In the 1920s city builder Carl Fisher began developing Miami Beach as a winter playground for rich and famous. Captains of industry and newly-minted millionaires built magnificent Mediterranean Revival mansions to the east along Collins Avenue, dubbed “Millionaires Row.” Thirty years later, the Firestone estate at 44th Street was rezoned and replaced by the Fontainebleau Hotel, clearing the way for the demolition of other oceanfront mansions. Over the decades, high –profile architects designed signature hotels and luxurious residences-in-the-sky offering breathtaking ocean, bay and city views. The once- exclusive and restricted Bath Club at Collins Avenue at 53rd Street was also transformed into an enclave of luxury residences. Miami Beach condominiums offer an unsurpassed quality of life – resort-style – with large public spaces, concierge and valet parking enhanced by such amenities as swimming pools, gyms and spas and in-house restaurants
Single-family homes in diverse architectural styles - Mediterranean Revival of the 1920s, Streamline Moderne of the 1930s and 40’s and later Mid Century Modern of the 1950s and 60s – reflect the period and growth of the neighborhood. The work of noted architects such as Russell T. Pancoast can be seen in many early home designs. A number of older houses have been restored and updated within strict preservation guidelines. There are also fairly modest houses on dry lots. Some less important homes have been torn down to make way for stunning new construction.
The picturesque Venetian Causeway links the Venetian islands as it crosses Biscayne Bay from 16th Street in Miami Beach to 15th Street and Biscayne Boulevard in Downtown Miami. The eastern islands — Belle Isle, Rivo Alto, Di Lido and San Marino — are served by Miami Beach, and the western islands — San Marco and Biscayne Island — come under the City of Miami. As a toll road, the Venetian has less traffic than neighboring causeways and residents can purchase reduced rate toll cards.
In 1913, the Collins Bridge, the world’s longest wooden bridge and the first to link Miami Beach to the mainland was constructed across a rough mangrove hilly outcrop “hammock “known as Bull Island. Renamed Belle Island, it was built up with sand dredged up from excavations for the Collins Canal. After the mangroves were cleared, the land was platted into lots for single-family homes. The Venetian Island Company and their later partners, the Shoreland Company, built up the other five islands and used a Venetian marketing theme with authentic gondolas and gondoliers to ferry potential home-buyers around the islands.
In 1924 the original wooden bridge was replaced by the scenic Venetian Causeway which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. Over the years, the Causeway has been renovated and beautified but retained as a charming two-lane thoroughfare where residents enjoy walking, jogging and biking.
Belle Island’s now features six apartment and condominium buildings, ranging from eight floors to 25 floors, built between1962 to 1998. There are also some low-rise town houses. Belle Island Park is popular with residents for its landscaping, picnic areas and dog park. The trendy Standard Hotel, on Belle Island has a spa, restaurant, bars and amenities and entertainment that can be enjoyed by local residents as well as visitors.
Most of the original small winter retreats on large lots have been replaced by larger homes. Only single-family homes, with a third waterfront, are found on the islands of Di Lido, (166 homes,) Rivo Alto (110 homes) and San Marino (about nine (please check this) exclusive waterfront homes.) Many of the attractive Mediterranean-style homes, were designed by prominent architects of the period, and there are also some outstanding modern and contemporary residences. Waterfront lot sizes range from 10,500 square feet to 15,750 square feet for larger properties on the northern and southern points of these islands.
While the eastern islands are configured from north to south, San Marco Island stretches from east to west so its magnificent waterfront estates have especially fine views. The earliest homes date back to 1939 but many have been replaced with grand new mansions. Biscayne Island, the nearest to the Miami mainlandhas some single family homes as well as condominiums and apartments.