Breakfast with Betsy
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Miami's South Beach is one of the most famous architectural districts in the world, and The Betsy Hotel distinguishes itself from the curvy geometric patterns and clean lines of its Art Deco neighbors by relying on classic formations. With its expansive four-column portico and signature shuttered windows, The Betsy evokes traditional colonial architecure. But it was designed and created by the same man, L. Murray Dixon, responsible for the majority of the most famous hotels in the area built in the Art Deco style.
The 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in the 1920’s ushered in a period of nostalgia for the early years of the nation. John D Rockefeller’s restoration of Colonial Williamsburg was a prime case in point. Completed in the 1930s, it served as a catalyst for other historic preservation efforts around the country.
The past was renovated and gussied up, perhaps to magnify it as a way of renewing the faith of Americans struggling to emerge from the Great Depression. Everything from restaurants to furniture was re-created in a colonial image, and even Hollywood provided its powerful endorsement of colonial style.
A printed guide to the "colonial east," distributed by the Work Projects Administration (WPA), included images and photographs emphasizing architecture from the 17th through the 19th centuries, and created an explosion of the popularity of colonial architecture.
When Dixon got around to considering how best to embrace the colonial chic of the moment, he turned to Betsy Ross. Opened in South Beach in 1942, The Betsy Ross Hotel stood out all the more for its stark yet graceful contrast to Dixon's Art Deco masterworks.
South Beach is home to the famed Art Deco District, an area with over 800 Art Deco buildings from the 1930s and 40s and one which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
As you stroll down Ocean Drive, you’ll recognize Art Deco buildings by their gentle pastel colors, which contrast with architecture that is rigid and cubistic. Enjoy the unique ornaments and decorations too that include nautical motifs, neon lines, and terrazzo floors. (Betsy, too, has a Terrazzo Floor; while the hotel underwent a complete restoration in 2009, the Lobby's hand-laid Terrazzo floor was retained and restored to its original luster.)
1920: Town of Miami Beach is incorporated
Today, The Betsy Hotel's exterior stands as the lone surviving example of Florida Georgian architecture on Ocean Drive. Yet contrary to typical colonial design, the interior design is bright, open and connected: Dixon took liberties with proportions while interpreting the colonial form. In his re-conception of textbook colonial, he created not an opposite that didn't fit, but rather a counterpoint that did then, and still does now.
1935: Ocean Drive’s historic Art Deco skyline begins to take shape with the addition of other hotels
1940: L. Murray Dixon builds The Betsy Ross Hotel
1942: The Betsy Ross Hotel opens
1942: US troops stationed at The Betsy Hotel during WWII
1946: "Trunkline to Sunshine," non-stop service to Miami ushers in a new era of tourism
1948: The Betsy begins its decade of management by the Lipman Family
1952: Esther Williams’ Million Dollar Mermaid, which was shot in Miami, opens at the Box Office
1960: Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack perform at the Fontainebleau in Miami
1964: The Beatles come to Miami Beach to perform on the Ed Sullivan show
1964: The Jackie Gleason show moves to Miami Beach
1965: The AFL grants Miami an expansion franchise, the Dolphins
1970: The Betsy Ross Hotel is added to the State Registry of Historic Places
1972: Gloria Steinem headquarters NOW at The Betsy Ross Hotel during the Democratic Convention
1980: Amid numerous Art Deco revival movements, The Betsy Ross Hotel maintains its classic Florida-Georgian architectural façade.
1985: Renowned fashion photographer Bruce Weber chose Miami Beach for Calvin Klein’s 'Obsession,' spurring an onslaught of fashion photography shoots in the Art Deco District.
1993: The Florida Marlins are established as Major League Baseball’s newest professional team
2002: Art Basel and Miami Beach join forces to present one of the world’s premier international art shows
2003: The Betsy Ross Hotel undergoes a complete exterior restoration while maintaining its original façade
2005: MTV Video Music Awards are held at the American Airlines Arena, making Miami the first city outside of New York and Los Angeles to host the awards show
2006: Restored as a luxury boutique hotel, The Betsy Ross Hotel becomes The Betsy Hotel South Beach
2009: The Betsy Hotel reopens after a complete renovation
2010: The Betsy receives worldwide recognition for consummate design and luxury hospitality, including four separate Condé Nast Hot List Designations: US, UK, Italy, and Spain (see Press page on this website for up to date coverage)
2011: The Betsy is host hotel for O, Miami, hosting United States Poet Laureate WS Merwin and James Franco, and receives an award for community service programming in arts, culture, and philanthropy from the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association