Saturday, May 30, 2015

Miami's changing skyline

Miami's skyline...a century of change.

"On the Miami River"
circa 1900
via the Library of Congress.
(Click all images to enlarge)

1910 - "Biscayne Bay through the cocoanut trees"

1908 - looking east on 12th Street (now Flagler Street) at Avenue D
Miami Avenue) in downtown Miami. On the right is E.L. Brady,
Grocers and CW Schmid's
Restaurant, "regular meals and ala carte."

Detail of previous photograph showing grocery 
store delivery wagon.

Skyline, 1939.

Skyline photograhed from Watson Island, late 70's or early 80's.

Skyline from Watson Island, mid-80's.

Present day I-395 eastbound near Biscayne Blvd.

Skyline as seen from Miami Beach, New Years Eve - 2009.

by Matt Sherman via Flickr.

Friday, May 29, 2015

1937 newspaper ads for Miami Beach restaurants

From the Miami Daily News, Jan. 9, 1937.

Downtown Miami over the years

Various views of Downtown Miami

Flagler Street - 1927

Flagler Street - 1927

Aerial looking west - 1930

Aerial looking northeast - circa 1950's

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Miami Herald sold to John S. Knight - Oct. 16, 1937

Miami Daily News, Oct. 16, 1937

Click image to enlarge.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Vintage undated postcard showing Collins Ave near Lincoln Road

Click to enlarge.

Lincoln Road in black and white (1980)

500-600 block Lincoln Road.
All photographs by Walter Smalling via the 
Library of Congress. 
(Click here to enlarge.)

1000 block Lincoln Road. 
(Click here to enlarge.)

800 block Lincoln Road.
(Click here to enlarge.)

Detail of building at Lincoln Road and Michigan Ave. 
(Click here to enlarge.)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Nazi POW's harass Miami Beach girls

from the Miami Daily News, April 22, 1945

Story continues here

Two views of Biscayne Boulevard

(Click images to enlarge.)


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Venetian Pool...the early years

Miami Daily News, Dec. 13, 1925.
(Click here to enlarge)

Venetian Pool under construction, Sept. 1923.
(Click all images to enlarge.)

Venetian Pool under construction, Nov. 1924.

Young swimmer at Venetian Pool, 1925.

Politician William Jennings Bryan at Venetian Pool, Jan. 14, 1925.

Children at Venetian Pool, Aug. 1925.

From the Miami Daily News, June 1, 1926.

Miami Herald, August 17, 2000

The Venetian , as much as any landmark in Coral Gables, captures the essence of Merrick's vision of idyllic life under the subtropical sun.

An advertisement in The Herald, trumpeting the Dec. 13, 1924, opening of the Venetian Casino and Pool , described the new attraction as ``the foremost example of the Coral Gables ideal of rendering practical needs in terms of harmonious beauty.''

Highfalutin' words for a converted rock pit. But ones that have weathered seven-plus decades well. The Venetian was a design decades ahead of its time - a Disney-like theme creation begun in 1923, five years before Walt even drew that cartoon mouse named Mickey.

At the turn of the 20th Century, Miami's pioneers called the Venetian area Guavonia, after a stand of guava trees. The land was settled by the Rev. Solomon Merrick. His son George, along with his cousins Denman and George Fink, drew up the dream of ``City Beautiful,'' Coral Gables.

The coral in reference was oolitic limestone hard under a scratch of surface soil. Many of the earliest Gables homes, including Merrick's own, were built from blocks cut from the rock pit. Through a combination of talents - Merrick's marketing sense and designer-illustrator Denman Fink's visual sense - they saw in an ugly scar the future Shangri-La of South Florida.

``It's amazing they had the foresight to do this, to start with a rock quarry and make it into a picture of old Venice,'' says Dona Lubin, historic preservation director for Coral Gables.

Fink gave sinuous shape to the gnarled pit, sculpting a 185- by 220-foot lagoon complete with small grottos and rocky precipices. He dressed it in vines, palms and exotic flora and erected a post-card Mediterranean villa at its edge - complete with stairs descending into the drink, fairy tale towers topped by Spanish barrel tiles shipped in from Havana, exposed beams of rare pecky cypress, weathered stucco and exposed bricks.

All of it, Lubin says, was carefully crafted to appear old and firmly established, even when spanking new.

Prospective land buyers were supposed to step off the bus from chilly Northern towns and forget that what they were looking at was really a risky real estate venture.

And, says Miami-Dade County historian Arva Moore Parks, who is writing a biography of Merrick, for a short time, it worked like a charm.

``As you can imagine, if you were trying to wow somebody, the Venetian Pool would do a good job of it,'' she says.

The pool quickly surpassed the nearby Coral Gables Country Club as sales and social center of the booming town, she says.

The casino, a name referring to fine summerhouses, not gambling dens, hosted a run of promotional events - swimming and diving exhibitions, beauty pageants, tea dances and a variety of publicity stunts.

At one point, the pool was drained to sit 900 patrons for the debut of the Miami Grand Opera Company. Another musical ensemble, the Paul Whiteman orchestra, once donned swimsuits for an aquatic serenade.

To deliver his sales pitch, Merrick even hired erstwhile presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, who was paid $50,000 cash and $50,000 in land for a year of extolling the virtues of Coral Gables poolside.

Swimming great Johnny Weismuller appeared as did other celebs, though Parks can find no evidence swimming sensation Esther Williams, often cited as a famous guest, ever stuck a toe in.

