10 Best Art Deco Buildings in Miami Beach

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Miami's famed South Beach is an architectural treasure chest thanks to over 800 examples of art deco, all of which were built in the years following a devastating hurricane that razed the city in 1926. The Art Deco District is only one-square mile, and some of the most dramatic buildings overlook the beach on Ocean Drive, so exploring is easy. Here are our ten favorites to check out next time you're in Miami.

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Cavalier Hotel

Address: 1320 Ocean Drive

Architect: Roy France

The decorative stucco friezes outside the Cavalier Hotel are significant for more than aesthetic reasons. France used them to add symmetry (adhering to deco's golden “Rule of Three”) and accentuate the hotel’s verticality by drawing the eye upward. The pattern he chose also reflected a fascination with ancient civilizations engendered by the recent rediscovery of King Tut’s tomb and the Chichén Itzá temples.

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Park Central Hotel

Address: 640 Ocean Drive

Architect: Henry Hohauser

Known as the “Blue Jewel” thanks to the color of its neon marquee, the landmark Ocean Drive Park Park Central Hotel was built in 1937. Pop into the lobby and check out the stunning floor. Terrazzo—a compound of cement and stone chips that could be poured, then polished—is a hallmark of deco design. Terrazzo floors typically had a geometric pattern, like this one.

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Essex House Hotel

Address: 1001 Collins Avenue

Architect: Henry Hohauser

This 1938 gem is a stunning example of Maritime deco (also known as Nautical Moderne). Designed to evoke an ocean liner, the Essex House hotel is rife with marine elements, from the rows of porthole-style windows and the natty racing stripes, to the towering smokestack-like sign. With a prow angled proudly into the street corner, the building seems ready to steam out to sea.

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The Hotel

Address: 801 Collins Avenue

Architect: L. Murray Dixon

The name spelled vertically in eye-popping neon on the venue’s iconic aluminum spire—Tiffany—bears evidence of The Hotel’s earlier incarnation. When the Tiffany Hotel was erected in 1939, neon was still a novelty. Its use, coupled with the spire’s rocket-like shape, combined to create a futuristic look influenced by the sci-fi themes then pervasive in popular culture.

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Senor Frogs

Address: 1450 Collins Avenue

Architect: Henry Hohauser

Inspired by everything from car fenders to airplane noses, proponents of art deco’s Streamline Moderne look began to soften buildings’ hitherto boxy edges. But when Hohauser designed Hoffman’s Cafeteria in 1940 he took modern to the max. The landmark (now Señor Frog's) has a sleek, splendidly curved facade.

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The Carlyle

Address: 1250 Ocean Drive

Architect: Kiehnel & Elliot

Built in 1941, The Carlyle has been a star on Ocean Drive for nearly 75 years—the 1996 film, The Birdcage, was set here and its façade was featured in films like Scarface and Bad Boys 2. Notice how the Art Deco rule of thirds is employed, with its three dividing vertical sections and the step tops that cap them. The muted Deco color palette (white and sea foam green) is much more subtle than many of the other landmark buildings from this era.

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Colony Theatre

Address: 1040 Lincoln Road

Architect: R.A. Benjamin

Built for Paramount theaters in 1935, the Colony Theatre is an Art Deco gem, both inside and out. The marquee and façade are beautifully maintained, the ticket box perfectly restored, and the pristine terrazzo flooring features bold lines and geometric patterns. The much-loved 430-seat theater is a performing arts center and a neighborhood hub, with its central location on Lenox Avenue and Lincoln Road.

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The Breakwater

Address: 940 Ocean Drive

Architect: Anton Skislewicz

This towering, neon-lit façade is pure South Beach. At night it’s a glowing blue beacon that can be seen from almost anywhere in Lummus park. The Breakwater Hotel's clean, colorful lines and emphasis on symmetry are emblematic of the stylistic qualities of Art Deco design. Built in 1936, the 99-room boutique hotel was extensively renovated in 1999, making it one of the jewels of Ocean Drive.

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The McAlpin

Address: 1424 Ocean Drive

Architect: L. Murray Dixon

The iconic McAlpin (now part of Hilton Grand Vacation Club) is one of South Beaches' most famous, and most widely photographed, buildings in the district. It's by far one of the best examples of Miami's Art Deco style. The façade is perfectly symmetrical, with lines that run the length and width of the building. Note the rule of three in both the vertical lines and the horizontal eyebrows. The McAlphin sports a pretty pastel palette of pink and turquoise, and has wonderfully stylized signage.

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Bass Museum by Phillip Pessar CC BY 2.0

Bass Museum

Address: 2100 Collins Avenue

Architect: Russel Pancoast

Built in 1930 to house the Miami Beach Public Library and Arts Center, the Bass Museum is one of the finest and most subtle examples of Art Deco on this list. Pancoast designed the building with an eye towards maintaining the symmetry of the formal gardens in Collins Park. The building's distinctive façade is made from fossilized Paleolithic coral and decorated with bas reliefs by Gustav Boland. The lovely carvings depict Spanish conquest, a fantastic pelican eating a fish, and cruise ships, boats and planes roaring towards Miami Beach. This is a beautifully subtle and dignified structure that serves as a cultural anchor for the area.

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