Fontainebleau Miami Beach (Fontainebleau Hotel)
View over pool to hotel, 1955. Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Gottscho-Schleisner Collection
Over pool tower to hotel, 1955. Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Gottscho-Schleisner Collection
Postcard of "Hotel Fontainebleau, the aristocrat of Florida hotels- largest and newest hotel in Miami Beach", c. 1930-45. Credit: Boston Public Library, The Tichnor Brothers Collection
Overview of hotel, 2010. Credit: Adam Saunders, Youtube
The Fontainebleau was the setting for Jerry Lewis's comedy film, The Bellboy (1960).
Miami Beach Fontainebleau Hotel Under Construction around the Firestone Estate (c. 1954). Credit: Transit Miami
Backstory and Context
The Fontainebleau was erected on the site of the former Firestone mansion by developer Ben Novack. Ben Novack purchased the Firestone Mansion, home of auto tire mogul Harvey Firestone in 1952. He then hired architect Morris Lapidus to epitomize Miami Beach in its 1950s prime. Novack owned and operated the hotel until its bankruptcy in 1977.
When it opened in 1954, Fontainebleau Miami Beach was the largest and most luxurious hotel in South Florida. Located on the oceanfront in the heart of Millionaire's Row, Fontainebleau Miami Beach is one of the most historically and architecturally significant hotels on Miami Beach. Its signature features included a 17,000-square-foot lobby with the now-legendary “Stairway to Nowhere,” six acres of formal gardens designed to replicate Versailles and thousands of dollars in antique furnishings to authentically convey the hotel’s French period theme.
Through the 1950s and 1960s, the hotel reigned as Miami’s leading resort and Lapidus’ gently curving façade came to symbolize the very essence of glamorous Miami Beach. For nearly 25 years, the Miami Beach hotel was so well-known that no sign was necessary to identify it.
The hotel closed a large part of its property in 2006. The expanded hotel and its new condominium buildings re-opened in November 2008.Celebrities and entertainers, such as Elvis Presley, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball and Judy Garland, have graced the hotel with their presence. Over the years, the Miami Beach oceanfront hotel has co-starred in numerous major Hollywood productions including, Goldfinger, The Bellboy, Scarface, The Specialist and The Bodyguard.
Ben Novack Sr.,78 Is Dead; Founder of Fontainebleau. The New York Times. April 07, 1985. Accessed June 08, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/1985/04/07/us/ben-novack-sr.78-is-dead-founder-of-fontainebleau.html.
Collins Waterfront Historic District Designation Report. City of Miami Beach. August 10, 2000. Accessed June 08, 2018. https://www.miamibeachfl.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Collins-Waterfront.pdf.
Sunshine, sand and sea--Miami's fabulous Hotel Fontainebleau has it all! By: Davis, Glo, Hispanic Times Magazine, 08921369, Mar/Apr1995, Vol. 16, Issue 2
the Lap of Lapidus. By: Lee, Linda. Interior Design. Apr2009, Vol. 80 Issue 4, p138-142. 5p.
"FONTAINEBLEAU MIAMI BEACH." New York Times Magazine (February 22, 2015): 72-73. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed June 8, 2018).