Our city is attempting to open up after twelve weeks of sheltering in place. I ventured to meet a friend for coffee at the local pedestrian mall one morning late last week. It was delightfully empty, and yet one scuffle about wearing masks just had to take place. My walks in the neighborhood have decreased in part due to boredom; also because of the encroaching summer heat – it’s here!
Two unique styles form the backbone of our relatively young community’s architectural backbone. Tourists (in the so long-ago) normal times, flocked to walking tours that introduced them to the details of the proliferation of Art Deco and Mediterranean Revival structures. The tours primarily guided visitors through the remains of the commercial buildings that populate the main shopping thoroughfares. Many of the hotel and shop facades have been featured in a number of films and television shows.
Tours rarely wander off the main streets to consider the numerous apartment buildings built in the same low-rise styles in the same time period (1930s and 1940s). Also nestled in the historic district a small number of private residences are to be found. They were designed by the same architects of the commercial buildings.
Just north of the historic district are many more single-family homes primarily built in the elegant Mediterranean Revival style. I’ve already written about two neighborhood houses and their beautiful architectural elements. (see April 15 post). One has been sold and sports a sign from the city that predicts demolition sometime in the future. Out with the old, in with the new.
Here’s another beautiful feature on a nearby house some refer to as the Eddie Arcaro house. Eddie Arcaro was one of America’s most decorated jockeys. Like many other teenage girls, I was horse crazy and closely followed all things horsey. Arcaro retired to Miami, but I don’t know if there really is a connection to the house; it’s a nice story and a great image, now hidden behind a hedge.
After a particularly devastating hurricane almost thirty years ago, building codes were changed with hopes of making our homes more resilient during the annual storm season.* One change mandated that foundations of new houses had to be raised from street level. Many older homes for the 30s and 40s are flush with the ground and frequently flood with the onset of the rains.
*Note, hurricane season starts on June 1 and continues until November 1. The brunt of the storms usually comes in the last two to three months of the season, but, you know, there’s no way of knowing what Mother Nature will bring.
I refer to this change as the first generation of new building in the community. Many, if not most of the 80s and 90s houses, retain features of the Mediterranean Style – tile roofs, archways around the window and doorways, balconies, etc. Though raised above their elderly neighbors, stylistically they are in keeping with them.
Over the past few years, I’ve been noticing more and more of the lovely and understated Mediterranean Revival homes being replaced by what I refer to as Tropical Modern architecture. Other areas have called these oversized, blocky structures McMansions and Lawyer Boxes for quite a while. With the new millennium, a second generation is making their voices heard. This new style is taking hold in our neighborhoods. Stark, tall vertical walls with floor to ceiling windows, flat roofs, and expanding to fill the entire lots characterize the new generation of homes.
This change is also taking hold in commercial areas. Lincoln Road, the historic pedestrian mall, is not immune to the second generation of structures.
Several rationales for the architectural changes are offered. Some claim that it is much more costly to rehabilitate the old structures to bring them to present-day codes than to tear down and start anew. Others hold that every generation wants to make its mark. A mark is certainly being made here (and elsewhere) and the visual history of our city is disappearing. The glamour and frivolity of the 1930s are being replaced with stark, minimalist tones.
Thank you for writing about this. Each day when I drive along the streets of Miami Beach I am surprised and saddened when I see the charming Mediterranean revival historic homes and buildings replaced by these monolithic characterless postmodern architectural monstrosities. I didn’t realize only the Art Deco buildings are protected. Our quaint area is morphing into “luxury built” McMansions. “Ick!”
I understand from the dollar value of the properties. I understand similarities to some Latin American enclaves. I’m still saddened by the loss of the beautiful buildings that gave our community its unique character.
Wishing you good health and safety, Donna
On Mon, Jun 15, 2020 at 8:19 AM Creatively Annette wrote:
> creativelyannette posted: ” Our city is attempting to open up after twelve > weeks of sheltering in place. I ventured to meet a friend for coffee at the > local pedestrian mall one morning late last week. It was delightfully > empty, and yet one scuffle about wearing masks just had to ta” >
It’s only buildings that are in the district. I forget the boundaries – 6th Street on the south and maybe Dade Blvd on the North. And even the developers find ways to get around the restrictions.