The French Casino nightclub at 1235 Washington Avenue was built in 1934. Later converted to a motion picture house in 1937 by noted architect Thomas Lamb, it was renamed Cinema Casino Theatre. The rear lobby (which was surrounded by a large artistic mural) had comfortable sofas to sit in while guests waited for the show to begin. Much of the auditorium was decorated in reds with a Seminole Indian theme. Throughout the 1950s-60’s, it became a one dollar theatre that ran double feature MGM film classics.
In the 1970’s that area of South Beach had become badly declined and subsequently the theatre closed in 1977. The owners wished to demolish the lobby in ’78 and convert it into three separate stores. Local preservationists stepped in, including Barbara Baer Capitman and Leonard Horowitz, but were unsuccessful in their campaign to stop it. In 1983, they stepped in again and stronger efforts were made to secure the restoration of the lobby to its original grandeur. After a $3.5 million restoration of the Art Deco Cinema Theatre it became Club “Z”, with some of the original Art Deco elements still retained including the fantastic balcony. This new club would be patronized by thousands of young visitors and locals every weekend. Grace Jones, Chaka Khan, Tina Turner, and Miami Sound Machine were just some of the entertainers that performed there.
Over the next couple of decades new owners, including rock icon Prince, along with new names for the club, changed hands frequently. One patron fondly remembered when the club was called Paragon and had two swimming pools installed on the stage, embellished with mirrors above it. Dancers would dive into the pools and swim around, like an Esther William’s movie. In 2004, the space was to be reopened by The Opium Group and renamed the Mansion. It had a long run of music and parties for the next eleven years. In 2015, ownership changed hands again and became the Icon nightclub. However, it shut down officially after only nine months of business. The last known club at this location was the Copa Room Miami, that closed its doors a couple of years ago. Currently the space is vacant and for lease.
Shown are archival photos of the interior and exterior, both in black and white and color, as well as a Z Club postcard invite and membership card.