Developer Carl G. Fisher (1874–1939)—was a self-made millionaire who transformed Miami Beach into a winter tourist destination at the beginning of the twentieth century. It was Fisher who built several of Miami Beach’s most luxurious hotels: the Lincoln (1917), Flamingo (1920), Nautilus (1924), and the King Cole (1925). These hotels’ extravagances were meant to lure wealthy travelers south with the promise of regattas, gondola rides, polo matches, poolside models in revealing bathing suits, and even elephant rides.
The Lincoln Hotel when completed covered the entire block between Washington and Drexel Avenues on the south sides of Lincoln Road. The original building on the western side, the Lincoln Apartments, was built first in 1916 and designed by August Geiger. The eastern addition, done in an Italian Renaissance style in 1919, faced the golf course and added fifty-four rooms. The Lincoln was demolished in 1940 for the construction of the Mercantile Bank Building at 420 Lincoln Road.
The Flamingo Hotel opened on New Year’s Eve 1920, and stood on the bayside of 15th St., two blocks south of Lincoln Road. This location was a perfect spot for speedboat racing, gondola rides and polo matches. The polo field was located in the now Flamingo park and predated the hotel opening in 1919. Tea dances were always part of the social life there following the polo games. The Flamingo was taken down in 1960 to build the Morton Towers which still stands today as part of The Flamingo Point Apartments.
The elegant Spanish Colonial Nautilus Hotel opened in January 1924 on the bay at 43rd St. Probably Fisher’s most luxurious hotel, comprising 183 rooms and villas, the total cost of this property was valued at $1.25 million. The Spanish decorative elements included a baroque entrance, curved parapets and twin church-like towers. During WWII, it served as a military hospital and never went back to being a hotel. In 1949, it was purchased by the Mount Sinai Hospital and by 1968 it was torn down to build a newer hospital facility.
The King Cole was built in 1925 on Lake Surprise at 47th St. It was a long, low, three story building with a square tower at one end, topped with a peaked roof. Having only sixty rooms, the building still had a cost of almost $400,000. The general architecture was Spanish colonial, the dining room had a rustic design with ornamental features from the 11th Century. The King Cole also served as a military hospital during WWII. Later it housed the Miami Heart Institute, but the original building was demolished in 1965.