With its plans completed in July 1935, the Colony Hotel has been considered the first “streamlined” building on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach. Ocean Drive was conceived as an assemblage of hotels and apartment buildings near the water that would cater to middle-class tourists. Henry Hohauser, one of the earliest proponents of streamlined architecture on Miami Beach, found the Colony Hotel Corporation amenable to exploring this new direction of development.
The hotel was designed with fifty rooms, each featuring a private bathroom. Unusual for Miami Beach, the original plans called for a fireproof basement containing recreation rooms, a card room, and locker rooms with bathing facilities. The roof was a solarium for hotel guests. Some of the most notable features included the fireplace in the wine-red lobby and the writing balcony set up off the street where guests were encouraged to communicate with friends and relatives. If writing wasn’t fast enough, each room was supplied with a telephone and a radio—forward-thinking amenities, considering middle-class visitors’ expectations during the Great Depression. Indeed, the building was meant to be “modern in every way,” and to advertise these advances to those passing by, Hohauser incorporated two innovations for the time: steel corner windows and the building’s neon marquee (an inverted “T” bearing the hotel’s name), the latter of which was noted at the time as a “unique design.”
With the Colony Hotel, Hohauser established a key connection between the origins of the Art Deco style of architecture in Miami Beach and the idea of innovation and technology. While Hohauser may have leapt ahead of the competition with the Colony Hotel for a brief moment, other Miami Beach architects immediately took notice of his work and began to incorporate similar modern architectural features into their designs, creating what would turn out to be one of the largest and most consistent districts of modern buildings from this period in the United States.
Lejeune, Jean François, and Allan T. Shulman. 1933-42 The Making of Miami Beach: The Architecture of Lawrence Murray Dixon.Miami Beach, FL: Bass Museum of Art, 2000.
Nepomechie, Marilys. Building Paradise: An Architectural Guide to the Magic City.Miami, FL: AIA Miami, 2010.
“New Hotel Will Be Constructed in Miami Beach.” The Miami Herald,July 14, 1935.