|City/Town: • Miami Beach|
|Location Class: • Commercial|
|Built: • 1957 | Abandoned: • 2017|
|Status: • Demolished|
|Photojournalist: • David Bulit|
The original hotel was constructed in 1926 by Joe Elsener, a real estate investor and one of Carl Fisher’s top salesmen. The Deauville Casino was a luxurious casino and beach club known for having the largest swimming pool in Florida. Just two years later, Elsener was bankrupt and the Deauville was sold at public auction to the Deauville Casino Corporation, keeping Elsener as general manager.
It was renamed the Macfadden-Deauville in 1936 and operated as a health spa when it was purchased by Bernarr MacFadden, a bodybuilder and publisher credited for beginning the culture of health and fitness in the United States. The original Deauville was demolished in 1956 to make way for a new hotel.
Deauville Beach Resort
Located in the North Beach Resort Historic District in Miami Beach, the new Deauville Beach Resort was designed by Melvin Grossman whose works include Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and the Acapulco Princess Hotel in Mexico. According to the resort’s website, it was declared “Hotel of the Year”, upon opening in 1957. The 538-room oceanfront resort boasted a swimming pool, a beauty salon, restaurants, shops, a radio station, and even an ice skating rink. The hotel’s ballroom was later used for the 2009 film Confessions of a Shopaholic.
The hotel attracted a myriad of celebrities such as Lena Horne, Sophie Tucker, Mickey Rooney, Tom Jones, Joan Rivers, Judy Garland, Phil Silvers, Milton Berle, Jerry Lewis, Buster Keaton, Betty Grable, Lome Green, Wayne Newton, Johnny Mathis, Dany Thomas, Jimmy Durante, Eleanor Roosevelt, and President Ronald Reagan. President John F. Kennedy also stayed here in 1961 to speak to the Young Democrats before heading to the Americana Hotel to address the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. The hotel’s Napoleon Ballroom also played host to many artists such as Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and Tony Bennett.
On February 9, 1964, the Beatles performed for the first time in the United States on The Ed Sullivan Show in New York. The following week’s show was broadcast from Miami Beach where Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, was in training for his first title bout against Sonny Liston. On February 16, 1964, the Beatles performed at the Deauville Beach Resort to a throng of fans, opening the show with “She Loves You,” “This Boy,” and “All My Loving.” They later closed the show with “I Saw Her Standing There,” “From Me to You”, and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
On July 25, 2017, the hotel installed an air conditioner chiller without electrical permits and was ordered the previous week to stop using it. They continued using it resulting in faulty wiring catching fire. According to reports, the sprinkler system in the electrical room was activated and it was the only room damaged. No smoke or fire got into the guest areas or rooms. Nonetheless, guests were forced to evacuate and were relocated to nearby hotels as the electrical system needed extensive repairs. The hotel has been shut down since then. Two months later, the building sustained further damages during Hurricane Irma. Those damages were amplified due to illegal work done on the roof of the building without a construction permit.
Despite several occasions where the owners had made the claim that they were indeed working towards having the hotel back up and running again, the City of Miami Beach made a counterclaim, saying that the only work done on the building has been the illegal work following Hurricane Irma. In a hearing with the Miami-Dade County Unsafe Structures Board in December 2018, owner Homero Meruelo is quoted as saying “It would be a favor that they demolish the [Property] and I get rid of this nightmare that I have. That’s the truth.” He is also quoted as saying “So, the building is full of water, full of mold and mildew. We have no power. I mean, what do we do? We have no money.”
In early 2019, the City of Miami Beach filed a lawsuit against the owners of the Deauville Beach Resort due to the building’s state of disrepair and fear that the owners are intentionally neglecting to maintain the property, eventually leading to the deterioration of the building beyond repair and forcing its demolition. After two minor fires caused by trespassers occurred at the Deauville, the owners agreed to hire at least three security guards on-site, installation of a new fence to further secure the property and three points of entry for the City’s Police and Fire Departments.
On August 7, 2019, a Miami Beach Police officer checked on the property after receiving multiple complaints about trespassers and homeless activity. He was denied access to the interior of the building but was able to conduct an exterior check of the property revealing insufficient security measures. Two days later on August 9, 2019, another check on the property found no indications of security guards being on-site. In February 2020, the beach walk behind the hotel was closed due to safety concerns as chunks of concrete had fallen off the building. Later that same year, the city began fining the owners for “failure to prevent demolition by neglect.“
Then in January 2022, the building’s owners turned over a structural report to the city that found that the building was beyond repair and would need to be demolished before the start of the 2022 hurricane season. Crews began preliminary demolition work to remove the Deauville’s iconic metallic red sign and its porte-cochere. Asbestos abatement commenced soon thereafter. Crew resumed demolition work of the hotel in September 2022, bulldozing the lobby, ballrooms, and pool area. Finally, on November 13, 2022, the Deauville Beach Resort was no more and the structures were imploded.
While the city hoped that future building plans would be the same as the old hotel, that is simply not the case. Plans are being made for the land to be sold to billionaire developer and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross. He plans to build a much taller, luxury condo hotel designed by architect Frank Gehry.
Author’s Note: Throughout the entire process, the city and the owners have proved unfaithful to not only their promises but also to the urgency needed to demolish the structure. This is considering the fact that much of the structure remains standing near the end of the 2022 hurricane season when the owners claimed that the structure needed to be demolished before the season even started. The city has also gone along with the owners’ plans despite pleas for preservationists. Preservationists lost, unfortunately.