A Brief History of MDPL

Compiled by Dennis W. Wilhelm, Chairman Barbara Baer Capitman Archives of MDPL

August 1976

The Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) was formed through the efforts of Barbara Baer Capitman and her son John Capitman. The initial impetus was to find a project to honor the United States’ bicentennial; the Capitmans worked with designers Leonard Horowitz and Lillian Barber to identify a concentration of 1930s buildings in South Miami Beach that the group felt could be a historic district of 20th century architecture.

December 1976

MDPL held its first large-scale public meeting, dubbed the “Design Forum.”

May 6, 1977

MDPL was incorporated by the State of Florida. Officers were: Barbara Baer Captiman, President; David Gell, Secretary; Jerry Peters, Treasurer; and Howard M. Neu, Vice President.

September 1977

Art Deco Number of Night and Day magazine highlights the goals and accomplishments of MDPL.

October 13-19, 1978

Art Deco Week organized by MDPL. The festival was held at and around the Cardozo Hotel on Ocean Drive. Barbara Capitman created the event as a showcase for the Art Deco section of Miami Beach hoping to attract both locals and tourists to the area which was comprised of an elderly population living on fixed income, many living at the poverty level. The next year the festival became an annual and was renamed Art Deco Weekend ®.

December 12, 1978

By-laws of MDPL were amended and submitted to State of Florida. Barbara Baer Capitman, David J. Gell and Carl Weinhardt, Jr. were authorized to execute the Articles as subscribers and Andres Fabergas and Michael Kinerk, president and secretary, respectively, were authorized to execute the declaration. Chairperson, Barbara Baer Capitman; President, Andres Fabregas; Vice President, Leonard Horowitz; Secretary, Michael D. Kinerk; Treasurer, Jose Madrazo; Board members besides officers: Jerald Goodman, Claire Major, Joy Moos, Karolyn Robinson, Sol Schreiber, Landon Thorne III, Carl J Weinhardt, Jr., Mitchell Wolfson, Jr.

May 14, 1979

The Miami Beach Architectural Historic District (popularly known as the “Art Deco District” and “Old Miami Beach”) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was the nation’s first urban 20th century Historic District.

July 1979

Portfolio of the Art Deco Historic District was published by MDPL with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA.) Barbara Capitman, editor; Diane Camber, Assistant Editor; Bill Bucolo, Managing Editor; photographic essay by David Kaminsky; articles by Carl J. Weinhardt, Jr., Karalyn Robinson, Barbara Capitman and Andrew Capitman.

September 1979

The Art Deco District: Time Present Time Past, a magazine with articles on various aspects of Art Deco, was published by MDPL.

March, 1980

Andy Warhol, world-famous artist and one of the pioneering Art Deco collectors, called the MDPL office in March 1980 and asked if someone would show him the Art Deco buildings in Miami Beach. An appointment was made, Warhol arrived from New York and he was given a top to bottom tour led by MDPL founder, Barbara Baer Capitman and Diana Camber the Executive Director of MDPL, now Director of the Bass Museum of Art. This event was widely covered by the news media and gave our new historic district a stamp of approval from an art-world celebrity.

April 1980

The Boulevard Hotel, at 775 Dade Boulevard, was demolished.

January 1981

The Anderson-Notter-Finegold plan for the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District was completed (the plan was never adopted).

January 7, 1981

The New Yorker Hotel (Henry Hohauser, 1939), at 1611 Collins Avenue, was demolished. Despite sustained protests from preservationists, the hotel was destroyed by owners Abe Resnik, Dov Dunaesvsky, and Isaac Fryd. The hotel, which many consider to be Hohauser’s most successful design, awakened the community to the need to enact local legislation to protect properties listed on the National Register. The hotel’s façade was later used in the new logo of the Miami Design Preservation League; the New Yorker’s lot stood vacant for many years and is now occupied by the northern-most portion of the Loew’s convention center hotel.

