This area was the first section of Miami Beach to be developed, starting in the 1910s, thanks to the development efforts of Carl G. Fisher, the Lummus Brothers, and John S. Collins, the latter whose construction of the Collins Bridge provided the first vital land link between mainland Miami and the beaches.
The area has gone through numerous artificial and natural changes over the years, including a booming regional economy, increased tourism, and the 1926 hurricane, which destroyed much of the area. As of 2010, about 33,834 residents live in South Beach.
South Beach started as farmland. In 1870, Henry and Charles Lum purchased 165 acres (67 ha) for coconut farming. Charles Lum built the first house on the beach in 1886. In 1894, the Lum brothers left the island, leaving control of the plantation to John Collins, who came to South Beach two years later to survey the land. He used the land for farming purposes, discovering fresh water and extending his parcel from 14th Street to 67th in 1907.
In 1912, Miami businessmen the Lummus Brothers acquired 400 acres (160 ha) of Collins' land in an effort to build an oceanfront city of modest single family residences. In 1913 Collins started construction of a bridge from Miami to Miami Beach. Although some local residents invested in the bridge, Collins ran short of money before he could complete it.
Carl G. Fisher, a successful entrepreneur who made millions in 1909 after selling a business to Union Carbide, came to the beach in 1913. His vision was to establish South Beach as a successful city independent of Miami. This was the same year that the restaurant Joe's Stone Crab opened. Fisher loaned $50,000 to Collins for his bridge, which was completed in June, 1913. the Collins Bridge was later replaced by the Venetian Causeway.
On March 26, 1915, Collins, Lummus, and Fisher consolidated their efforts and incorporated the Town of Miami Beach. In 1920 the County Causeway (renamed MacArthur Causeway in 1942) was completed. The Lummus brothers sold their oceanfront property, between 6th and 14th Streets, to the city. To this day, this area is known as Lummus Park.
In 1920, the Miami Beach land boom began. South Beach's main streets (5th Street, Alton Road, Collins Avenue, Washington Avenue, and Ocean Drive) were all suitable for automobile traffic. The population was growing in the 1920s, and several millionaires such as Harvey Firestone, J.C. Penney, Harvey Stutz, Albert Champion, Frank Seiberling, and Rockwell LaGorce built homes on Miami Beach. President Warren G. Harding stayed at the Flamingo Hotel during this time, increasing interest in the area.
In the 1930s, an architectural revolution came to South Beach, bringing Art Deco, Streamline Moderne, and Nautical Moderne architecture to the Beach. South Beach claims to be the world's largest collection of Streamline Moderne Art Deco architecture. Napier, New Zealand, another notable Art Deco city, makes an interesting comparison with Miami Beach as it was rebuilt in the Ziggurat Art Deco style after being destroyed by an earthquake in 1931.
By 1940, the beach had a population of 28,000. After the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the Army Air Corps took command over Miami Beach.
In 1964, South Beach became even more famous when Jackie Gleason brought his weekly variety series, The Jackie Gleason Show to the area for taping, a rarity in the industry. Beginning in the late 1970s and continuing through the 1980s, South Beach was used as a retirement community with most of its ocean-front hotels and apartment buildings filled with elderly people living on small, fixed incomes. This period also saw the introduction of the "cocaine cowboys," drug dealers who used the area as a base for their illicit drug activities. Scarface, released in 1983, typifies this activity. In addition, television show Miami Vice used South Beach as a backdrop for much of its filming because of the area's raw and unique visual beauty. A somewhat recurring theme of early Miami Vice episodes was thugs and drug addicts barricading themselves in utterly run-down, almost ruin-like empty buildings. Only minor alterations had to be made for these scenes because many buildings in South Beach really were in such poor condition at the time. (Picture: Mokai Lounge)
While many of the unique Art Deco buildings, such as the New Yorker Hotel, were lost to developers in the years before 1980, the area was saved as a cohesive unit by Barbara Capitman and a group of activists who spearheaded the movement to place almost one square mile of South Beach on the National Register of Historic Places. The Miami Beach Architectural District was designated in 1979. (Picture: The Forge)
Before the days of Miami Vice, South Beach was considered a very poor area with a very high rate of crime. Today, it is considered one of the wealthiest and most prosperous commercial areas on the beach. Despite this, poverty and crime still exist in some isolated places surrounding the area.
