Last-Ditch Efforts to Save Miami’s Historic Art Deco District

by Rita Cofield  on August 7, 2014 | Art Deco | No comments
Featured Image: Image Courtesy Manuel Gamba

Historic Beginnings

Image Courtesy Jasperdo

Image Courtesy Jasperdo

The Miami Design Preservation League, founded in 1976, faced an uphill battle to save the modest buildings  of Miami’s south end (on land once used for coconut farming) because they were not only different from the elaborate luxury hotels and sprawling mansions developed further north, they were less than fifty years old and were not associated with significant events or persons. The 1930s Art Deco style buildings were also considered by many as garish. Despite these odds, the League was successful in getting the South Beach district on the National Register in 1979.  It was the first 20th century Historic District in the nation and protected the largest concentration of Art Deco buildings in the world. By the 1980s, television shows like Miami Vice and photo shoots done by renowned fashion photographers such as Bruce Weber made the Art Deco District one of the most famous neighborhoods in the United States. Even Andy Warhol requested a tour.

As more attention and wealth came to South Beach, so did the desire to demolish the pre-1942 single-family homes and replace them with more elaborate ones. The League continued to advocate for historic buildings of South Beach by encouraging local designations in the National Register District as more and more demolition permits were being filed. In 1982, Miami Beach enacted its first local historic preservation ordinance, containing 100 percent owner consent provision (revised to only 51 percent in 1983). In 1992 the City Commission expanded the Historic District to the entire mile-square Art Deco district in South Beach and thus protected from demolition the full area entered into the National Register of Historic Places back in 1979. Still, many important resources remained undesignated and unprotected, leaving the door wide open for what happened next.

Proactive Preservation vs Reactive Preservation

The League has seen both lost and won battles to save historic properties in Miami, setting important precedents for preservation policy along the way. In 2013, there was a more rigorous campaign to save South Beach’s historic properties from demolition when one of Miami’s notable homes, built in 1925 by Walter DeGarmo who was a prominent Miami architect at the time, was purchased by Dr. Hochstein. After consulting with contractors and architects on the ability to salvage the badly dilapidated home, Dr. Hochstein submitted plans to raze it and build a new one three times its size – a growing trend for the growing wealthy population in Miami. Designation of private residences is usually initiated by owners, but in this case a member of the Miami Design Preservation League immediately filed a request to designate the house located at 42 Star Island Drive as historic in order to protect it from the new owner’s plans to demolish it.

The Preservation League in Miami has led many successful efforts to save threatened historic resources. However, their most recent response to the rampant demolition of Art Deco homes in South Beach, Miami involves a tactic that makes preservationists look like the (really) bad guys. Designating historic resources after they have been purchased leaves homeowners unnecessarily blindsided. Designating historic resources long before they are considered for razing or alteration gives both prospective buyers and preservation advocates an opportunity to have an open dialogue. Preservation advocates should stick to designating structures before they are slated for demolition. Last-ditch efforts often result in uneasy relationships between historic property owners and preservationists. Proactive preservation instead of reactive preservation could help quell any potential future conflicts before they become an issue.

 