February 1981

Adoption of the first Dade County Historic Preservation Ordinance, which required municipalities to adopt Historic Preservation Ordinances by July 1982.

February 4, 1981

City Commission adopted Resolution No. 81-16551 requesting exemption from County Historic Preservation ordinances.


MDPL founders Barbara Baer Capitman and Leonard Horowitz took a cross-country trip to “discover” Art Deco architecture in major U.S. cities. The trip spurred the development of Art Deco societies in many of the cities, and Capitman began to be referred to as the “Johnny Appleseed of Art Deco.”


MDPL worked to protect historic buildings by encouraging local historic designation on the National Register District.

April 2, 1982

First meeting of Mayor’s Ad Hoc Committee to draft and review a Historic Preservation Ordinance for Miami Beach.

June, 1982

Miami Beach Art Deco District: Time Future was published by Community Action and Research under the auspices of MDPL. The booklet, edited by Paul A. Rothman and Barbara Capitman with graphic design by Woody Vondracek, summarized the Anderson Notter Finegold plan for the Art Deco Historic District and lobbied for its adoption by the City of Miami Beach.

June 16, 1982

The first Miami Beach Historic Preservation Ordinance, No. 82-2318, was adopted; it contained 100 percent owner consent provision.

September 23, 1982

The Dade County Historic Preservation Board found the Miami Beach Ordinance not in compliance with county requirements.

October 20, 1982

The City Commission appointed the first Historic Preservation Board.

January 31, 1983

The U.S. Department of the Interior found the Miami Beach Ordinance to be in compliance with National Register standards for local governments.

April 20, 1983

Ordinance No. 83-2367 amended Historic Preservation Ordinance No. 82-2318, changing owner consent from 100 percent to 51 percent required for designation.

May 4-7, 1983

The Art Deco District came to the attention of the art world as a result of “Surrounded Islands,” an installation by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude in which a series of 11 islands in Biscayne Bay were wrapped in pink fabric. During the installation, the artists established their “headquarters” in the Art Deco District.

August 15, 1983

Dade County and others filed a lawsuit to invalidate the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Ordinance.

October 5, 1983

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 83-2388 designating the Old City Hall building as the city’s first Historic Preservation Site.

February 1, 1984

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 84-2402 designating the 21st Street Community Center a Historic Preservation Site.

April 4, 1984

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 84-2405 creating a Design Review Board.


The Art Deco District achieved worldwide recognition as a result of the hit television show Miami Vice, starring Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas. The show used the Art Deco District as a backdrop in many of the episodes.

February 6, 1985

The City Commission adopted the Ocean Drive plan containing recommendations for local Historic District designation.

March 20, 1985

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 85-2470 eliminating the owner consent provision from Historic Preservation ordinances.

October 16, 1985

The City Commission adopted the Espanola Way plan containing a recommendation for local Historic District designation.


Renowned fashion photographer Bruce Weber chose Miami Beach’s Breakwater Hotel for a photo shoot for an ad for Calvin Klein’s “Obsession,” spurring an onslaught of fashion photography shoots in the Art Deco District.

July 23, 1986

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 86-2511 designating the Espanola Way District and the Ocean Drive/Collins Avenue District as Miami Beach’s first Historic Preservation districts. These ordinances were adopted after significant grassroots efforts by MDPL.


“Our Drive…Ocean Drive” was a joint campaign by MDPL and its sister organization, the Miami Beach Development Corporation (MBDC), now renamed the Miami Beach Community Development Corporation (MBCDC). As a result, a $3 million bond package was approved to fund the widening of the sidewalk on the west side of Ocean Drive, allowing hotels to establish sidewalk cafes. On the east side of the street, a wide promenade was created along the wall separating Lummus Park from the beach.


MDPL campaigned for local designation of the entire National Register District and revisions to the zoning codes to make them more compatible with historic preservation.

