Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Discrimination on Miami Beach and the first kosher hotel

Nemo Hotel 
Collins and 1st 
Miami Beach

For more Florida history visit my other blog, 

By Jane Feehan

During the 1920s, Miami Beach’s first boom era, covenants in land deeds prohibited sale of lots to Jews. Hotels of the time advertised having “restricted” clientele, meaning Gentiles only were allowed. Until 1925, Jews did live on Miami Beach but only from Fifth Street south to the southern tip of the barrier island.*

Nemo Hotel, built in 1921 by New Yorkers Sam Magrid, and Joseph and Harry Goodkowsky was the first Miami Beach hotel to cater to kosher Jewish guests.  Others, such as the Seabreeze Hotel at Collins and Second, soon followed. A law was passed in 1949 by the Florida legislature to end discrimination in real estate and hotels.

Years later the Nemo was considered to be an Art Deco gem of a building. Ownership of the hotel has changed several times during its history. At one time it was owned by the Hotel Astor Corporation headed by Herman Schatzberg (who may have owned part of another hotel  in Miami). In 1949, the Hotel Astor in Atlantic City (at Pacific and Connecticut avenues) was sold to Schatzberg, then listed as owner of Nemo Hotel in Miami Beach.

Like many of the hotels and apartment buildings on Miami Beach, Nemo Hotel hit hard times after the 1950s. By the 1980s it was a known crack house. South Beach’s revival and movement to save art deco buildings generated a renewed interest in the Nemo. Myles Chefetz bought it in the early 1990s, and, with Chef Michael Schwartz, operated a popular restaurant on the site, known as Nemo. They kept many of the old accents of the building including a picturesque archway, courtyard and tiled floors.   

At this writing, Nemo appears to have recently closed. I expect the building may transition to another purpose and rise again, like a phoenix from the ghosts of its Art Deco past.

For an old postcard photo of the hotel, see:

*For an excellent history of the Jewish community in Miami-Dade County, visit

New York Times, April 9, 1949
New York Times, June 21, 1995

Miami Beach hotel history

Tags; Miami Beach history 1920s, Miami Beach hotel history, Nemo Hotel, Hotel Nemo, Art Deco buildings, historical researcher South Florida

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