Think of Art Deco, and Miami Beach’s glamorous pastel hotels lining Ocean Drive immediately come to mind. But take the Venetian Causeway west to the other side of Biscayne Bay and you will find a less explored Deco destination, along with a diverse array of historic architecture from other periods.
Located in Miami’s Upper Eastside, the Morningside neighborhood is one of the oldest in the city, with houses that date back to the 1920s. The neighborhood, which spans east of Biscayne Boulevard from Northeast 50th Terrace to Northeast 60th Street, is among the city’s most preserved examples of a boom-era community.
To remind South Floridians of its wealth of impressive architecture and landscapes, the neighborhood is inviting guests to tour some of its historic homes from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The Morningside tours, which are part of the annual Dade Heritage Days, will welcome guests into eight homes of various architectural styles.
“Morningside is so close to downtown and midtown, but it is like an oasis,” said Shirley Pardon, the tour chair. “Guests will come and they will feel like they are miles away.”
Originally planned and developed by James Nunnally, president of the Bay Shore Investment Co., many details of the neighborhood’s tree-lined boulevards remain. As the city’s first historic district, the area has long been home to residents interested in maintaining the character of the neighborhood, said Paul George, a Miami Dade College history professor who specializes in local history.
“Other neighborhoods from the time near the center of the city floundered and fell apart, but Morningside remained,” George said. “People here decided this is really a special place and wanted to preserve it.”
The tour, held in conjunction with the Dade Heritage Trust, will take guests through the different architectural influences in Morningside. A few of the houses on the tour are some of the first in the district. Built in the 1920s, these earlier houses are mostly Mediterranean and Moorish Revival style. In several homes, elements such as the original windows and hand-painted beams remain.
Also on the tour are homes erected in the 1930s and 1940s, which have more of an Art Deco influence. In addition, there will be houses built in Mid-Century Modern style in the 1950s.
“Together, all of the different architectural styles create a visual delight,” George said. “Even the homes built after 1940 have enriched the neighborhood because they were designed so beautifully with consideration to the other homes.”
On the tour, guests can follow a suggested route through the neighborhood where they will be invited inside each house to tour on their own. The homeowners and volunteers from the Dade Heritage Trust will be on hand to answer questions.
History booths will be stationed along the route in addition to food stands.
Pardon said the tour is particularly special because they not offer it often. The last time the tour was held was 2009, and prior to then, 2005.
“The tour was so popular in 2005 that we ran out of printed tickets,” Pardon said.
For those who would like a guided tour, George will conduct a separate walking tour of the neighborhood earlier at 10:30 a.m. George, who was instrumental in getting the neighborhood historic designation in 1984, will delve into Morningside’s history and discuss the different prominent residents of the homes over the years.
“These home are not only gorgeous in design, but there is a ton of history to take away from them,” George said.