From a barrier island thick with mangrove swamps to an iconic destination for tourists and permanent residents, Miami Beach has boomed, busted and bounced back since incorporating on March 26, 1915.
The city is celebrating its centennial this month with a series of events that will showcase its history and panache, including a 100-hour celebration March 22-26.
Miami Beach began with pioneering figures like John Collins, the Lummus brothers and Carl Fisher, who ushered in cityhood and the first years of growth. Army Air Corps soldiers trained on the Beach during the Second World War, and many came back to make their homes afterward. In the middle of the century, showbusiness personalities Jackie Gleason and Arthur Godfrey put the Beach on the map when they broadcast to televisions across the nation from the island.
At the same time, the area experienced social change. Segregation was present in the city, with African-Americans required to to carry proof that they worked in the Beach until desegregation in the 1960s. Jews also faced some restrictions on land ownership earlier in the city's history.
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With Cubans arriving in large numbers as exiles in the ’60s and again during the Mariel boatlift, the demographics evolved.
After a period of decline in the 1970s and ’80s — at one point, locals say you could roll a bowling ball down Ocean Drive and not hit a thing — a revitalization began. The city preserved its Art Deco treasures, and money, residents and tourists flocked to the oceanside city and brought the Beach to where it stands today.
In order to put on the celebration, the city is spending $1.5 million plus the cost of city services like police and sanitation, according to Max Sklar, director of the Beach’s tourism, culture and economic development department.
“All the rest of the costs of producing the event are going to be made up for through other revenue sources, merchandise sales, food and beverages and other revenue opportunities that come, as well as ticket sales,” he said.
Last week, the city commission approved $1.7 million in cash and in-kind sponsorships from various companies for the 100-hour celebration.
Sklar said March has the biggest celebration because of the date, but more events will be scheduled throughout the rest of the year.
“We’re not done, but the big party — the big celebration — will take place on our birthday, on the 26th,” he said.
▪ Wednesday, March 4, 11 a.m. — Ribbon-cutting for photo exhibit at city hall: A gallery of old photographs capturing scenes from throughout Miami Beach’s history will be on display starting Wednesday on the fourth floor of city hall, 1700 Convention Center Dr. The exhibit will be on display during normal hours, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. until May 29.
▪ Tuesday, March 10, 5 p.m. — Women Worth Knowing: The Miami Beach Commission on Women will honor 12 women in the community who are 99 years old or older. These women are: Pauline Kossar, Leonila Reyes, Ida Capriole, Mollie Horwitz, Zoila Delgado, Rachel Meller, Massel Mihani, Erma Berta Raflowitz, Manuela Rodriguez, Tilly Harris, Florence Klein and Kathleen Lowy.
▪ Thursday, March 19 — “At Ease: Miami Beach During the Second World War,” an exhibition at Wolfsonian-Florida International University Library: The exhibit will feature photographs, brochures, postcards and magazines that shed light on what life was like in Miami Beach during the war. The exhibit runs through June 14. The library will feature two more historical exhibitions through the rest of 2015.
Starting Thursday, organizers will be setting up for this week-long party at Lummus Park in South Beach, which is being produeced by ACT Productions. Visitors will see kiosks pop up at 12th, Eighth and Sixth streets with centennial merchandise on sale. Events will be held at Eighth Street and Ocean Drive unless otherwise noted.
▪ Sunday, March 22
8-9 a.m. — Shaun T Fitness: The celebrity fitness personality will host a workout in the park. More fitness events will be held each morning.
11 a.m.-5 p.m. — Concours Car Show, Miami Beach Golf Course: A gathering of elegant cars will be on display throughout the day.
6-11 p.m. — Celebration of Fashion (A 100-Year Retrospective): The show will highlight fashion as it has evolved over the last century.
▪ Monday, March 23
Noon — Wedding of 100 Couples: Mayor Philip Levine will preside over this mass wedding. The city currently has about 60 registered and is looking for more. For more infomation, email MurielFoguer@miamibeachfl.gov. Couples need to have a marriage license in advance.
5-8 p.m. — Jackie Gleason TV Marathon, Fillmore Miami Beach: Visitors will be able to watch a marathon of programs featuring the famous entertainer known for broadcasting from Miami Beach. This runs at the same time through Wednesday.
8-9 p.m. — Miami Beach Documentary, Wallcast at the New World Symphony: A documentary on the city will show in Soundscape Park.
8-10 p.m. — “Let’s Get Astrophysical” with Dr. Fiorella Terenzi: A professor of astrophysics at Florida State University, Terenzi will use space-inspired sounds to make music.
▪ Tuesday, March 24
Daylong tennis exhibition
2:30-3:30 p.m. — United States Tennis Association Clinic.
3:30-4:40 p.m. — SAP Clinic.
4:30- 5 p.m. — Red carpet.
5-6 p.m. — Pro-Am.
6-7 p.m. — Tennis exhibition.
7-7:30 p.m. — Commemorative Ceremony.
7:30-9 p.m. — After-party.
▪ Wednesday, March 25
10:30-11:30 a.m. — Naturalization Ceremony for 100 new U.S. Citizens.
5-10 p.m. — Miami Beach Food Truck Music Fest, North Shore Bandshell at Collins Avenue and 72nd Street: Spam Allstars will be featured on one of two stages for this music and food festival, along with a Beatles cover band and the Miami Beach Senior High Rock Ensemble.
▪ Thursday, March 26
12-5 p.m. — Centennial Beach party: DJs and opening acts will start the afternoon.
5 p.m. to midnight — Hard Rock Rising Miami Beach Global Music Festival 2015: Andrea Bocelli, Barry Gibb, Gloria Estefan and Flo Rida will headline a concert that also includes performances by Wyclef Jean, Jon Secada, Ky-Mani Marley, Dave Mason and more.
An earlier version of this story misstated the restrictions the Jewish people faced on Miami Beach prior to desegretation in the 1960s.