While Art Deco architecture is distinctly different from the Miami Modern theme of this site, we feel this particular event is well worth mentioning to our readers.
Miami Design Preservation League activists fought against all odds 30 years ago to save Miami Beach’s Art Deco architecture from bulldozers and demolition, and few could have imagined the impact their efforts would have on the city’s future. Led by founder Barbara Baer Capitman, the League won its landmark battle on May 14, 1979, when the Art Deco District was named to the National Register of Historic Places – the first time a 20th century district was recognized as Historic by the U.S. government. Since then, every element of South Beach’s renaissance can be traced back to this defining moment.
To commemorate this 30th anniversary, the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) will celebrate on Thursday, May 14 with two events. The first event is a private reception at 10 a.m. at The Hotel’s Spire Bar, 801 Collins Avenue. David Vela, Southeast Regional Director for the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service (the agency that oversees the National Register of Historic Places), will be the keynote speaker. Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower and visionary developer Tony Goldman will speak about what it was like then and the impact the historic designation made on Miami Beach. Also attending are many early pioneers from South Beach’s revival that followed 1979’s preservation victory. Mayor Matti Herrera Bower will unveil a bronze plaque honoring the 1979 historic designation, to be placed at the site of the new Art Deco Welcome Center when it reopens at Ocean Drive and 10th Street later this year.
MDPL will unveil the 30th anniversary commemorative Art Deco artwork, created by Michael Young, along with an “Art Comes to Life” installation featuring models in vintage swimsuits recreating images from the painting.
South Beach has the world’s largest concentration of Art Deco architecture, with more than 700 historic buildings. “Preserving our nation’s heritage sites is beneficial in many ways – culturally and economically,” said David Vela. “Miami Beach’s Art Deco District is a living museum teeming with a vibrant residential population, businesses, tourism and entertainment. South Beach has become a worldwide symbol of America through films, its culture and the millions of tourists that visit the District every year, and it is a testament to how preservation can benefit our communities.”
“Art Deco is the heart and soul of South Beach, and Miami Design Preservation League carries forth its spirit,” says Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower. “This anniversary is an opportunity to rediscover our Art Deco heritage, and the City of Miami Beach proudly joins MDPL in celebrating this milestone. Our community’s success story is a tribute to MDPL’s championing our historic district. Preserving the community’s architecture, character and integrity led the way to the economic and cultural revival we all benefit from today.” Tony Goldman, COO of Goldman Properties, adds: “Those of us who have been here from the beginning truly respect and appreciate the invaluable leadership role that MDPL has played in the enlightened preservation and revitalization that saved the irreplaceable historic fabric of Miami Beach.”
The second event takes place later that evening, when the League will host an Open House Celebration for the community, from 7 to 9 p.m. at its Art Deco Education Center, located on the ground floor of Historic City Hall, 1130 Washington Avenue. This event is free and open to the public, featuring the exhibit “Victory! The Past Has a Future” documenting preservation activities throughout the last 30 years with never-before-seen photos, images, articles and memorabilia from the Barbara Baer Capitman Archives/MDPL and the Kinerk-Wilhelm Collection plus rare archival TV news footage from the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archives. Refreshments and anniversary cake will be served.
“What would South Beach be like now, 30 years later, if all of these Art Deco buildings had been demolished?” said MDPL Chair Barry Chase. “Victory in 1979 was the turning point for Miami Beach. This led to South Beach becoming a Mecca for tourism, fashion, celebrities, arts and culture, nightlife and new residents that flocked to the Art Deco District. Today, we champion our founders’ legacy via our mission to preserve, protect and promote. MDPL’s educational programs, lecture series, community events and exhibits celebrate Miami Beach’s heritage.”
A movement that was criticized as foolish by many at the time, it ended up spearheading the turnaround of a community that was in crisis. Shortly after MDPL’s landmark preservation victory, South Beach began a dramatic evolution. Neglected and abandoned buildings were transformed into hip properties, spurring the new “boutique” hotel trend. Ocean Drive was revitalized, and sidewalks were broadened, creating a bustling café society. International fashion catalogues and film and television crews pounced on the Art Deco backdrops, and Miami’s next wave of immigrants were models, celebrities, directors and photographers. In the decades that followed, South Beach thrived.
Since MDPL’s founding in 1976, the League has conducted more than 350,000 walking tours of the Art Deco District for tourists from all over the world, national and international media, visiting dignitaries, students and residents. MDPL has held 32 Art Deco Weekend® festivals in Miami Beach. The League was the world’s first Art Deco Society. Capitman’s early efforts led to the formation of Art Deco preservation groups throughout the United States, Europe, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand.
The Miami Design Preservation League is a non-profit preservation and arts organization devoted to preserving, protecting and promoting the architectural, cultural, social, economic and environmental integrity of the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District (Art Deco District), as well as other areas of the city and South Florida, wherever historic preservation is a concern. MDPL was the first Art Deco Society in the world. For further information, visit www.mdpl.org
Thursday, May 14 @ 10 AM
WHAT: Invitation-only reception
Unveiling of artwork created by artist Michael Young to commemorate the 30th anniversary.
“Art Comes to Life” – featuring models in vintage swimsuits recreating images from the painting
Presentation of bronze plaque honoring 1979’s historic designation
WHO: David Vela, Southeast Regional Director, U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service
Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower
Barry Chase, Chair, Miami Design Preservation League
Tony Goldman, Chief Operating Officer, Goldman Properties
Several pioneers of South Beach
WHERE: Spire Bar at The Hotel
801 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach
Thursday, May 14 @ 7 – 9 PM
WHAT: Open House Celebration – free and open to the public. Exhibit: “Victory! The Past Has a Future,” documenting preservation activities throughout the last 30 years with never-before-seen photos, images, articles and memorabilia from the Barbara Baer Capitman Archives/MDPL and the Kinerk-Wilhelm Collection. Rare archival TV news footage from the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archives.
WHERE: Art Deco Education Center
Historic City Hall, 1130 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach