As Aristotle Ares examined each of the black and white photographs hanging on the wall, he recalled scenes from his boyhood in Miami Beach.
He remembered his father working with Carl Fisher to build the Nautilus Hotel, going to a show at the Colony Theatre on Lincoln Road and attending polo matches.
“There are just so many memories,” he said, smiling.
Ares, 91, born and raised in the Beach, marveled at the old photographs on display at the centennial exhibition on the fourth floor of City Hall that made its debut Wednesday. Dozens packed the hall to commemorate the opening of the gallery.
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“Miami Beach has one of the most incredible, colorful histories of any city in the world,” said Mayor Philip Levine.
The exhibit will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays until May 29. The images were gathered from city archives and donated by others, like city historian Seth Bramson and Ares.
City Commissioner Joy Malakoff, a Beach native, looked up at a photo of a pool flanked by dozens of swimmers.
“I learned how to swim in that pool,” she said. In the 1940s, when she was about 4 years old, she took lessons at the famed Everglades Cabana Club, known earlier as the Roman Pools.
“I have a picture of my mom and I on the diving board,” Malakoff said. “I remember the cabanas over there, where the men would play gin rummy and the women would play canasta.”
The photos reveal a stunning transformation of the city from swampy barrier island to bustling beach town to ritzy playground for the rich and famous. In one image, piles of torn down trees lie in the foreground, with a long clearing behind a gaggle of workers.
That’s the beginning of Alton Road.
Another shows a flat swath of undeveloped land filled with workers carts, machinery and animals. This is the the corner of 41st Street and Alton Road.
Students from Florida International University helped scan several old photos in high resolution so large prints could be framed and hung at City Hall. Each photo has a caption with a bit of history on it for visitors.