In honor of Black History Month….did you know The ROYAL PALM HOTEL at 1545 Collins Avenue in 2002 was the first full-service luxury hotel in America to be owned, developed and managed by African Americans?
Designed in 1939 by Donald G. Smith as a four-story resort, the hotel was expanded two years later to seven stories. The original Art Deco structure was owned by Russian immigrant developers Joe Rose and Nat Hankoff. In the early 1940’s the Royal Palm Hotel was among 300 Miami Beach properties that served as military barracks, mess halls, classrooms, and other facilities for the approximately half a million troops that trained here during the war. In October 1945, it reopened for the first post-war vacationers. During the 1950’s and early 1960’s, Miami Beach had its most glamorous heydays. Sinatra, Elvis, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Jackie Gleason, and The Beatles all came to perform in Miami Beach. By the end of the 1970’s and 1980’s, the Royal Palm 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 that were mostly Jewish Holocaust survivors and so the hotel became strictly kosher.
In 1993, the mayor and Commission of the City of Miami Beach approved the sale of the unrestored Royal Palm Hotel, already targeted for incorporation in the Convention Center Historic Village plan. In 1996, Roy Donahue Peebles, was a real estate entrepreneur and African American political activist. While on vacation with his family in Miami Beach, he learned of the city’s plans to solicit bids for the redevelopment of the Royal Palm Hotel. Peebles put a bid in, won the project and initiated developing it into a 420-room and suite ocean-front resort consisting of three towers. During this time, Peebles also purchased the adjacent Shorecrest Hotel, with the City of Miami Beach partnering with him on the acquisition. Unfortunately, the original Royal Palm Hotel was discovered to be in irreparable structural condition. Its reinforced concrete frame could not meet building code requirements, despite concerted efforts to preserve this National Historic Landmark. In December 1998, it had to be demolished with the unprecedented requirement that the seven-story historic building would be reconstructed on its original site, from its original plans, using original construction techniques and details.
When reopened in May 2002, the Royal Palm featured 150 suites. It was the first full-service luxury hotel in America to be owned, developed and managed by African Americans. As typical for hotels these days, the Royal Palm was eventually sold to a large international hotel chain.