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The Great Architect Stanford White Designed Miami's Halcyon Hotel on a Dinner Napkin

Photos and Postcards via Florida Memory/Florida State Archives

Miami doesn't have any buildings designed by the great Beaux Arts firm of Mckim, Mead & White, designers of New York City's old Pennsylvania Station, the Boston Public Library, and Columbia University, but it used to have one, sort of: the Halcyon Hotel.

Not much exists online about the Halcyon Hotel, one of Miami's earliest hotels, and the second grandest in the city, smaller and less grand than only the Royal Palm. Built in 1903 on Flagler Street (other sources state construction began in 1901), legend has it that Stanford White, the most artistically talented of the three founders of Mckim, Mead, & White designed the Halcyon on a dinner napkin. It's a legend which has apparently existed as early as the 1920s, when the hotel itself used White's name in its advertising, and probably significantly earlier than that. It's also a legend that could very likely be true.

Although it would be torn down in the 1930s to be replaced by the art deco Alfred I. DuPont Building, Miami was proud of its Stanford White-designed hotel. According to Miami Millions, a book written in 1936 documenting the Great Miami real estate boom of the 1920s:

Evelyn Nesbit Thaw sought a cabaret site in downtown Miami, but was refused. Some thought it would hurt the community to let her operate within sight of that monument to the dead Stanford White, the Halcyon Hotel, whose general outline the noted architect had sketched for the builder. She was later to find a refuge at the Silver Slipper in the northwest section of Miami, where the once-famous Fritzi Scheff sang that winter. White was fifty two years old when he was murdered in 1906 by Harry Thaw, the husband of Mrs. Evelyn Nesbit Thaw, a famous actress (known on the stage as just Evelyn Nesbit) whom White had once seduced when she was only sixteen, and he was forty seven. The papers called the ensuing murder trial the "Trial of the Century". Even thirty years later, in 1936, who Evelyn Nesbit was, and her relation to Stanford White needed no explanation.

· Miami Millions [Google Books]
· Alfred I. DuPont Building archives [Curbed Miami]
· Halcyon Hotel photographic archives [Florida Memory]

Alfred I DuPont Building

169 E. Flagler St, Miami, FL 33131