Without question, South Beach is the hottest destination in America, drawing millions of visitors annually from around the world. It's a unique community filled with famous celebrities, trendy outdoor cafes and shops, historic Art Deco architecture and hidden treasures for visitors and residents alike.
Now, a lavishly illustrated landmark book puts it all at your fingertips. "SOUTH BEACH: Stories of a Renaissance" authored by Charles J. Kropke and Eleanor Goldstein chronicles the booms and the busts, the heroes and villains, and the builders and civic leaders who turned Miami Beach into one of the travel world's most remarkable success stories.
In its first year of publication, the locally written, photographed and illustrated souvenir edition ($49.95) has won rave reviews from booksellers, readers and civic organizations.
Recently, the Miami Beach Design Preservation League (MDPL) selected "South Beach: Stories of a Renaissance" as its feature book for MDPL Reads, a community reading program. The "coffee table" souvenir book was also featured during Art Deco Weekend, an annual event organized by MDPL that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, Lincoln Road and the other storied streets of South Beach. In addition, co-author Kropke was recently recognized by the Dade Heritage Trust.
"The book is a treasure trove of original stories, nascent legends, beautiful photos and original artwork that brings South Beach to life," says Goldstein, noting it took more than two years of interviews and research to create the book. "We have featured the people who transformed the empty, mosquito-infested island of the early 1900s into the most recognized international resort in the world."
For "South Beach: Stories of a Renaissance," Kropke interviewed more than four dozen influential leaders of South Beach, and their stories fill the 244-page hardcover book, whose cover reflects the area's signature teal and yellow colors. When added to the original artwork of painter Joe Davis and the stunning photography from Davis and fellow photographer, South African-born Petra Mason, the book is a masterful addition to the existing literature of Florida history lavishly illustrated with 150 full-color images including four double-page gatefolds.
For example, one chapter recounts the history of Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant, an iconic landmark for the past 80 years. In fact, for eight years in the early 1900s, it was the only restaurant on Miami Beach - a far cry from today's sparkling array of dining choices. Joe's is in its fourth generation of family ownership, serving 2,000 pounds of stone crabs every day during the peak of the season.
A few blocks away, Browns Hotel, the first hotel on South Beach, is still open nearly 100 years. Constructed of Dade County pine, this modest building on the west side of Ocean Drive, now features the upscale Prime 112 restaurant and Prime Hotel.
On the cultural side, "South Beach: Stories of a Renaissance" features local landmarks like the Holocaust Memorial, the Colony Theater, the Jewish Museum of Florida, and Books & Books, an independent bookseller on the city's famous Lincoln Road.
"One of the reasons our book has taken off is that visitors appreciate the intriguing stories that bring South Beach to life," adds Kropke. "We've gotten many comments from our Facebook page that say, ‘I didn't know that,' or ‘Now I want to go to South Beach.' We feel passionate about South Beach and appreciate the opportunity to pass that enthusiasm to our readers around the world."