These days, when people think of Miami Beach island luxury, minds leap to Star Island, home over the years to such celebrities as the Gloria and Emelio Estefan, Shaq, Lenny Kravitz, Rosie O’Donnell and Wil Smith.
But back in the 1920s and 1930s, Belle Isle was the Beach’s island star. The way it commanded the public imagination is abundantly clear from news coverage, historical photos and postcards of the mansion from that era.
And the headliner was the J.C. Penney estate.
Back then, the five-acre estate carried the address 8 Belle Isle. Penney bought the home in 1921, and sold it in 1931 for $150,000 after luring Herbert Hoover to vacation there before assuming the presidency in 1929. As we reported in previous post, Penney invited the president to the estate to leverage publicity for a home sale.
And that sale made the estate and Belle Isle famous, the subject of tourism postcards, newspaper articles and glossy magazine spread that are part of the collection of J.C. Penney’s papers at the DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University.
We were able to match some images we collected on eBay and elsewhere with photos from Penney’s papers.
One postcard from eBay showed the back of an estate with a cabana and small pool.
Look at how it matches the photograph from the J.C. Penney papers.