Legacy of the Nautilus: From Hotel to Hospital

Photo courtesy of floridamemory.com

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. In January 1924, the Nautilus officially opened. The resort featured a baroque entrance and curved parapets. Two man-made islands dredged from Biscayne Bay’s bottom housed the hotel’s pool and cabana areas of the hotel, as well as rental cottages, a dance floor, a tea house, and the broadcast tower for radio station WIOD, whose call letters were short for the Wonderful Isle of Dreams.

The Nautilus Hotel’s 18-year luxury status came to an end during World War II, when the lavish inn was converted into a military hospital. The Veteran’s Administration ultimately relocated its headquarters to the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, and the City of Miami Beach later acquired the Nautilus property. Miami Beach later sold the property to a group of doctors and businessmen known as the Mount Sinai Hospital of Greater Miami. In 1957, with the old Nautilus hotel still standing, construction began on an adjacent building.

On December 4, 1949 Mount Sinai hospital officially opened. The original Nautilus was ultimately torn down in 1968 to make room for additions to the ever-growing medical center. There are no traces left of the Nautilus Hotel, only the man-made islands which were buried to make way for construction of the Julia Tuttle Causeway.

-Ursa Gil

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