MDPL started the SOS (Save Our Senator) campaign to prevent demolition of the Senator Hotel. Although the hotel was demolished ( October 13, 1988 ), MDPL’s efforts delayed demolition for more than a year. The public outcry that MDPL created resulted in the City Commission passing a strengthened local preservation ordinance that could prevent demolition.


The Biscaya Hotel (1925), at 650 West Avenue, was demolished. MDPL mounted an unsuccessful campaign to save the hotel, originally the Floridian Hotel and the last remaining example of the grand bayside hotels.

May 6, 1987

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 87-2665 designating Altos del Mar a Historic Preservation District.

January 1988

The Poinciana Hotel (Albert Anis, 1939), at 1555 Collins Avenue, was demolished.

February 3, 1988

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 88-2598, strengthening the demolition section of the Historic Preservation Ordinance.

May 1988

Miami Beach Art Deco Guide was published by MDPL. The guidebook, written by Keith Root with editorial assistance by Dr. Ernest Martin and Michael Kinerk, contained six self-guided walking tours of the Art Deco District.

October 13th, 1988

The Senator Hotel (L. Murray Dixon, 1939), at 1201 Collins Avenue, was demolished.

June 1988

Deco Delights: Preserving the Beauty and Joy of Miami Beach Architecture, written by MDPL founder Barbara Baer Capitman, was published by E.P. Dutton.

June 1, 1988

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 88-2616 placing the Architectural District under Design Review jurisdiction.

April 5, 1989

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 89-2637 designating the Venetian Causeway (1926) a Historic Preservation Site.

September 7 & 21, 1989

The City Commission nominated the Flamingo and Museum neighborhoods for Historic Preservation Districts designation. The Museum area was nominated as a local historic district or collection of historic sites depending on the findings of the Historic Preservation Board.

March 29, 1990

Barbara Baer Capitman died of congestive heart failure. Capitman was memorialized with obituaries in Time and Newsweek magazines as well as the Miami Herald, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers.

June 6, 1990

The City Commission deferred consideration on the first reading of nine nominated historic preservation sites.

June 20, 1990

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 90-2698 designating the Flamingo Park and Museum Historic Preservation Districts.

January 1991

MDPL organized and held the First World Congress on Art Deco ®, with the goal of promoting education of the value of preserving Art Deco’s heritage. Participants came from all over the world.

April 16, 1991

First Lady Barbara Bush accepts a painting of the Carlyle Hotel on Ocean Drive at a presentation in the White House. Michael Kinerk, Dennis Wilhelm and artist Gustavo Novoa make the presentation on behalf of MDPL.

December 5, 1991

The Historic Preservation Board nominated all remaining areas within the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District for local historic designation.

January 9, 1992

The formation of a new preservation coalition, the National Coalition of Art Deco Societies (NCADS) was created during an MDPL-sponsored meeting of the presidents of Art Deco societies from around the country and preservation representatives from several cities. This coalition was later expanded to the International Coalition of Art Deco Societies.

March 2, 1992

The Sands Hotel (Roy F. France, 1939), at 1601 Collins Avenue, was demolished.

May 18, 1992

The Planning Board recommended that the Historic Preservation Board action be approved.

June 1992

The City Commission requested the Planning Board to hold another hearing on designating the balance of the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District as a local historic district. The reason for the request related to questions about the public notice.

July 16, 1992

The Historic Preservation Board nominated Beth Jacob Congregation at 311 Washington Avenue as a local Historic Site.

July 23, 1992

The Planning Board held an additional public hearing to recommend the historic preservation nomination to all remaining areas within the architectural district for local historic designation, actions continued to September 22, 1992.

September 23, 1992

The Planning Board recommended the nomination of all remaining areas within the architectural district for local historic designation.

November 4, 1992

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 92-2821 expanding the Historic District to the entire mile-square Art Deco district, which protected from demolition the full area entered into the National Register of Historic Places.

January 20, 1993

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 93-2832 designating Congregation Beth Jacob a Historic Preservation Site.

