Saturday, October 13, 2012

Roney Plaza Hotel - Miami Beach's first oceanside grand

Jan., 1930 from the Library of Congress

For more Miami and South Florida history, see:

The Roney Plaza Hotel opened in February, 1926. Built by N.B.T. Roney (Newton Baker Taylor Roney) of Camden, NJ, the $2 million project was the first large luxury hotel on the ocean in Miami Beach.*

Roney, a lawyer who was more interested in construction than law, first came to Miami in 1909 passing through on a trip from Cuba. With investment notions, he returned to the Magic City in 1918. The following year, he bought the Biscayne Hotel on Flagler and Washington Avenue. Roney gained notoriety as a wheeler dealer or “Man with the Golden Touch.”  News accounts relate his quick deals and spectacular purchases in New Jersey and Florida.   

In 1924 Roney announced his plan for a luxurious hotel in Miami Beach. The site for the Roney Plaza - Collins Avenue at 23rd and 24th streets – was purchased from from T.J. Pancoast and John S. Collins during February, 1925. Roney hired New York architectural firm Schultze and Weaver* to design the most ambitious of his 30 ongoing projects in Miami Beach.

A year later advertisements for the opening of the Roney Plaza Hotel welcomed visitors to elegant dining, 15 acres of formal gardens and gracious rooms. It became the place to vacation in Miami Beach, drawing European royalty, high society, and Hollywood notables. Roney hosted NJ Governor Morgan F. Larson - one of many prominent politicos who were to stay at the hotel - for his three-week honeymoon during the 1920s. 

Neither the devastating hurricane of 1926, from which the hotel emerged structurally sound, nor the Depression stopped Roney from adding to and improving his hotel. In 1931 Roney spent $200,000 to build a pool and cabana colony. He sold his interest in the profitable Roney Plaza to Henry L. Doherty, a financier, utilities expert and oilman, in 1933.

With a string of owners, the hotel continued to take center stage in Miami Beach until it faded in the 1950s; other glamorous hotels such as the Fountainebleau competed for the limelight. The Roney Plaza was torn down in 1968, making way for the Roney Apartments. Today, after a $25 million renovation, the building stands as the Roney Palace, a resort and condominium.Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.
* Carl Fisher's Flamingo Hotel was actually the first grand hotel in Miami Beach but it sat on the bay side.

*The firm also designed the Coral Gables Biltmore, Miami’s Freedom Tower, and the Waldorf Astoria in New York.

*Roney died in 1952. He left a rare map collection to the University of Miami in Coral Gables and a legacy of being one of Miami Beach's most significant developers.

Miami News, July 3, 1922
Kleinberg, Howard. Woggles and Cheese Holes. Miami Beach: The Greater Miami & Beaches Hotel Association (2005)

Miami Beach Hotel History

Tags: Miami Beach hotel history, Miami Beach history, Miami Beach during the 1920s, Florida hotel history, first large, luxury ocean front hotel in Miami Beach, film industry researcher

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