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Miami’s Art Deco District Takes Visitors Back to Prohibition Era

Miami’s Art Deco District Takes Visitors Back to Prohibition Era

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Miami’s Art Deco District is a landscape of architectural gems in one of the nation’s most culturally rich cities

Miami’s Art Deco District sits at the epicenter of a dynamic art scene, not the least of which is its eclectic architecture and design heritage.

From modern to Mediterranean styles, Miami has attracted some of the world’s premier architects, including Herzog and de Meuron, Zaha Hadid, and the legendary Frank Gehry.

All have left their unique mark on the South Florida hotspot, but there is one design style that stands out above the rest.

With more than 900 historic buildings and landmarks, the Miami Art Deco Historic District boasts the largest concentration of Art Deco architecture in the United States. It’s a distinct style, characterized by 20th century European design, including stepped rooflines, eyebrows, porthole windows, and glass block details.

The historic neighborhood suffered several decades of neglect and was once threatened with possible demolition. The Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) was formed to protect Miami’s most iconic architectural districts.

Art Deco District
Miami’s Art Deco Welcome Center was founded in 1976 to save the area’s then-neglected hotels from being destroyed. [Courtesy of miamiandbeaches.com]

Park the car and explore the Miami’s Art Deco District on foot

Eighteen miles south of the Hard Rock Stadium, the Art Deco Welcome Center is the epicenter of the district. Here visitors can book public and private walking tours led by guides from the MDPL. Visitors who prefer to explore at their leisure may wish to select the self-guided audio tour.

The bulk of the Art Deco tour area runs between 5th and 23rd streets and along scenic Ocean Drive, Washington Avenue, and Collins Avenue.

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As an official National Register District, the neighborhood and its streets are rich with Miami Beach culture and authenticity. The Art Deco Museum, located inside the Welcome Center, offers visitors an even deeper look into the history and heritage of the district.

If it’s good enough for Capone …

During the 1920s, Miami attracted several notorious mob bosses. Al Capone, for example, loved Miami as a beach destination for his family. During the Prohibition era, the Art Deco district was a hotbed for raids. Legend has it that several buildings on the tour served as “fronts” for serving liquor at underground parties.

Today, visitors can stroll the streets walked by Capone in the 1920s when the district was at its heyday. Walking tours begin every morning at 10:30 a.m. and on Thursdays at 6 p.m. The tour is an easy walk and takes about 90 minutes to complete. Private tours and accessibility options are available upon request.

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