You can't escape history in Miami Beach, where vestiges of former halcyon days document its recurrent ups and downs as one of America's most luxurious resort towns. An on-again, off-again boom, generated in the 1990s, continues to spur the reinvention of vintage hotels built in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s for a new generation of locals and international tourists. The Shelborne Hotel, built in 1940, was one of the finest. Its recent renovation, thoughtfully executed by ADD Inc Miami, is indicative of the iconic district's past, as well as its future.
The Shelborne, a forerunner of the Miami Modern (MiMO) movement, emanated from a creative flurry of activity between the Great Depression and World War II (during which it was appropriated for the war effort). Singled out in the July 1941 issue of record as 'the most newsworthy' of the more than 40 Miami Beach hotels built over the previous year, the original Shelborne was designed by Igor Polevitzky and his partner Thomas Triplett Russell. More International style than Art Deco, the 14-story, steel-frame building was urbane and gracious, notable for its compact plan with generous ocean views, avant-garde driveway approach, and use of the latest materials: etched clear plastic for a curvy balustrade, and fluorescent tube lighting in ceiling coves. A respectful, eight-story addition by Morris Lapidus in 1958 lengthened the narrow 100-by-400-foot site by more than 200 feet, reoriented the entrance with a neon-lit, circular porte cochere, and supplemented the original 140-room beachfront tower with a ballroom and 103 guest rooms on Collins Avenue.