Presidential Homes of South Florida

February 17th, 2017

In honor of President’s Day, Learning from Miami showcases the luxurious South Florida homes of some of America’s presidents.

Harry Truman’s Key West Retreat

President Harry Truman’s Little White House was built in 1890. The edifice functioned as the Key West naval station’s command headquarters during the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II. The home was originally waterfront property and was used as the first officers’ quarters on the submarine base. In 1911, the home was converted into a single-family dwelling to house the base commandant. Additional land was filled in at the front of the house and the waterfront view was eventually blocked by a new building at the station.

In November 1946, President Harry S. Truman had completed 19 months in office, and was physically exhausted. His doctor, Wallace Graham, ordered a warm vacation. Truman arrived in November 1946 and made the building his second home, naming it the Winter White House. The historic building also became a site for the Cold War response by later presidents. Today, the Truman Little White House is a public, living Key West museum, as well as a retreat and place of government business for government officials.

John F. Kennedy’s Palm Beach Palace

The property at 1095 North Ocean Boulevard served as the Winter White House during President John F. Kennedy’s administration.  The original home was designed by renowned Palm Beach architect Addison Mizner in 1923, with additions designed by another famous Palm Beach architect, Maurice Fatio.

The home was originally built for Rodman Wanamaker, a member of the Philadelphia family that owned department stores. In 1933 the six bedroom house was sold to Joseph Kennedy as a family vacation home for $120,000.  John F. Kennedy took frequent trips to the estate during his presidency. He spent his last weekend there before his assassination in 1963.

The Kennedy compound received a renovation overhaul in the 1990s, and the home is now worth much more than Joseph Kennedy paid. Today, President Kennedy’s former home still serves as a residence. In 2015 the home was sold for $31 million to an undisclosed buyer.

Richard Nixon’s Key Biscayne Hideaway

The ranch-style home at 500 Bay Lane in the Miami island suburb of Key Biscayne was where plans for the Watergate break-in at Democratic headquarters were discussed and where Richard Nixon retreated as the scandal unfolded. Nixon bought the home from his former Senate colleague George Smathers and visited at least 50 times while in office from 1969 to 1974. The house was part of a compound that included three other properties, a private beach, and a floating helipad.

Former President Nixon’s private sanctuary deteriorated significantly over the years and the home was eventually razed to make way for a new residence.

Trump’s Hideaway, Mar a Lago

Historic Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach was built from 1924 to 1927 by heiress and socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post. Post envisioned the house as a future winter retreat for American presidents and foreign dignitaries, and following her death in 1973, it was bestowed to the nation.

However, successive presidents declined to use the mansion, which was returned to Post’s estate in 1980 and, in 1985, was purchased by Donald Trump, now the 45th President of the United States. In addition to being President Trump’s Winter White House, Mar-a-Lago is also an exclusive, members-only club that operates as a resort and hotel for dues-paying members. It is available to rent for private events.

-Ursa Gil

Unusual Homes of Florida

January 24th, 2017

Florida homes are extremely diverse, and have been shaped by an eclectic array of different architectural styles. In this edition of Learning from Miami, we visit some very unconventional residences and the people who call these places home.  South Miami Dome Home In this clip, architect Bob Koger, invites WTVJ to tour his energy efficient Geodesic Dome home Read More...

A South Florida Christmas: Deck the Halls with Christmas Decor

December 15th, 2016

Exterior Christmas home decor sure has come a long way from simple lights hung around homes to the elaborate where Christmas light displays flicker to the rhythm of music. The first home Christmas lights are thought to have been put up in 1882 by Edward Johnson, who was an executive at Thomas Edison's company Read More...

Casa Casuarina: The Palace on Ocean Drive.

October 24th, 2016

Casa Casuarina is arguably one of the most famous buildings on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach. This home was once the opulent residence and private oasis of celebrity fashion designer Gianni Versace, and continues its legacy as a resort for the well-to-do. Journey through time with Learning from Miami, as we delve into Casa Casuarinas’ rich history Read More...

Andrew’s Destruction of Homestead Air Force Base

August 17th, 2016

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16CkGSfW_Ts&feature=youtu.be On Aug. 24, 1992, Homestead Air Force Base was obliterated. Like much of the surrounding communities, Homestead AFB was ravaged by the full fury of Hurricane Andrew, leaving the military base in complete ruin. By the time base personnel and aircraft had been evacuated, Hurricane Andrew had grown to a category five storm Read More...

Cruising back in Time: The History of South Florida’s ports

July 27th, 2016

Norway ship at the Port of Miami. Photo courtesy of Floridamemory.com. During the height of the cruise season millions of passengers will board luxury liners. How did South Florida’s cruise industry begin? Embark on a high-seas adventure featuring the history of two of the world’s largest and busiest sea ports, PortMiami and Port Everglades, and get a sneak peak at the largest cruise ship coming to Port Everglades Read More...

Exploring Cape Canaveral

June 29th, 2016

On July 11th 2011, the Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down in Cape Canaveral from its last mission, ending the era of the 30-year Space Shuttle program. The retirement of the shuttle in 2011 left the United States without the ability to send astronauts into orbit for the first time since the early 1980s, leading some to wonder whether America was abandoning its leadership in space travel Read More...

Welcome Aboard the Houseboat

June 1st, 2016

Houseboat communities have a long history in Florida. These laid-back waterfront neighborhoods attracted free spirits looking for a seafaring lifestyle that wouldn’t break the bank. Floating homes gained mainstream success due to 1960s crime genre films like Lady in Cement starring Frank Sinatra and the popular detective TV series Surfside 6 Read More...

A Walk Down Memory Lane: South Beach in the 70s

May 17th, 2016

For most of its history, Miami Beach was the hottest vacation destination in the world. That was until the 1970s, when the city fell out of fashion with tourists. The growing popularity of air travel, which beckoned tourists to exotic locations, and the opening of Disney World in 1971, siphoned tourism away from the Beach Read More...

Legacy of the Nautilus: From Hotel to Hospital

April 27th, 2016

Photo courtesy of floridamemory.com   Although not the most famous of real-estate developer Carl Fisher's original Miami Beach hotels (that distinction would  go to the 1912 Flamingo Hotel), the Nautilus Hotel was undoubtedly the most illustrious. Built in the early 1920s, Fisher employed renowned architects Leonard Schultze and Fullerton Weaver to design the one million dollar Mediterranean-style resort Read More...