 LicenseAuthor
Image Courtesy Cody RaskinCody Raskin
ZephyrisZephyris
Jasperdo
kellinahandbasket_ChicanoPark-1024×683
Karol Franks
Attribution-NonCommercial LicenseManuel Gamba
National Center for Preservation Training and Technology
chrissteve-cands
Mark Hogan
Architectural Resources Group
Pleuntje
Sergey Norin
torbakhopper
Tenderloin Museum
Jasperdo
Henrik Kam
Mike Fisher
Don McCullough
Bruce Damonte
Mission San Juan Capistrano
Image Courtesy FreesideFreeside
Image Courtesy City of Los AngelesCity of Los Angeles
Muhammad Zharfan
Richmond Project Prism Historic Context Statement and Survey
Tom Myers
John Loo
Christopher Lance
Wyman Laliberte
Miki Yoshihito
By Jonathan HaeberJonathan Haeber
John Schrantz
Hunter Kerhart
Tim Griffith
The Arboretum
J. Paul Getty Trust
Wokandapix
Recrea HQ
Photo by iveslevesque/Flickriveslevesque
Harshil Shah
Stephen FreskosStephen Freskos
Creative CommonsEric E Castro
CyArk
Randy Heinitz
kebnekaise
Frank Farm
© Aquistbe CC BY-NC-ND 2.0Aquistbe
© CoolcaesarCoolcaesar
© Beyond My KenBeyond My Ken
© CoolcaesarCoolcaesar
© allenhimself CC BY 2.0allenhimself
© Steve Boland CC BY-NC-ND 2.0Steve Boland
© Clinton Steeds CC BY 2.0Clinton Steeds
© Dave Reichert CC BY-NC 2.0Dave Reichert
© Lars Plougmann CC BY-SA 2.0Lars Plougmann
Stephen Schafer
Jonathan Haeber
pxhere
Stuft Shirt/A'maree'sKrista Nicholds
Permission from the Friends of Niguel Moulton RanchFriends of Niguel Moulton Ranch
Krista Nicholds
Mission San Juan CapistranoKrista Nicholds
Chambre des Députés
Jeremy Ehling 2017
CFY Development
Noah Salzman
Berkeley Main Post office, interior, mural and wood work surrounding elevator entranceNoah Salzman
Berkeley Main Post office, sculpture on east side of main entrance. Signed: David Slivka, 1937Noah Salzman
Berkeley Post OfficeMatthew Roth
Joe Gratz
imtnbike
The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands
Martin Haeusler
The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands
Wikipedia user Jllm06
David Glomb
© Gary Bembridge
© Stephen Schafer Photography www.HABSPHOTO.com
Ernest McGray, Jr.
Joanne C Sullivan
Alex Westhoff
garcia architecture + design / Studio 101 West Photography
Carey & Co. / TreanorHL; historic images courtesy Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering
Mark Luthringer
Mark Luthringer
Mark Luthringer
AMCAL Multi-Housing, Inc.
San Francisco Planning
© John Fidler Preservation Technology Inc., for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
© Robert Glasheen Photograph Collection, UC San Diego Special Collections and Archives
© Robert Glasheen Photograph Collection, UC San Diego Special Collections and Archives
© Robert Glasheen Photograph Collection, UC San Diego Special Collections and Archives
Norm Lanier
Riverside Public Library, Shades of Casa Blanca
Riverside Municipal Museum
Diocese of San Bernardino
Riverside County Mexican American Historical Society
Rincon Consultants, Inc.
Harrison Design. Rarely seen architectural drawings were shown at the opening reception at the Alhecama Theatre.
Harrison Design. Dennis P. Doordan, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor, School of Architecture, University of Notre Dame, lectured on traditional urbanism.
Harrison Design. The communal-style lunch at Casa de la Guerra.
Dr. Paul Mori. Participants and panelists took an architectural walking tour. From left to right: Dennis Doordan, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor, School of Architecture, University of Notre Dame; Anthony Grumbine, AIA, principal architect, Harrison Design; Steve Hausz, architect, and Sheila Lodge, former Santa Barbara mayor.
Brandon Doran
IDuke, November 2005
Taber Andrew Bain
Jonathan Haeber
1FlatWorld
Ian Whalen
Joel Bez
Jeff Turner
Jonathan Haeber
Orange County Archives
igorelick
John O’Sullivan
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Wayne Hsieh
Lane Barden
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relux.

 

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About the Author

Rita Cofield is a native of Los Angeles. She is the youngest of eight siblings and the oldest of four adopted brothers and sisters. She graduated Howard University with a Bachelor in Architecture and Planning. She fell into Stage Managing where she learned that she was destined to foster creative solutions and maintain the integrity of historic buildings, as well as historical information. She is currently a candidate for the Master of Heritage Conservation and will complete her thesis by December 2014. She is currently working as an intern for PCR Services in Santa Monica. She continues to stage manage and on occasion, direct plays in the Los Angeles area. She is a member of LA as Subject, the Historic Theaters Committee, Actors Equity, and volunteers with Habitat for Humanity. She enjoys the outdoors, learning new things, eating new foods, going to new places, and seeing new plays. She responds to the career titles, cultural resource manager/architectural and public historian/theatrical curator and artistic director. Find Rita on Google Plus.