Natalie O'Neill of the Miami New Times said in 2009 "Until the 1980s, Miami Beach was a peculiar mix of criminals, Cubans, and little old ladies. Then the beautiful people moved in." In the late 1980s, a renaissance began in South Beach, with an influx of fashion industry professionals moving into the area. In 1989 Irene Marie purchased the Sun Ray Apartments (famous for the chainsaw scene in Scarface) and opened Irene Marie Models - the first international full-service modeling agency in Florida. Many of the large New York based agencies soon followed.
Thomas Kramer is credited with starting the construction boom in South Beach, driving the gentrification of the area. It is now a popular living destination for the wealthy. Condominium units in the upscale high rises sell for millions. There are a number of vocal critics of the developments. The high-rise and high density buildings are derided as a "concrete jungle". However, even critics concede that the development has changed the area in a pedestrian friendly, low crime neighborhood.
Lincoln Road by McVae
After decades of economic and social decline, an influx of gay men and lesbians moving to South Beach in the late-1980s to mid-1990s helped contribute to Miami Beach's revitalization. The newcomers purchased and restored dilapidated Art Deco hotels and clubs, started numerous businesses, and built political power in city and county government. As South Beach became more popular as a national and international tourist destination, there have been occasional clashes between cultures and disputes about whether South Beach is as "gay friendly" as it once was.
South Beach is home to numerous gay bars and gay-specific events, and five service and resource organizations. The passage of progressive civil rights laws, election of outspokenly pro-gay Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower (the city's first woman and first Latino mayor), and the introduction of Miami Beach's Gay Pride Celebration, have reinvigorated the local LGBT community in recent years, which experienced a decline in the late 2000s. A handful of anti-gay attacks and some instances of Miami Beach Police brutality against gay men have been at odds with Miami Beach's longstanding image as a welcoming place for gay people.
Miami Beach is home to some of the country's largest fundraisers that benefit both local and national LGBT nonprofits. As of 2011, some of the largest LGBT fundraisers in Miami Beach are:
The Winter Party
The White Party
The Miami Recognition Dinner
The Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
In 2008, Mayor Bower created a Gay Business Development Ad Hoc Committee, with a mission to bring recommendations to the Mayor and City Commission on initiatives to be implemented and supported by the City regarding a variety of issues to ensure the welfare and future of the Miami Beach LGBT community.
While being a gay mecca of the 1980s and 1990s, Miami Beach never had a city-sanctioned Gay Pride Parade until April 2009. With strong support from Mayor Bower, Miami Beach had its first Gay Pride Festival in April 2009 It is now an annual event. The 2010 Pride drew tens of thousands of people.
Plaza de Espana
In 2010, the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, with support from the City of Miami Beach, opened an LGBT Visitor Center at Miami Beach's Old City Hall.
In 2009, the ACLU began looking into instances of Miami Beach police targeting gay men for harassment. In February 2010, ACLU announced that it would sue the City of Miami Beach for an ongoing targeting and arrests of gay men in public. According to the ACLU, Miami Beach police have a history of arresting gay men for simply looking “too gay”.
At the meeting with the local gay leaders, Miami Beach Police Chief Carlos Noriega claimed that the incidents were isolated, and promised increased diversity training for police officers. He also announced that a captain, who is a lesbian, would soon be reassigned to internal affairs to handle complaints about cops accused of harassing gays. Some members of the committee were skeptical of Noriega's assertion that the recent case wasn't indicitave of a larger problem in the MBPD, and provided examples of other cases.
In January 2010, Miami Beach passed a revised Human Rights Ordinance that strengthens enforcement of already existing human rights laws and adds protections for transgendered people, making Miami Beach’s human rights laws some of the most progressive in the state. Both residents of, and visitors to, Miami Beach have been able to register as domestic partners since 2004; in 2008 this benefit was extended to all of Miami-Dade County.
Tapas & Tintos
South Beach, how fun!! On South Beach there is obviously Lincoln Road that can't be missed. A good, consistently good, not overpriced restaurant is Balan's. Balan’s (1022 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach) is always good, not over priced, Good for people watching, and good for either breakfast or dinner.