June 3, 1993

The Historic Preservation Board held a public hearing to consider Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace’s application for a certificate of appropriateness for demolition of the Revere Hotel (Herbert Mathes, 1950), a property that was listed as “contributing,” as opposed to “historic,” at the time the district was listed on the National Register. An order was issued granting Versace’s request after six months of vigorous protest by MDPL. The Revere Hotel was demolished to make way for Versace’s private garage and swimming pool. However, the issue focused awareness on the need to overhaul the City of Miami Beach’s Preservation Ordinance.

January 1994

Rediscovering Art Deco: A Nationwide Tour of Architectural Delights, written by MDPL founder Barbara Baer Capitman and MDPL charter members Michael D. Kinerk and Dennis W. Wilhelm, was published by Penguin Books USA Inc.

May 1994

City of Miami Beach Historic Preservation Ordinance was strengthened to protect both “contributing” and “historic” buildings within the National Register District.

February 15, 1995

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 95-2977 designating the Miami Beach Woman’s Club a Historic Preservation Site.


The Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) awarded MDPL the prestigious Phoenix Award in recognition of the role the League played in reviving tourism in Miami Beach through the use of historic preservation.

Miami Beach Art Deco District Audio Tour is produced by MDPL. Dennis Wilhelm, executive producer; Christine Giles project manager. Committee: Jeff Donnelly, Matti Bower, Victor Diaz, Jr., Betty Gutierrez, Richard Hoberman, Michael Kinerk, Keith Root, Denis Russ, Lourdes Solera.

February 20, 1996

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 96-3037 designating Ocean Beach a Historic Preservation District.

September 25, 1996

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 96-3057 designating Harding Township/Altos del Mar a Historic Preservation District.

November 1996

Miami Beach’s 10th Street, between Washington Avenue and Ocean Drive, is renamed “Barbara Capitman Way” in a public ceremony

July 16, 1997

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 97-3088 designating Sunset Island Bridges a Historic Preservation Site.


MDPL successfully lobbied the City of Miami Beach to limit rooftop additions to one story on Lincoln Road.

June 9, 1999

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 99-3186 designating Palm View a Historic Preservation District.

October 20, 1999

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 99-3212 designating Dade Boulevard Fire Station a Historic Preservation Site.

November 17, 1999

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 99-3217 designating the Bath Club a Historic Preservation Site.

November 29, 1999

President Bill Clinton signed an amendment to the Lanham Trademarking Act which ensures that hotels in national, state and local Historic Register Districts may maintain their historic names even if in “conflict” with an entity of the same name. This was a result of MDPL working in partnership with the Florida delegation to the House of Representatives, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the City of Miami Beach.

January 2000

Barbara Baer Capitman is honored by the state’s “Great Floridians” program, with a commemorative plaque affixed to the Cardozo Hotel.

The City of Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board (HPB) is given sole jurisdiction over new and additional construction in historic districts. Previously, this responsibility was shared by the HPB and the City of Miami Beach Design Review Board.

January 2001

Architects Henry Hohauser and L. Murray Dixon are honored as “Great Floridians” by the State of Florida.

January 31, 2001

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 2001-3292 designating the Collins Waterfront a Historic Preservation District.

May 14, 2001

Historic neighborhoods are not only made up of significant and contributing buildings, but they include the people that inhabit them, the public places and green spaces they are surrounded by. Without careful and consistent review of all of these elements, a neighborhood fades away.”

—Michael Kinerk, MDPL Chairman, 2001 State of the District Report

June 6, 2001

The City Commission adopted Ordinance No. 2001-3310 designating Pine Tree Drive a Historic Roadway.

October 2001

Opening of the Visitor Interpretive Center, Art Deco Museum, and Barbara Capitman Archives at 1001 Ocean Drive.

November 2002

Miami Beach commissioners vote to reduce building heights on the southernmost tip of Ocean Drive from 100 to 75 feet, after lobbying efforts by MDPL. MDPL had originally lobbied for a maximum height of just 35 feet for buildings south of Fifth Street.

