When Fontainebleau Miami Beach opened its doors in 1954, the famed curvilinear resort with its ultramodern facade was instantly recognizable as a true diva—so much so that the property didn’t even need a sign for decades. Set on 50 acres of pristine shoreline on Collins Avenue, the hotel turned out to be poised to steal the limelight. Fontainebleau architect Morris Lapidus is best remembered for his flair for the theater and his autobiography Too much is never enoughhe recalled, “American tastes were influenced by the biggest entertainment mass media of the time, movies, so I designed a movie set!”
Lapidus’ admission was certainly not an exaggeration. Literally, France’s Fontainebleau has served as the backdrop for a number of popular films, including golden finger, scarface and The bellboy. And when the day’s biggest stars weren’t shooting at the hotel, they’d flock to the resort’s luxe playground to soak up the Florida sun — and glamor — when they were in town. While paying guests in the 1950s and 1960s could rub shoulders with Elvis Presley, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Judy Garland and other bold names, the owner, hotelier Ben Novack, was once required to post armed guards at the entrance to keep onlookers out.
At the turn of the 21st century, the stylish landmark was turning 50 and showing his advanced age. The beach beauty closed her doors in 2005 and underwent a massive $1 billion facelift over the next few years. The refreshed Fontainebleau received rave reviews when it reopened in autumn 2008, with a high-profile party, of course.
The property originally consisted of two towers, Chateau and Versailles, but an extension added the 37-story Trésor and 18-story Sorrento towers. Together they have 658 one- and two-bedroom junior properties, bringing the total number of rooms available to 1,504. Other exciting additions included 12 hotspot restaurants and lounges, from the contemporary Hakkasan Chinese restaurant to the see-and-be-seen glow bar by the pool.
As part of the refurbishment, a team of internationally acclaimed designers, architects and artists restored many of Lapidus’ original details, including rounded ceilings and shimmering chandeliers overhead and bow design motifs underfoot on the floor.
Instead of collecting autographs from Hollywood’s Golden Age actors and actresses, today guests take center stage as they whiz down the dramatic “Stairs to Nowhere,” the hotel’s Instagrammable trademark that graces the 17,000-square-foot lobby. Guests also get the celebrity treatment when lounging in the scenic oceanfront pool area or enjoying the 40,000-square-foot spa.
“Since we opened, Fontainebleau has really stayed true to its celebrity, entertainment and energy DNA,” said Managing Director Patrick Fisher GRAZIA USA. “It is extremely important to our ownership that we are stewards of history and pay tribute to this amazing brand by continuing to build on the legacy in the present day.”
As the architect Lapidus once promised, whoever is lucky enough to set foot on Fontainebleau’s stage-like setting will “do their part”. And what a fabulous role that is.
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