Welcome Aboard the Houseboat

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. This Wolfson Archives clip features the “Surfside 6” houseboat arriving in Miami after a revamp in Fort Lauderdale:

In the 1970s, Miami Beach’s million-dollar condominium communities began yanking the welcome mat from under houseboat owners’ feet. The city banned houseboats and ordered their removal by 1981. The City of Miami soon followed and banned sizable houseboat communities along the Miami River and Little River.

In other cities, houseboats vanished as planners and residents viewed them as unsightly, navigational hazards, or simply competition for valuable waterfront property. Numerous houseboats were destroyed by storms such as Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Others were simply abandoned. Now only 16 floating homes remain, all located in North Bay Village, where there have been no restrictions on houseboats.

In celebration of Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday, HistoryMiami presents Sinatra: An American Icon, a multi-media exhibition celebrating the life of one of the most popular and influential American artists of the 20th century.

On June 2, the Wolfson Archives presents a special event, “Icon Off-Screen: Sinatra on Location,” an informal discussion by the Wolfson Archives’ very own film critic and history aficionado Kevin Wynn. This presentation features exclusive film footage from the Wolfson Archives, including behind-the-scenes films of Frank Sinatra during the production of Lady in Cement and other made-in-Miami movies.

“Icon Off-Screen” begins at 6:00 PM Thursday, June 2 at HistoryMiami; admission is free for HistoryMiami members and $10 for non-members. Visit HistoryMiami for tickets.

-Ursa Gil

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