Old views of Belle Isle, Venetian islands seen a new way

Postcard between 1942 and 1951, showing downtown Miami and Venetian and MacArthur causeways.

As part of our continuing exploration of Belle Isle and Venetian Causeway historical images, we found a treasure.

It’s called the Florida Memory Project, a state of Florida archive that includes a collection of 170,000 digitized photos of the state’s early times from the Florida Division of Library and Information Services.

The archive includes beautiful old color postcards, like the one above, which we had not seen before, as well as photos that provide an even closer look at early Belle Isle (pre-condo) and the construction and development of the Venetian Islands and Miami Beach.

This 1949 photograph provides a similar detail as the postcard from east to west.

In the archive we found the clearest pre-condo development photos we’ve ever seen of Belle Isle, the only Venetian Causeway island that isn’t entirely man-made.

Belle Isle, with Carl Fisher's Flamingo Hotel in the background.

This 1930s early photo of the island shows both the Joseph Adams estate  on the land now occupied by Belle Plaza and the Grand Venetian, as well as the J.C. Penney Estate (9 Island Avenue) and relatively empty space on the site of The Standard/DiLido Spa.

The photos of the Joseph H. Adams Estate (dated 1929) are new to us; it covered the southeast quadrant of the island with several structures. You can see how the Bay Road area south of the Collins Canal looked as well.

The Adams estate on the east end of Belle Isle. What is now Maurice Gibb park and Sunset Harbour is behind it.

Subsequent shots show how the development filled in the green space. The old Flamingo on the mainland has been replaced by Morton Towers.

A similar view shows Belle Plaza, Belle Tower and 3 Island Terrace (1968).

On the Beach mainland, Morton Towers, the Venetian, Sunset Islands to the north.

And the view to Miami Beach looked different, too. No Sunset Harbour bayfront condos, though thanks to historic preservation, the beachfront skyline is similar.

Looking east over Belle Isle, you can see the old hotel on the Grand Venetian site.

The archive also includes some great images of the causeway islands and mainland Miami, pre-boom.

One, during the construction of the Venetian Causeway in 1923, shows Belle Isle and and freshly dredged Rivo Alto Isle, with no other islands along the causeway. You can see Lincoln Road and the old Miami Beach golf course, but note, that isn’t the Miami Beach Bayshore Course that exists today.

1923 photograph shows view to Miami across Venetian Causeway.

Another shows Biscayne Island, the closest to mainland Miami, with an airport on what is now the site of the 801 Venetian condo. To the right of the Viking hangar, you can see the original toll booth.

This photo, believed to be from 1926, shows the Venetian Causeway and Biscayne Island.

And, finally, a look at both causeways and freshly dredged Venetian and Sunset islands from a 1927 aerial, shot from a height of 7000 feet. You can see downtown Miami and the mouth of the Miami River, but no Port of Miami.

Note the similarity in perspective to the 1940s-vintage color postcard.

Biscayne Bay, 1927.

6 responses to “Old views of Belle Isle, Venetian islands seen a new way

  1. The Port of Miami was on US 1 between 5th and 11 Streets at that time. The”New” Port of Miami did not open until about 1968.

  2. To Whom,

    Wonderful pictures. Thanks for the Fla. Memory Project tip. BTW, the Venetian Causeway has its own Jazz tune. As I’m told, the legendary Jazz musician/composer, Benny Golson, wrote “Venetian Breeze” and released it on an album in 1954. Apparently he’d take the Venetian Causeway to his gig on the Beach, then return to his hotel in Overtown as African-Americans weren’t permitted to stay on the Beach at night. At least the ocean breeze was kind to him.

  3. I went to the JC Penny estate sale before it was torn down. I am sorry that I didn’t buy more items. It was one of the most gorgeous houses that I have ever and probably will ever see. The pool had hand laid mosaic tiles of a mermaid in the bottom. It was such a shame it had to be torn down.

  4. It is so beautiful to be able to go back in time and reconnect with what Miami used to be like. Thank you to the Fla. Memory Project!

  5. Pingback: A 1920s postcard shows lush Belle Isle, early Rivo Alto, Fisher’s Flamingo Hotel | Belle Isle Blog

  6. I remember a school friend Lamar King whose family owned what was the JC Penny estate in the fifties. She lived with her Grandmother and I was often invited to her home. I remember a tower we played in as well as a huge organ in the salon.

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