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.
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.
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.
Subsequent shots show how the development filled in the green space. The old Flamingo on the mainland has been replaced by Morton Towers.
And the view to Miami Beach looked different, too. No Sunset Harbour bayfront condos, though thanks to historic preservation, the beachfront skyline is similar.
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.
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.
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.