Sunday, February 15, 2009

Miami Beach

In a little over 100 years Miami, Florida grew from 300 people to 5-1/2 million, earning it the title of The Magic City with snowbirders since it seemed to grow magically with each passing year. The place to live of course, is Miami Beach which is confined to the narrow strip of land running down the Atlantic side of the intra-coastal waterway. Miami proper however, has some claims to fame of its own. Now the 4th largest metropolitan area in the USA behind New York, Los Angeles and Chicago and the 3rd ranked skyline behind New York and Chicago, Miami has grown into a true southern metropolis. Officially designated a Global City, it effectively fills the area from the Atlantic coast to the everglades along a 40 mile north-south swath. All that aside, downtown Miami is much like any other downtown and the suburbs are a sprawling melee of housing ranging from small, boxy post WWII homes to upscale additions with yuppie villas by the square mile. The only major US city to have been founded by a woman - Julia Tuttle, an early snowbird from Cleveland, incorporated the city in 1896 - its success assured when Ms. Tuttle convinced Henry Flagler to extend his railroad south to service the city. Scarily, the entire greater Miami area has a an elevation of just 6 feet above mean sea level. But, our objective was Miami Beach, across the intra-coastal to the southern end of the sandbar known as South Beach. Here is the largest assortment of Deco architecture in the world with almost every example maintained in pristine condition. Conjuring images of pastel colored cruise ships and Flash Gordon rocket ships, the Art Deco buildings, with their portholes, rounded walls, steely accents and geometric decorations, are simply awesome. The Art Deco form developed from the 1925 World’s Fair in Paris from a fusion of Art Nouveau and early twentieth century industrial modernism, although the term itself only came into use much later. If you like that sort of thing, click here.

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