The Roney Plaza Hotel

Read Time: 3 mins

The Roney Plaza Hotel, considered the very first of many monumental beachfront resorts, was once located at Collins Avenue and 23rd Street. It was built by New Jersey lawyer Newton Baker Taylor Roney in 1925 after having purchased the land site from John Collins’ Miami Beach Improvement Company for $2,500,000. It was one of Roney’s most famous developments in Miami Beach, with the other being the Spanish Village on Española Way. The luxury nine-story hotel was designed by Schultze and Weaver, a New York architectural firm which was also responsible for the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan, The Freedom Tower in Downtown Miami, and The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. The firm drew inspiration from the famous Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain for the design of their Florida properties, including the Roney Plaza. 

Photograph of La Giralda in Seville, Spain
Newspaper photograph of the Roney Plaza Hotel during its construction;
Courtesy of the Miami Herald

By 1926, doors were open to reveal 350 elegant rooms, 52 shop spaces, fine dining, and enormous formal gardens. Nearly 600 guests filled the dining room and lounge to capacity on opening night. An article from the Miami Herald on February 14, 1926 describes the decorative splendor, stating that, “While individual tables presented a wide array of decorative schemes with numerous tropical flowers and novelties, the luxurious furnishings of the dinner room and lounge were principally responsible for the colorful setting… The color scheme of the hotel is blended to form a bouquet effect which permits no one color to become monotonous.” 

February 14, 1926 newspaper photographs of the Roney Plaza’s interior, featuring the “Arched Entrace” (top left), “Porch Overlooking Ocean” (bottom left), “Ocean Front Lounge (top right), “The Portenza Lounge” (bottom right), and “Corner of Lobby” (center); Courtesy of the Miami Herald
Postcard featuring one of the Roney Plaza’s iconic Palm Garden tea dances;
Courtesy of Miami Design Preservation League

The Roney Plaza became renowned for its lavish dinners and especially for its afternoon tea dances in the Palm Garden. The popularity of its cabana colony prompted an expansion in 1931, establishing a successful Cabana Club with 100 additional cabanas, a new swimming pool, electric bath and massage parlors, locker rooms, swimming supplies, brokerage office space, a beauty parlor, barber shop, and new dining options. By the 1940s, the hotel was a well-known retreat for social elites, Hollywood celebrities, and even English royalty such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

Postcard featuring the Roney Plaza’s Cabana Club, built in 1931;
Courtesy of Miami Design Preservation League

With the construction of newer, more modern oceanfront resorts in the 1950s, the Roney Plaza Hotel saw a vast decline in popularity. The property had changed ownership hands various times over the years and now struggled to compete with the newly built Fontainebleau and Eden Roc hotels, remaining in a pendulum swing between planned demolition and survival for many months. Regrettably, the Roney Plaza was finally demolished in 1968 to make way for the construction of the new apartment complex that would take its place.

Video Clip of Roney Plaza demolition site, featuring Carl Fisher’s widow, Jane Fisher;
Courtesy of Miami-Dade College Wolfson Archives

Today, the Roney Palace luxury condominiums are present on the lot, having kept the Roney name as a reminder of the legendary resort that once entertained the finest of guests from all over the world. The overall property is now operated as the 1 Hotel South Beach.

Latest Blog Post