If you go into the city, our favorite restaurant is a Miami establishment that only the locals know about it, Hy Vong (3458 Southwest 8th Street, Miami). It is an all night experience, no reservations and sometimes people wait for some time. Go either at 6:00 PM sharp or after 9:00, especially on Fri and Saturday. Thursday night seems to have a lesbian crowd that goes there.
If you go south of 5th, you will find a ton of really good, pricier, restaurants, bars etc. So much to see and do in Miami!.
Remember that nearly every place on the beach includes tip to your bill (although it is not always clear they do unless you look).
Tapas & Tintos (wine) is on 448 Espanola Way, Miami Beach, I don't know how busy they may be on a Sunday night or whether or not they have their live music Sunday but the street is adorable and worth seeing. If you don't feel like that restaurant, you can walk north a few blocks and be right on Lincoln road or walk east a couple of blocks and be right on Collins Ave again where there are tons of options. It is sometimes hit and miss on both price and quality.
Haulover Beach is the largest nude beach in US. (10800 Collins Avenue, Bal Harbour, http://www.hauloverbeach.org/). This place is a lot of fun and you might want to skip everything else and go to it. It is very mixed with all ages, sizes and sexual orientations. The "gay" area is on the North side of the beach. It would be quite hopping on a Sunday afternoon.
Good bars (these are all mixed bars): Sky Bar (www.shoreclub.com, 1901 Collins Ave. Miami Beach), Cameo Nightclub (1445 Washington avenue, Miami Beach), Mansion Nightclub (www.mansionmiami.com, 1235 Washington Ave, Miami Beach), Mokai Lounge (www.mokaimiami.com, 235 23rd Street, Miami Beach), Social Miami at Sagamore (www.sagamorehotel.com, 1671 Collins Ave, Miami Beach), Blue Door At the Delano Hotel (www.delano-hotel.com, 1685 Collins Ave, Miami Beach), Blue Martini (www.bluemartinlounge.com, 900 S Miami Ave, Miami), The Forge (41st Street, Miami Beach), SET (320 Lincoln Rd, Miami), Nikki Beach (www.nikkibeach.com, 1 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach).
Gay Clubs: Twist (Washington avenue), Score (Lincoln Road), Mova (near Lincoln Road on Michigan). –Ken Kimball
When I moved to Miami in 1986, I hung out a lot on South Beach. It was always a fascinating place, constantly changing. You had the contrast of the old Art Deco buildings, often fading and run down, against the beauty of the ocean. Gradually people began buying up old hotels and renovating them, and chefs opening cool restaurants, and then fascinating quirky stores opening.Further Readings:
I wanted to set a book there for a long time. Finally, with GayLife.com, I had that chance. But there were still so many more stories that could be told. I wrote a few short stories that built off that setting, and then, one day I was walking past a gym just off Lincoln Road. Through the big plate glass windows I could see lots of handsome, muscled guys working out.
I wondered what it would feel like to live on Miami Beach and see that kind of thing every day, and long to be (or have sex with) one of those guys. That was the first genesis of The Guardian Angel of South Beach.
I wrote a short story around this idea and submitted it for an anthology. The editor rejected it, and I don't blame her; there was too much plot for such a short piece. I went back and expanded it, teasing out the relationship that develops between the protagonist and a very cute barista. So it's both a story about coming to accept yourself, as well as a sexy romance. --Neil Plakcy
Guardian Angel of South Beach by Neil Plakcy
Publisher: Loose Id LLC (August 24, 2010)
Amazon Kindle: Guardian Angel of South Beach
Despite regular work-outs, out-of-shape computer geek Leo can’t build the body he dreams of. Then he meets a strange old man who mixes up some magic pills, and Leo’s body blossoms. But even though he’s developing a killer body and having lots of great sex, he’s not happy, until he begins to change his personality, too. Can becoming The Guardian Angel of South Beach, protecting the weak, weird, and drunk from predators, make him happy and help him hook up with Dan, the man of his dreams?
My Worst Date by David Leddick
Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 3 edition (February 15, 1998)
Amazon: My Worst Date
In Miami, where the sun always shines and the people are always fabulous, sixteen-year-old Hugo is ready for something more than school and hanging out. When he meets Glenn Elliot Paul, he thinks that, maybe, he had found something to look forward to. Hugo gets more than he bargained for, however, when he realizes that the man of his dreams is also dating his mother.
My Worst Date is a humorous and insightful novel--an innovative take on the traditional coming-of-age novel.