Broward County

Time warp: A mark of Old Florida disappears with Motel Fredola’s closing

When the Motel Fredola opened in 1952, U.S. 1 was a two-lane road, Gulfstream Park ran races a few months of the year and rooms were $5 a night. The motel is now closed.
When the Motel Fredola opened in 1952, U.S. 1 was a two-lane road, Gulfstream Park ran races a few months of the year and rooms were $5 a night. The motel is now closed. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

When the Motel Fredola opened in 1952, U.S. 1 was a two-lane road, Gulfstream Park ran races a few months of the year and rooms were $5 a night.

The squat building in Hallandale Beach was never an Art Deco gem or a MiMo classic. The place looks more like a row of camp cabins wedged onto the side of a busy road.

But the Fredola is a taste of Old Florida, when small motels dotted the landscape, offering an oasis for weary travelers, bettors passing through town or those who just couldn’t afford the fancier places in Miami Beach.

Make that was.

The guests have stopped coming. The dated furniture is piled in front, for sale. The bulldozers are coming soon.

The Motel Fredola has closed as the area surrounding it has sprouted. Gulfstream Park, across the street, is now a buzzing casino and retail-restaurant village. High-rises loom to the east and south. New motels have moved in.

Once, in a different Florida, the no-frills Fredola — which didn’t have air conditioning for years — was a landmark. Now time has finally passed it by.

Through floods, hurricanes and the growth, Motel Fredola — the name is a mash-up of the original owners’ names, Fred and Viola — stood. But now the site awaits something new, maybe a fancy office building, maybe another motel. The owners declined to comment on what’s next for the site.

The former owner — who sold the property in 2001 to Hallandale Offices, but ran the motel until it closed — said it was time to move on.

“So much has changed over the years,” Jerry Biller said. “I knew the time was coming.”

Biller said he sold the motel just before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The investor decided to put the office park he had in mind on hold and keep the motel running until the market improved.

Biller said his father, Fred, a builder from Ohio, came to Hallandale Beach in 1951 after his doctor told him he needed to live in a warmer climate.

He tried Arizona but didn't like the desert. Then he traveled through Florida, first ruling out the west coast.

When he stumbled on Hallandale Beach, he liked what he saw, and bought the 40,000-square-foot property to build a motel.

Using a nearby rock quarry, he constructed the single-story building himself. The only help he needed was with plumbing and electric.

During Christmas week in 1952, the Motel Fredola opened. Biller said the place had a decent list of regulars. There were get-togethers in the courtyard. The family lived in the front of the motel in a three-bedroom apartment.

“We became like an extended family,” said Biller, who bought the motel from his father in the 1970s.

For decades, time stood still for Motel Fredola. While furnishings changed and air conditioning was added in the ’70s, the place looked pretty much the same through the years.

But the area around the motel changed, exploding with growth. Nestled between a trailer park to the north and a Hampton Inn to the south in Aventura, Motel Fredola stood as one of the last remaining pieces of old South Florida on this stretch of U.S. 1 on the border of Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

On the weekend before Christmas, the motel’s marquee advertised a garage sale instead of its rates.

Bedding, furniture and an old card table were carted out and put on display.

“A lot of this stuff is really old," said Freddy Salazar, who along with his wife, Nieves, worked there for 10 years doing maintenance and housecleaning.

The couple said only a handful of people stopped by to buy the floral bedspreads and the old television sets.

Hallandale Beach City Manager Renee Miller said recent zoning changes allow for taller, more dense buildings. But, Miller said, the city has not received any plans from the owner.

“It’s sad to see the old buildings go,” she said.

For Biller, pulling apart decades of memories wasn’t easy.

“I’ll definitely miss it.”

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