Belle Isle’s first apartments discriminated — like many on Miami Beach

Postcard depicts Belle Isle in the 1940s, "restricted clientele" only.

We’ve heard many stories about the old days on Miami Beach, when hotels allowed no blacks or Jews, and discrimination was up front and overt.

A recent postcard find brought that era home for Belle Isle Blog.

The discovery: a postcard from the 1940s for what is now Belle Isle Key Apartments, then Belle Isle Court.

Those apartments (still 120 one- and two-bedroom apartments, though its owner wants to build 180 units on the spot) were renovated Army barracks, and everything else on the island was an estate.

On the card are the code words for discrimination in the era: “Restricted Clientele.”

Students of Miami Beach history say that in the 1930s and 1940s, those signs were common on the Beach. Legend has it there were also signs that said “no colored, no Jews, no dogs,” but no historian we’ve ever talked to has a photograph of one. The message here is as direct, if not a tad more subtle.

The "restricted clientele" phrase was common.In her book, To the golden cities: Pursuing the American Jewish ream in Miami and L.A., author Deborah Dash Moore recounts how that era came to a close. In 1945, as Jewish soldiers returned from World War II, many headed to Miami, where they had trained.

In Miami Beach, Burnett Roth and 16 other Jewish servicemen made the rounds of some Beach hotels and asked them to take down the signs. Some did; many did not.

In 1947, Roth ran for the Miami Beach City Commission and won, its first Jewish member. The city passed an ordinance forbidding discriminatory advertising. The ordinance was challenged and a judge ruled the city didn’t have the power to enforce it. In 1949, “Jews convinced the Florida Legislature to introduce enabling legislation to allow cities to enforce such ordinances. After the bill passed in 1949, the Miami Beach City Council then forbade ‘any advertisement, notice or sign which is discriminatory against persons of any religion, sect, creed, race of denomination in the enjoyment of privileges and facilities of places of public accommodation, amusement or resort.'”

Of course, discrimination did continue, and places like La Gorce Country Club and the Bath Club banned minorities for many more years.


4 responses to “Belle Isle’s first apartments discriminated — like many on Miami Beach

  1. Rosemary Ravinal

    Fabulous discoveries. The information you are providing only gets better and better. Thank you for keeping us vigilant and appreciative of our surroundings.

  2. Pingback: Apartments Isles - HOLIDAY DREAM – HOLIDAY DREAM

  3. I would really like to hear stories about those recent stories of discrimination from those who experienced them.

  4. Pingback: Another glimpse of Belle Isle when discrimination ruled | Belle Isle Blog

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