from the Archives

The Georgian Hotel

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The Georgian Hotel was located on 1621 Collins Avenue near Lincoln Road. It was designed by architect Joseph J. DeBrita and built in 1940 at a cost of $140,000. Constructed as a three story hotel in the Colonial Revival style of architecture, it contained one hundred and two rooms with an indoor restaurant. Meant to evoke the architecture of early America, this style was especially popular after the nation’s 150th birthday in 1926. Surprisingly, DeBrita built The Georgian in 1940, when Art Deco was more commonly the rage with architects of that time. A couple of years later in 1942, L. Murray Dixon, the architect responsible for many famous Miami Beach Art Deco hotels, also built a Neocolonial style hotel called The Betsy Ross at 1440 Ocean Drive.

1940s vintage postcard of the Georgian Hotel near Lincoln Road

The new hotel only had a couple of years to enjoy welcoming new guests before America became involved with a new World War. From 1942 -1945, the hotel then became one of the many military “barrack hotels” on Miami Beach. After the war, many repairs and updates were done to accommodate the influx of increased tourism, especially for soldiers who came back to South Florida after they got “sand in their boots”. In 1946, the well known architect of that time, Henry Hohauser designed a new cocktail lounge for the hotel. In 1951, installation of air conditioning equipment was a welcome feature to this property. In 1953, there was an addition of a new outdoor dance floor with a canopy as well as a diving tower for the pool. Both of these were designed by the architect Robert Swartburg.  

Front of 1949 vintage brochure for the Georgian Hotel
Back of 1949 vintage brochure for the Georgian Hotel

The Georgian was at the heart of everything fun in the South Beach area. It was a short distance to some of the Beach’s legendary eateries: the Crossroads, DuBrow’s Cafeteria, Huey’s Cathay House, Wolfie’s, Joe Hart’s Pickin’ Chicken and the Noshery at the Saxony Hotel. Between the hotel pool, the beach, miniature golf next door, and breakfast at the Liggett’s Drug Store counter, what was not accessible for the fun-loving tourist?   

1940’s postcard Wolfie’s on Collins & 21st St

By the early 1970’s, sadly the Georgian Hotel had become one more of the dozens of dilapidated and neglected Miami Beach hotels. Instead of tourists, the area was largely populated by refugees from the Caribbean, and low-income elderly retirees, many of them Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.  Lacking the clientele and business to keep it open, it was demolished on September 18, 1974 (before MDPL was formed). In 1979, the Georgian Condominium was built in the same location. This structure had ten-stories with one hundred and fifty units at a cost of $5.5 million.

The Betsy, originally called The Betsy Ross, still stands as the lone surviving example of Florida Colonial Revival architecture on Ocean Drive.     

Color photograph of the Georgian Hotel, courtesy of Oscar A. Larrieu

What would Miami Beach be like without Historic Art Deco, Mediterranean, and MiMo buildings?

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