History of Miami Beach Part 2: The Expansion

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While Miami Beach was growing quickly in the early 20th century, the primary developers were working in opposition of each other.  Eventually the developers realized that they could accomplish more together, and in 1915 the Lummus brothers combined forces and interests with John Collins and Carl Fisher to incorporate the city of Miami Beach.  By 1920, the area was booming and the population was growing, aided by the completion of the County Causeway (which would be renamed the MacArthur Causeway in 1942).  In 1926, a massive hurricane struck the island destroying much of the early infrastructure.  Upon rebuilding, designers decided to bring a piece of Europe to Miami’s shores and designed the city in the new ultra-chic “modern” (for the time) Art Deco Streamline architecture.   This was the height of fashion in Paris.  The 1920s also saw an influx of wealthy entrepreneurs moving onto the Beach including Rockwell LaGorce, J.C. Penny, and Harvey Firestone.  

In 1929, the stock market crash ushered the United States into the Great Depression.  With investors looking for a way to make a profit in a time when that was difficult, many turned to the new opportunities in Miami Beach.  Investment groups, primarily from the northeast, began building a series of small boutique hotels up and down Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue, the primary thoroughfares of South Beach.  Eventually, this area would become the Art Deco District.  Throughout the 1930s, development on the beach continued and expanded even further, as Miami Beach was becoming a city fit for the rich and famous.  

On December 7, 1941 Japan attacked the United States Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.  So what does this have to do with Miami Beach, I’m sure you’re wondering?  After all Miami Beach is thousands of miles away from Hawaii.  After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Army Air Corps took over the island of Miami Beach and turned it into a training center for soldiers.  Many of these soldiers would remember the island paradise and revisit it in the future.

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