Morningside | Historic Neighborhood
In the middle of Biscayne Bay and points west of Biscayne Boulevard from Northeast Fifty-Fifth Street to Sixtieth Street, the northern portion of the Morningside neighborhood is a perfect example of a neighborhood making its comeback. Within the 1960s and 70s, while residents in the surrounding neighborhoods were fleeing to new and alluring suburbs built during the post-World War II period, homeowners in Morningside remained and invested in a community that would ultimately become the first historic district in the city of Miami.
South Morningside is the most recently developed section of this historic neighborhood. It stretches from northeast 53rd Street to 50th Terrace and includes Morningside Park lying on its eastern periphery. Created primarily after World War II, its building stock is made up of largely the Miami Modern or “Mi Mo” style. Together, both components comprise the Morningside community.
Created in the early 1920s, on the cusp of Greater Miami’s “real estate boom for the ages,” this area is made up of former homesteads reaching back to the era of reconstruction following the American Civil War. Much of the land that emerged as Morningside, originally referred to as “Bay Shore”, was hammock or jungle land within the warm waters of Biscayne Bay.
The area’s exclusiveness was made possible through deed restrictions that applied to each lot, which specified the minimum price of each home, while prohibiting the presence of duplexes, apartments and hotels. Many streets also featured wide boulevards with verdant parkways in the center. Homes had to include masonry exteriors. To ensure that these restrictions guided the development of every homesite, the developer required that all plans be submitted for approval prior to construction.
The earlier buildings in north Morningside were built primarily in the Mediterranean style of architecture, a design gave a special importance to barrel tile roofs, textured stucco, arches, and balconies. This sector showcased the work of more than forty noted local architects. Their ranks included, Kiehnel and Elliott (Richard Elliott was said to have introduced the Mediterranean style to South Florida); L. Murray Dixon, who later became one of the primary architects of South Beach’s Streamline Modern style; Marion Manley, one of Florida’s earliest, licensed woman architects, and H. George Fink, who designed some of early Coral Gables’ most stunning structures.
Between 1922 and 1924, the developer planned out three subdivisions comprising Morningside, parts of which extended west of today’s Biscayne Boulevard. Between 1922 and 1926, approximately forty-five homes were built. The neighborhood was home to many of Miami’s most important citizens. Their ranks included Frank Wharton, an early mayor, Sidney Meyer, a co-founder of Wometco, the giant theater and entertainment chain, Laura Cushman, founder and guiding force for six decades of the cutting-edge Cushman School, which stands across today’s Biscayne Boulevard from Morningside, Paul Scott, a very important attorney and businessman, and, not surprisingly, James Nunnally, whose showpiece home, designed by Kiehnel and Elliott, overlooked Biscayne Bay.
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