1817-1831-1825 James Avenue, Miami Beach
The suject properties comprise lots 10, 11 and 12, and part of lots 4 and 13, of Blocks 2 of Fisher's First Subdivision of Alton Beach, filed by Carl Fisher's Alton Beach Realty Co. on January 15, 1914. This was part of the 200-acre tract of land given to tract extended from Ocean to Bay, from about 14th to 19th Streets. North of 19th Street remained John Collins' property, and a change in the street axis there is still evident. James Avenue itself terminates at 19th Street.
While Lincoln Road was a fashionable business district by the 1920s, early photographs show that the area surrounding James Avenue was a Settled residential area. The imposing hohe (now CASA TUA restaurant and Hotel) still remaining at 1700 James Avenue is typical of this period; it was built as a private residence in 1925. The 1035 City Atlas shows even the nearby oceanfront as vacant except for a few largeprivate homes and the Lear School on the beach at 18th Street. To the west, the Minicipal Golf Course occupied the land between Washington and Meridian Avenues north of Lincoln Road until after World War II.
In 1935, Block 2 of "Fisher's First" contained about ten private residences and one apartment building, the Aloha at 1949 James Avenue. By contrast, in the area north of 19th Street, developed by Collins' Miami Beach Improvement Co., several hotels and apartment buildings were built during the 1920s, such as Miller, Fowler, and Riviera Plaza apartments and the Peter Miller, Collins Plaza, Greystone, Vanberbilt, and Town House Hotels.
By the late 1930s, James Avenue began to revert to multi-unit buildings as wel, beginning in 1039 with the Albion Hotel (1630 James) and the Hotel James (1680 James). On Block 2, the Dorchester Hotel was built in 1939 at 1850 Collins Avenue, and in the following year the Miljean Hotel went up around the corner.
The first of the subject properties to be built was Miljean Hotel at 1817 James Avenue, designed by L. Murray Dixon, one of Miami Beach's greatest architects. A three-story building in Art Deco style, it had 28 Apartment-Hotel units. It was built in 1049 for the Arko Realty Corporation at the coast of $70,000. Soon after its construction it became on of about 300 Miami Beach properties that were leased by the US Army Air Forces for use as barracks fot trainees during World War II. The building card notes that it returned to civilian use on Dec. 8, 1945. Subsequent alterations noted on the building card include the installation of an air conditioner in each unit in 1953, and the replacement of casement windows with aluminum single-hung windows in 1978.
The second of these properties to appear was the 3-story, 16-unit apartment house at 1835-9 James Avenue. It was also designed by L. Murray Dixon, built $120,000 in 1947 in the Posteaw Modern style. It is listed as the Stephen Ross Apartments in conditioners and the replacement of 8 windows with "aluminum awning ones".
In between these two buildings, 1831 James Avenue was built in 1952 for $100,000 as two-story, 22-unit apartment building designed by Gerard Pitt. It is called the Mermaid Apartment in the 1955 Polk's City Directory, but the plaster-relief mermaid figure on the front facade that was become a local landmark is not present on the original plan.