Sunday, May 19, 2013

The big cool down hikes up tourism in Miami Beach

Miami Beach today
By Jane Feehan

Air-conditioning, invented by Dr. John Gorrie* of Apalachicola, FL during the 1850s, made its debut in Miami during the 1930s when Hill York Company was founded by Ron Nitzsche and Everett Carroll. Six such companies were listed in the telephone directory by the end of that decade.

Hill York claims their first system was sold to the Roney Plaza Hotel (no year mentioned). The Albion Hotel in 1939 boasted an air-conditioned dining room in its ads. The Leamington and Liberty hotels in 1946 advertised as being fully air-conditioned (not central). Howard Kleinberg, Miami Beach historian and Miami News reporter, wrote that the Martinique Hotel, opened in 1946 at 6423 Collins Avenue, was the first centrally cooled hotel.

The 12-story Martinique (today the site of the Mar del Plata condominium) was designed by Roy France, later noted as one of Miami Beach’s Art Deco architects. The $2 million hotel, with 134 rooms, advertised as being centrally and fully air-conditioned. The 160-room Kenilworth Hotel opened its doors later the same year and was also centrally air-cooled.

Whatever hotel was really first, by 1955 nearly all major hotels in Miami Beach were fully and centrally air-conditioned, attracting more visitors. During the mid-1950s to the early 1960s, Miami Beach was one of the most popular resort cities in the U.S., thanks, in part, to air-conditioning. The technology extended the winter tourist season well into summer. It was also a factor in Florida's explosive growth during the 1950s.

Hill York Company moved its headquarters to Fort Lauderdale but maintains a branch office in Miami. Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.

* Dr. Gorrie (1803-1855), born on the island of Nevis, moved to Florida where he treated and studied tropical diseases. He thought bad air led to the spread of disease. He put ice in basins and suspended them from ceilings to cool the air. Gorrie stopped practicing medicine to develop a form of refrigeration but died in near obscurity. The idea of air-conditioning lay dormant for 50 years.

Kleinberg, Howard. Miami Beach: A History. Miami: Centennial Press (1994).
Kleinberg, Howard. Woggles and Cheese Holes. Miami: The Greater Miami & The Beaches Hotel Association (2005).
Palm Beach Post, Oct. 27, 1946.
Hill York

Tags: Miami Beach history, history of air-conditioning, Miami Beach hotel history, tourism history, Martinique Hotel, Kenilworth Hotel, Albion Hotel, historical research, film researcher

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