Rooms with a View: Miami Beach’s Roney Plaza Hotel

Roney Plaza Hotel Beach Scene

If Jay Gatsby needed a retreat from the lavishly loud parties on Long Island, no other hotel could accommodate him better than the legendary Roney Plaza Hotel on Miami Beach.

The Roney Plaza was located between 23rd and 24th Streets on Collins Avenue. Before the mega hotel industry explosion on Miami Beach, the Roney Plaza was place to be during the winter season each year. The hotel was a product of Miami’s 1920s Land Boom Era before the devastating 1926 hurricane. It was one of three major Miami projects designed by the architectural firm Schultze & Weaver—the others were the Miami News and Metropolis Building (now the Freedom Tower) and the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. All three buildings were modeled after the fabled Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain. The firm’s South Florida projects are fine examples of the Mediterranean Revival style aesthetic—a combination of Spanish, Baroque, and Moorish architectural influences with a touch of South Florida elements. The firm also designed The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach and the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Schultze & Weaver became synonymous with the grand hotels from the Jazz Age.

Schultze at the Biltmore

Leonard Schultze (left), from Schultze & Weaver, at the Biltmore Hotel, January 23, 1925. Photo Courtesy: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

Roney Plaza Hotel Architectural Plan

Twenty-third Street Elevation, Roney Plaza Hotel, Miami Beach, Job #99, Drawing #6. Photo Courtesy: The Wolfsonian-Florida International University

Roney Plaza Hotel Under Construction c. 1925

Roney Plaza Hotel Aerial Construction. Photo Courtesy: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

Roney Plaza Tower Construction 1926

Tower Construction, January 15, 1926. Photo Courtesy: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

In 1925 Miami Beach developer N.B.T. Roney purchased the site on which the Roney Plaza Hotel was built on for $2.5 million. The hotel, which was Miami Beach’s first world-class oceanfront resort, opened in February 1926 featuring acres of formal gardens, 1,500 feet of ocean frontage, a Burdine’s store (only resort wear and accompaniments were sold though), and the nationally recognized Bamboo Room and Restaurant. It was the first hotel on Miami Beach to offer cabanas, tennis, and golf putting greens on site. The star-studded guest list included Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and Desi Arnaz and his orchestra regularly performed there.

In 1966, despite the hotel’s popularity, the building was bought by developer Harry Mufson for an estimated cost of $3.5 million triggering the beginning of what would be many changes to the property. In July 1968 the entire structure was demolished to make way for a 14-story, 1,162 unit high rise building. The “new” Roney Plaza, designed by architect Melvin Grossman, was a U-shaped rectangular luxury apartment complex during the 1970s. It was again sold in 1980 to Canadian developer Alec Kotler for $65 million and later was converted into a condominium complex known as the Roney Palace. By 2008 the site would become the Gansevoort South hotel and in 2012, after new ownership, the hotel became The Perry South Beach—a hotel and residential building. After a year, though, Starwood Capital Group, the property’s present owners, ceased operations in order to start a $100 million renovation. In 2014 the 1 Hotel & Homes South Beach—a 417-room hotel with 163 residences—will open. The property will include four pools, a restaurant, a private lobby area for arriving residents, and a new boardwalk. The 1 Hotel brand will also open two properties in New York by 2015. The brand markets itself as an “eco-conscientious” lifestyle for the wealthy, a 21st-century spin on the Jazz Age luxury of the Roney Plaza Hotel.

Roney Plaza Hotel 1968

Roney Plaza Hotel Demolition, July 1968. Photo Courtesy: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

Aerial of Collins Condominium (Gansvort) on Miami Beach taken at sunset and twilight.

Roney Plaza/Roney Palace/Gansevoort South/The Perry South Beach


1 Hotel & Homes South Beach

-Marvin Aguilar

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