888 and studied at the Armour Institute of Technology in 1905-1906 and then the Chicago Technical School.
He moved to Miami Beach in the 1930s after being won over by the barrier island during a vacation with his wife in 1931.
France has a number of Illinois based projects to his name as well as many surviving Art Deco buildings in Miami Beach such as the National Hotel, built in 1939 (1677 Collins Avenue) and the Saxony Hotel, now Faena Hotel Miami Beach, built in 1948 (3201 Collins Avenue).
He designed buildings that allowed the Florida air to flow and the sun to shine in.
Albert Anis (1889-1964)
Albert Anis was born in 1889 in Chicago and also studied at the Armour Institute of Technology.
His Miami Beach art buildings include The Leslie Hotel, built in 1937 (1244 Ocean Drive), The Clevelander Hotel, built in 1939 (1020 Ocean Drive), and the Avalon Hotel, built in 1941 (700 Ocean Drive).
Anton Skislewicz (1895-1980)
Anton Skislewicz (pronounced Ski-sleigh-vitch) was born in Dubrovnik, Croatia (then Yugoslavia) in 1895. He moved to the US when he was 28 years old.
Skislewicz studied at Columbia University in 1929 and came to Miami Beach in 1931.
His legacy includes the Kenmore Hotel, now Washington Park Hotel South Beach (1050 Washington Avenue), built in 1936, and the Breakwater Hotel (940 Ocean Drive), built in 1939.
Art Deco in Miami Beach History
With its 800+ buildings designed in a Streamlined Modern style, there’s nowhere in the world like the Art Deco District in Miami Beach, said Tony Goldman in 1989.
But, what is Art Deco and how did this barrier island in Florida end up being the epicenter for Tropical Deco?
What is Art Deco?
According to Architectural Digest, Art Deco is short for Arts Décoratifs, and ‘is characterized by rich colors, bold geometry, and decadent detail work… it reached the height of its popularity in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s’.
The style was a product of the International Exposition of the Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts in Paris, France in 1925.
Applicants were asked to propose a new style of art that had never been done before.
However, the US never attended, meaning that any artist or architect influenced by Art Deco did not see its birth in Paris first hand.
The Brith of Miami Beach
Miami Beach as we know it today, starts back in 1871 when Henry C. Lum attempts, and fails, to farm coconuts on the swampy barrier island.
In 1894, John Collins, of Collins Av fame, had more success with avocados, mangoes, and tomatoes, however, by 1913 he had failed at trying to build a bridge to connect the city of Miami with Miami Beach.
In steps entrepreneur Carl G. Fisher who funds the final stretch of the infrastructure in exchange for land.
Then Fisher, Collins, and the Lummus Brothers, join forces to build America’s Playground.
Today it is Prime 112 Steakhouse at 112 Ocean Drive.
Fisher’s first hotel, The Flamingo, designed by Rubush & Hunter, opened its doors on New Year’s Eve 1920.
By 1925 there were 56 hotels, 4000 rooms, 178 apartments, 858 private homes, 4 polo fields, and 3 golf courses in Miami Beach.
One of the first Art Deco hotels, Hohauser’s The Colony, is opened in 1935.
Construction didn’t stop in Miami Beach, even during The Stock Market Exchange Crash and Great Depression of the early 1930s.
During the 1940s, 279 hotels, 890 apartments, 3338 private homes were built in one year alone.
During WWII, hotels became homes to soldiers who later returned to vacation and live in Miami Beach, wowed by the beauty of the area.
Building The Art Deco District in Miami Beach
At the start, Miami Beach architecture favored the popular Mediterranean Revival look but it is thought that architects fell out of favor with it as it didn’t marry well with the natural sub-tropical climate of the area.
Sun shades, which were later called eyebrows, on Mediterranean Revival builds was not the look they envisaged.
Although it is difficult to define why art deco became so popular in South Beach, Jeff Donnelly, MDPL’s Public Historian, suggests considering the following big changes in Miami Beach.
A hurricane strikes in 1926, taking lives and washing away Ocean Drive while wrecking Washington Avenue, creating a new canvas for the area?
Architects, many of which were trained in the northeast, began to understand the need to appease the sub-tropical climate in Miami with their designs, hence the decrease in Mediterranean Revival hotels.
The perfect storm of the post-Depression New Deal, The Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), funding in 1933 to 1934, and the passing of The Wagner Act 1935, which encouraged paid vacations, meant that there was demand by tourists and money to pay for designers and artists.
The Art Deco Revival in Miami Beach
By the 1970s, South Beach was in decline with tourists opting for the shiny, modern resorts at Mid Beach.
The three story, basic Art Deco hotels without air conditioning weren’t appealing anymore and this, along with other culture shifts (house purchasing patterns and immigration), saw South Beach change.
Some wanted to knock down the Art Deco buildings in and around Ocean Drive and replace them with new ones but in 1976 the Miami Design Preservation, headed by Barbara Baer Capitman and Leonard Horowitz, fought back.
In 1979, the Art Deco District was placed on the Register for Historic Places, the first neighborhood of 20th century buildings to be added to the list, which helped with the fight to keep them.
Before his death in 1989, designer Leonard Horowitz created a new color palette using the Miami Beach hues as his muse, and painted the old, weathered Art Deco buildings.
This caught the attention of the media, TV, fashion, and advertising campaigns such as photographer Bruce Weber’s Calvin Klein’s Obsession advert.
Today, you can still see historic South Beach architecture through its Art Deco buildings with neon signs in and around Ocean Beach.
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