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Travel Review December 2018
South Beach Walking Tour Part I of II Page II of II
Our guide stated that the now world famous Art Deco area of South Beach extends from 1st to 22nd Street (south to north), and that Mr. Carl Fisher (Fisher Island), an industrialist from Indiana (bet you can't say it fast 3 times), spearheaded the movement to convert South Beach into a playground for the rich and famous beginning in the roaring 1920's. Two major setbacks followed beginning with the infamous hurricane of 1926 and the stock market crash in 1929. Right about then -- believe it or not -- it began to rain seemingly on cue. South Florida is well known for a flash rain lasting for a few minutes and then, Walla, sunshine again! Our down pour began at 10:45 A.M., we ran for shelter, and then it stopped.
Gina then stated that the term Art Deco was conceived at an art exposition in Paris, France, in 1925, and adopted here in the early 1980's not too long after I graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School (1978) off Prairie Avenue and 23rd Street. She then pointed out that the buildings are typically white with porches like the old Congress Hotel where the older women used to sit and watch the traffic go by back in the 1970's. I took a summer job with the City of Miami Beach's maintenance department back during high school and our supervisor would make sure we began our work day with a trip up Ocean Drive (north) and ended with a trip down Ocean Drive (south). I wonder if he is still around today so that I can thank him for that memory?
Our guide Gina then covered the latest trend in area architecture known as MIMO (Miami Modern) and can be seen next to the Congress Hotel, in northern South Beach, and along the Venetian Causeway. Next we stopped by the 3rd most photographed residence in the US (behind the White House [Washington DC] and Graceland [Memphis, TN]), according to our guide, the Versace' Mansion at 1116 Ocean Drive. She stated that the original home was built in 1934 and was called Casa Casuarina; the current Mediterranean Revival structure was purchased in the early 1990's by now iconic fashion designer Gianni Versace' for less than $3 million-dollars (US), he then paid $4 million-dollars (US) for the old hotel next door and tore it down because he wanted to build a pool which was quite unpopular with the local community.
In the 4-5 years that Versace' lived here he completed $30 million-dollars (US) in renovations. Gina said that his family sold the property to a New York businessman; after he was murdered by the late Andrew Phillip Cunanan on/near his doorstep on Tuesday morning July, 15, 1997. They could not make a go at anything prosperous on the site and it was sold at an auction foreclosure in 2013 for $41.5 million-dollars to a family member of the Jordache Jean's clothing empire. On the site today is a very exclusive restaurant that requires reservations as well as a semi-private hotel that must be reserved through the Hotel Victor. You know you are in for a real treat when the meal prices are not listed on the menu. Yikes!