Tag Archives: Carl Fisher

A 1920s postcard shows lush Belle Isle, early Rivo Alto, Fisher’s Flamingo Hotel

A 1920s view of Belle Isle facing east.

Belle Isle is the only “natural” island on the Venetian Causeway. We know the other Venetian Islands — Rivo Alto, DiLido, San Marino, San Marco and Biscayne — were dredged, filled and linked with the roadway between 1923 and 1926.

Our latest postcard find (thanks, eBay!) shows Rivo Alto in the foreground, Belle Isle, and the western edge of Miami Beach with Carl Fisher’s classic Flamingo Hotel.

You can see that most of Rivo Alto is open space, though the streets and a couple of homes have been built.

This photo shows the Joseph Adams and J.C. Penney estates.

Compare the postcard view to the above early 1930s photo of Belle Isle, taken from the north facing south, which also shows the Flamingo.  This is from the Florida Memory Project, subject of an earlier blog post.

Finally, here’s a 1923 photo from east to west that shows Miami Beach, Belle Isle, and a sandy and vacant Rivo Alto as the only island along the Venetian Causeway path.

!923 photograph shows view to Miami across Venetian Causeway.

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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.

Then and now — a Belle Isle view of the Flamingo

Carl Fishers signature Flamingo Hotel back when the bay featured speedboat races

When developer/promoter Carl Fisher turned Miami Beach into America’s winter playground, he focused development on Biscayne Bay — filling in spoil islands, and building hotels.

The first was the Flamingo, built in 1920 and opened in 1921, facing west on Biscayne Bay, featuring lush landscaping and a view of (what else) Belle Isle.

The hotel featured 145 rooms on opening day, with an 11-story tower with a revolving, lighted dome, which supposedly could be seen at sea for 100 miles. Guests included President Warren G. Harding.

Among the photographs Belle Isle Blog found in its research of the J.C. Penney estate (where Herbert Hoover stayed before his inauguration)  was a shot taken in the estate backyard, facing east across the bay to the Flamingo.

A view of the Flamingo from the J.C. Penney estate on Belle Isle. (J.C. Penney papers, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University)

The "new" Flamingo tower, on the same site.

During World War II, the military used the the Flamingo. It was refurbished after the war, but never air conditioned. It continued to be used as a hotel until 1960, when it was demolished to make way for a huge apartment complex called Morton Towers.

In 2002, the complex was renovated and a 32-story tower added in the middle. It was rechristened The Flamingo.

It’s signature feature? A lighted dome that changes colors at night.

The new Flamingo (viewed from Belle Isle) still mimics the lighted tower of the Carl Fisher legend.