January 2003

Travel Holiday Magazine selects MDPL’s guided walking tours as its “Editors Choice Award” for the Best Buys of 2003.

February 2004

The North Beach Resort Historic District is recognized by the City of Miami Beach Commission.

March 2004

The City of Miami Beach Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Committee presents a report on “Demolition by Neglect.”

July 2004

Under the leadership of board member Mitch Novick, MDPL initiated a campaign to save the Avery Smith House from demolition. The house at 900 Collins Avenue (also known as the “Coral Rock House”), was the home of early Miami Beach settler Avery Smith, who ran a casino (bathing pavilion) and ferry service on Miami Beach beginning in 1909. The structure, built in 1916 of native oolitic limestone, is one of the last remaining examples of the vernacular style.

April 2005

The City of Miami Beach Commission approves the Flamingo Waterway District.

May 2005

With encouragement from MDPL, The Florida Trust for Historic Preservation lists Avery Smith House (the Coral Rock House) as an “endangered site.”


The City of Miami Beach City Commission passes the “Demolition by Neglect” ordinance.

May 2006

City of Miami Beach Commission passes additional Flamingo Historic District protections which lower height limits from four to three stories.

June-July 2006

MDPL co-sponsors, with the Wolfsonian-FIU, a week-long teacher training program called “Using Buildings To Tell Stories.” The program is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, as a part of its Landmarks of American History and Culture program.

July 2006

The Miami Beach City Commission passes an ordinance to require property owners seeking to use more than 30 percent of their lot space to renovate or build new structures to go before the review panel for approval. The ordinance, supported by MDPL, will make it harder to property owners to build oversized houses—sometimes called “McMansions”—on undersized lots.

July 2007

MDPL organizes a public protest in front of the Coral Rock House at 900 Collins Avenue in an effort to halt destruction.

August 2007

At VISIT FLORIDA’s Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Barbara Baer Capitman was honored as the first recipient of the VISIT FLORIDA Honor Roll award. Capitman was recognized for her work as a historic preservationist and founder of the Miami Design Preservation League, the Miami Beach Community Development Corporation, and the International Coalition of Art Deco Societies.

January 2008

Miami Beach commissioners unanimously approved an expansion of the Flamingo Park Historic District, westward to Alton Road between 8th to 14th Streets.

June 2008

Renovation work begins on the Art Deco Welcome Center at 1001 Ocean Drive, home of MDPL.

July 2008

The Official Art Deco Gift Shop moves to a temporary location at 1200 Ocean Drive, during renovations of the Art Deco Welcome Center.

November 2008

Monopoly: Miami and the Beaches Edition® is introduced, with Miami Design Preservation League as the nonprofit partner. MDPL also served in an advisory role as to the selection of board locations and the card options found within the game.

December 2008

Miami Design Preservation League moves into temporary office space in Miami Beach’s Historic City Hall, 1130 Washington Avenue, during renovation of the Art Deco Welcome Center.

December 2008

The Loews Miami Beach Resort donates $10,000 to the Miami Design Preservation League during the 10-year anniversary celebration of the hotel, to be used by MDPL to develop two new programs – an official Visitors Information Center and an Art Deco Interpretive Museum – as a part of the renovations of the Art Deco Welcome Center (MDPL headquarters) located on 10th Street and Ocean Drive.

June 2010

At their 2010 National Convention held in Miami Beach, the American Institute of Architects honors the Miami Design Preservation League with a rare AIA Presidential Citation.

The citation reads: “Organized by Barbara Capitman and Leonard Horowitz and today the oldest Art Deco Society in the world, their inspired advocacy of enlightened preservation policies, their educational programs that heighten community awareness and pride, and their creation of a network of international partnerships have done more than preserve an irreplaceable cultural legacy for future generations; their success demonstrates that caring for our design heritage can be the engine of community revitalization and a resource for a more sustainable world.”

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