The killer hurricane of 1926 cooled the nation's Florida fever and cost Merrick his fortune. He sold the Venetian site to the city the following year for the whopping sum of $12,600.

The pool , though it has had its ups and down, never lost its luster. It was a social mecca for soldiers and their families during World War II and became a family ritual for decades.

Parks learned to swim there, as did many of her children. Kids learned other important life lessons as well.

``People always come back with some story of how they got their first kiss in the back of the cave,'' says Jane Schmitt, who has managed the Venetian for 19 years.

Things in the grotto, judging by a recent swim through an adolescent gaggle, haven't changed much.

``It's one of those places that has generations of people with similar stories, which is wonderful to have in a place of constant change,'' says Parks. ``The boys still chase the girls in the caves or these days maybe the girls chase the boys, I don't know.''

venetian pool, coral gables, florida

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Ali trains at 5th Street Gym - 1971

Boxer Muhammad Ali training for a fight against Joe the 5th Street Gym
Location: Miami Beach, FL, US
Date taken: 1971
Photographer: John Shearer-LIFE Magazine
from the LIFE Magazine picture archive

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Miami's "hobo express" - 1939

Back in the late 30's, Miami cops had an effective, if not altogether politically correct way of dealing with the thousands of homeless men that found themselves in South Florida during the winter months.

The Miami Daily News wrote about the practice in 1939 in a story titled: "'Snow Birds' Major Social Problem."

The solution to the "problem" involved rounding up the "snow birds" and putting them on the "hobo express" - a paddy wagon that had one stop: the county line!

from the Miami Daily News, Nov. 28, 1939.

Click image to enlarge.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Henry Flagler's Royal Palm Hotel

Miami River and Royal Palm Hotel, circa 1907. (Click to enlarge)
Detail from first photo.
Royal Palm Hotel, 1912. (Click to enlarge)
Royal Palm Hotel and Brickell Point on the Miami River. (unknown date)
The view today. (Click to enlarge)


The Miami Herald - Sunday, January 21, 1996

It is as if a mythical Eden once occupied the place. Then, just 100 years ago, it began to disappear.

"I found Miami all woods," wrote John Sewell, recalling the day he stepped off the steamer Della onto ground that is now downtown Miami. It was March 3, 1896, and Sewell had come to build a hotel there.

His trip began in late February when Henry Flagler summoned Sewell to his Palm Beach office and told him to prepare a site on the north bank of the Miami River where the stream met Biscayne Bay.

Flagler said "he was ready to start work down there to build a city and the hotel Royal Palm and wanted me to go and make the start."

Sewell, only 27 but a veteran of Flagler 's projects, found "a perfect wilderness" with few inhabitants. There were only three permanent homes, each on a few hacked-out acres. Julia Tuttle lived in the only home on the north shore.

Also there, Sewell found "several little shacks and a few tents," on a crushed rock lane that ran up from the river.

Now South Miami Avenue, this was the center of commerce, a collection of raw, Wild West-style buildings. Sewell's mission was to strip a square mile of jungle and hammock, making way for a railroad station and resort hotel .

The first train arrived on April 13. Men and material began to follow quickly. By July, the hotel 's foundations were in. More than 500 workers were on the job, and housing was impossible to find.

Incredibly, a 350-room hotel -- which contained another 100 rooms for servants -- opened on Jan. 16, 1897, across from where the Dupont Plaza Hotel now sits. Estimated cost was $750,000. Sewell described the event as a "blaze of glory" and so it was.

The Royal Palm was a giant, standing five stories high -- six stories at its center -- and 700 feet long. It had a generator that created its own electric power, the first in Miami.

Fully illuminated, the vision must have been like a huge ship, a Titanic, rising from the darkness where just months before there was wilderness and panthers roamed.

Painted yellow with white trim, topped by a red mansard roof and sporting green shutters, the hotel had portico entrances lined by white columns. Guests took sea breezes in rocking chairs on the Royal Palm 's 578-foot-long veranda overlooking crystal-clear Biscayne Bay. There they might read Caroline Washburn Rockwood's hot novel, An East Florida Romance, published in 1897 with the Royal Palm as its setting.

For many years, the frontier village of Miami existed only because the railroad stopped there and because tourists came to stay at the hotel .

Open only during the winter season, January through mid- March, the high-point event at the hotel was the annual Washington's Birthday Ball on Feb. 22. The few people who lived in the town were not included.

"No one local was allowed in. It was very high-end social," said Miami historian Arva Parks Moore, author of Miami Memoirs, a Pictorial Edition of John Sewell's Own Story.

The Royal Palm lived a glamorous but short life. Declared a fire hazard, it was torn down in 1930. No structure has stood on that spot since, and some suggest it is haunted.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Postcard: Aerial of Miami skyline with I-95 and SR 836 in foreground

"Tropical Miami, The Magic City"

Circa 1970's postcard of downtown Miami with I-95/SR 836 interchange in foreground.

Click here to enlarge.

Duval Street in Key West - 1930s

Click images to enlarge.

-via Florida Keys Public Library

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Overtown's Lord Calvert Hotel

Poolside at the Lord Calvert in the 1950s.
Photograph by Sammy Davis Jr.

Click image to enlarge.

Newspaper ad for the Lord Calvert 
Hotel (1955)

Black entertainers who performed at Miami Beach hotels in the 50's were prohibited from staying at those same hotels.

So they stayed at the Lord Calvert Hotel in Overtown.

from Jet magazine, March 3, 1955


Baltimore Afro-American: Aug. 18, 1951: 2,500 Miamians Open Lord Calvert