Posts Tagged ‘Miami Beach’

Miami Beach

January 25, 2010


all photographs copyright Felicity Rich

In my role as a Trustee of the National Trust I attend three meetings a year and while the meetings themselves are intense and plentiful, we do reap the benefits of visiting stunning historic places in great American cities. This weekend we were in Miami Beach, which seems quite the posh destination, and it is. Thanks to preserving buildings.

photograph copyright Felicity Rich

In the 1970s and 1980s South Miami Beach had serious issues of crime and drugs. It also had blocks and blocks of fantastic but run-down Art Deco hotels that had opened in the 1930s when Miami Beach became a vacation destination. A few visionary developers, including National Trust Trustee Tony Goldman, started restoring these buildings and today South Beach draws tourists from all over the world to its beaches and protected, restored Art Deco district.

Friday Tony hosted us on The Hotel rooftop for drinks before we visited another Trustee’s stunning contemporary rooftop condo with views of South Beach.

photograph copyright Felicity Rich

There was a great symmetry to this meeting because our President Dick Moe is retiring and this was the site of his first National Preservation Conference in 1992. That was also my first conference, as a staff member of Landmarks Illinois. That was in the wake of Hurricane Andrew and there was much cleanup yet to do but Miami impressed me at the time. It was also sad because this year we lost Floyd Butler, who had founded the Young Urban Preservationists, a way to teach inner-city kids, and he and I had spent much time together in Miami in ’92.

photograph copyright Felicity Rich

Thursday we had dined at the home of Arva Moore Parks McCabe, a pioneering local preservationist, who last night related how she came to the Trust in 1973 seeking help saving a house in a historic district and the Trust sent her to Oak Park, Illinois. It worked, and she and others of the Dade Heritage Trust have saved much in the meantime, including a fascinating effort by Trustee Jorge Hernandez and others to save the Miami Marine Stadium, one of the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered properties last year.

photograph copyright Felicity Rich

The Miami Marine Stadium is a 1963 concrete composition that is part of an outdoor marine arena unlike any I have ever seen. The folded slabs of the roof and bleachers projecting over the water recall the most visionary concrete designs of the 1950s and 1960s and even in despair the building impresses.

photograph copyright Felicity Rich

Local preservationists have defied the odds and the authorities to make significant progress towards its eventual preservation. We had the honor of touring the site by boat with the architect who designed it as a young man, Hilario Candela.

Then we had a lovely dinner at Vizcaya, the stunning Italianate Deering mansion on the shore in Miami, an over-the-top historic house and gardens that is open to the public and which the National Trust helped local preservationists save from over development a few years ago. The whole place is made from coral stone and there is a massive boat folly across from the terrace that reminded me of Cixi’s folly, the marble boat in the Summer Palace in Beijing. Vincent Scully whom we awarded the Louise DuPont Crowninshield Award in Nashville was there and I got to speak with him.

photograph copyright Felicity Rich

It was interesting to hear Dick Moe and Arva Moore Parks McCabe and others talk about a Miami that “got no respect” from the preservation movement back in the 1970s, because my first exposure to the place in ’92 was all about preservation. How saving and rehabilitating buildings revitalized a community down on its heels and made it an international destination. Almost a generation later, the Miami Marine Stadium presents the same opportunity. Every generation can reclaim its unique and valued connection to place. If it chooses to.


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