A Short History of Miami Beach


When we first announced that we would be holding the 2018 ISAPS Congress in Miami Beach, we were overwhelmed by the response. It turns out that choosing a host city with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world was a pretty big hit with our ISAPS Plastic Surgeons! But Miami Beach is more than just sand and surf. There is the stunning architecture. There is the incredible food. And there is also an absolutely fascinating history lying just beneath the surface, telling the story of a location that, by all logic, shouldn’t even exist at all!

The Origins of Miami Beach

Before the city of Miami Beach was even on the horizon, it was just a small sandbar completely covered in mangrove. Far from being the beautiful vacation spot it would become, it was borderline uninhabitable. In fact, in 1870, the entire thing was purchased by Henry and Charles Lum, for 75 cents an acre. They had planned on creating a coconut plantation, not realizing that, upon being planted, the trees would quickly be eaten by vermin. Other, more successful plantations followed, including one for avocados. Soon after, investors began to see the potential of the island as a beachfront resort location.

The Town, and Then the City, of Miami Beach

In the very early years of the 20th century, the island that would become Miami Beach underwent a remarkable transformation. The mangrove was cleared away, new crops were planted, water channels were deepened, and landfill was brought in to expand the area. In just a few years, the island grew from 1,600 acres to 2,800 acres. The world’s longest wooden bridge (at the time) was built to connect the island and the thriving city of Miami across the water. By 1915, there were multiple mansions, three hotels, two bathhouses, an aquarium, and an 18-hole golf course on the land. In other words, a vacationer’s paradise!

On March 26, 1915, the Town of Miami Beach was chartered, soon to become a City two years later in 1917. Throughout the 1920s, Miami Beach was promoted as a winter home for rich northerners, and a vacation spot for everyone looking to escape the cold.

During World War II, Miami Beach was used as a training center for the Air Force. After the war ended, many of these servicemen made their home in Miami Beach permanently. Then, with the rise of Fidel Castro in Cuba, refugees flooded into South Florida, including to Miami Beach. These two events dramatically increasing the population, doubling it by the end of the 50s. The 1950s to the 1970s were a golden age for Miami Beach, as one of the most popular vacation spots in the entire United States. This started to change, however, with the opening of Walt Disney World in Orlando. Tourists were tempted away from the beaches, and Miami Beach fell into a decline throughout the 80s. The crime-ridden city of this time inspired the hit TV show Miami Vice.

Then, in the early 90s, things began to turn around. In the late 80s, wealthy investors, wishing to live in the sun and warmth, revitalized the local economy and restored it to its past tourism greatness! Today, Miami Beach is again one of the most popular vacation destinations in the United States and the world!

Politics Collide

One of the most interesting events in the history of Miami Beach happened in the mid-20th century, right at the Miami Convention Center where the ISAPS Congress will be held. In 1972, both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions were held in Miami Beach, only a few weeks apart. As you know, this was a very contentious time in American history.

In terms of protests, the Republican National Convention reached heights that the small Miami Beach Police Department wasn’t quite ready for. Inside the convention, everything went incredibly smoothly, with President Nixon being re-nominated without incident. But outside, tear gas, riot batons and mass arrests of protesters were in full swing.

The Democratic National Convention, on the other hand, was relatively peaceful outside of the convention halls. Inside, however, things were much more chaotic. Compared with the easy nomination of Nixon, the DNC was a complete disaster, with contentious party in-fighting about the platform. There were heated debates over feminism, the Vietnam War, desegregation, and gay rights. There was a massive fight over who would become the nominee of the party, with George McGovern eventually being selected after a fierce battle. The 1972 DNC was considered to be one of the most disastrous starts to a general election campaign in US history, and it was held right here in Miami Beach! So, when you walk into the halls of the newly renovated Miami Beach Convention Center, you will know that this was a place where history was made.

There are countless stories about Miami Beach, including tales of Prohibition-era gangsters, WWII U-boats, and Art Deco revival. When you arrive, we highly recommend that you fully immerse yourself into this remarkable city and its history. But to do that, you need to be sure that you have your spot booked at the 2018 ISAPS Congress, not to mention reserving a room at our host hotel, the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. The world’s biggest global aesthetics conference is coming up fast, in just under three months! It’s time to make your plans to join your fellow ISAPS Plastic Surgeons for a remarkable few days that you will never forget!