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

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. 

To make up for the collapse of tourism, landlords and hotel owners began accommodating middle-to-lower-class retirees. During the early 1980s, crime became prevalent on the Beach. Alongside retirees lived numerous drug dealers and criminals who came to Miami during the Mariel Boatlift. 

It was during this era when tangible efforts were made to demolish most of the city’s trademark art deco architecture and replace it with new urban developments. Thankfully, the Miami Design Preservation League (founded by Barbara Baer Capitman) won Federal historic designation in 1979 for the preservation of the South Beach district of Miami Beach.

Beginning in the late 1970s three photography students, Susan Jordan, Sereta Russell, and Nancy Rohan, began to document South Beach’s bygone era through their photographs. Their subjects were some of the quirky and eccentric elderly residents of the Beach between the 1970s and the 1980s.  An exhibition of their photographs, “A Walk Down Memory Lane,” is at the Art Deco Museum, 1001 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, FL 33139, and runs from May 3 through August 28, 2016.

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