In honor of Black History Month we call attention to the Blackstone Hotel on Washington Avenue that often went against the prevailing racism of minorities including welcoming blacks to Miami Beach.
The Blackstone Hotel at 830 Washington Avenue was designed by architect B. Kingston Hall in 1929. Nathan Stone was the developer and built this 13 story hotel in the Mediterranean Revival style. In 1929, the Blackstone Hotel was the tallest structure on the Beach and served as a monumental, elegant design in a resort town of low-rise structures.
Stone’s wish was to accommodate his northern Jewish customers who came to Miami Beach and were turned away at other hotels. Assisted by his wife and son Alfred, they opened the largest hotel on South Beach in less than one year after construction began. Blackstone was actually the Anglicized surname of “Schwartzstein”. Nathan was also the father of Richard Stone, Florida’s 1975 US Senator. Richard grew up in the hotel handing out keys and carrying luggage for the guests.
The hotel was remodeled in 1934 by V.H Nellenbogen. In that same era, George Gershwin composed Porgy and Bess while relaxing in the buff in the rooftop solarium of the hotel. By 1953, Henry Hohauser did the remodeling of approximately 88 apartment units.
“In 1954, despite the fact that blacks had virtually no rights on the beach, the Blackstone Hotel booked a convention for the Black Methodist Episcopalian Church. The Blackstone often went against the prevailing winds of Miami Beach and although its events received threats from racist groups, there were no major incidents.”**
Speaking recently to Mark Sossin who told us, “In 1954, Michael Sossin (my father) purchased the Blackstone after developing his ideas about “retirement living” in running the Boulevard Hotel on Dade Blvd and then the Floridian Hotel in Miami Beach. He was the pioneer for a compassionate, supportive group environment, which fostered activities and social engagement for seniors at the Blackstone. In some ways it was a forerunner of the Assisted Living concept. Some guests were year-round, and some were seasonal. Most were Eastern European Jews and Yiddish was commonly spoken. Entertainers, educators, and politicians all contributed to the stimulating environment at the Blackstone. At a certain juncture the hotel served only kosher food. Non-Jewish guests were of course welcome too.”
In the late 1980s, George Perez renovated the Blackstone Hotel for affordable housing. It was one of the first low income tax credit rehab projects in Miami Beach. At the time, it was under the management of the Housing Authority of the City of Miami Beach. Overall the structure has remained essentially unchanged over the years. Currently, it is leasing at market rates.
Shown are 1930’s postcard and 1930 ad for the Blackstone Hotel. Photograph below shows the current Blackstone building that offers apartment rentals.
**Description by RuskinARC