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Who Really Designed This Super-Hip South Beach Hotel?

CC by 2.0, by Miamism via Flickr

We love a good hyperlocal blog -- and the Belle Isle Blog does a comprehensive job of covering both the history and news of its neighborhood, a small island connected to South Beach. It's also the home of the relaxed but still super-hip Standard Hotel, which recently announced an expansion plan. The hotel hopes to raze its east wing, replacing it with a "mechanical parking structure" and a new, two-story building.

Most people think of the building housing the Standard as the former Lido Spa, a sun-baked retreat for retirees. Indeed, the historic sign for that business of Miami Beach past still remains on the building's facade, even after the building's 2005 renovation by Alison Spear of Arquitectonica. But Belle Isle Blog points out that hand-wringing over changes to the old Lido building are a little misinformed. Sure, the Lido came before the Standard, but an even older project on the site came before the Lido:

It started in 1953, and was known as the Monterrey Motel. Architect Norman Giller originally designed the Monterrey with a glass gable facade. It had two wings of rooms, two floors on the west and one floor on the east. Giller’s hotel designs are considered groundbreaking works of Miami Modern architecture. His other work includes the Ocean Palm and Thunderbird Motels in Sunny Isles Beach, and the Carillon Hotel and the North Shore Bandshell in North Beach.

After that, as Belle Isle Blog documents, things get murky. When the building changed from the Monterrey to the Lido, the owner re-did the lobby and added the classic sign. But nobody's really sure who the architect was -- it may have been Morris Lapidus, the famed architect of the Eden Roc and the original Fontainebleau. But it also may not have been, and Belle Isle tracks a number of historical dead ends and alternate possibilities, the main being one A. Herbert Mathes, a now much-lesser-known architect of the same period.

Click over to the Belle Isle Blog for some fun architecture history sleuthing.

But what about Norman Giller, of the original Monterrey Motel? He's a familiar name only to South Florida architecture obsessives, but he's credited for helping create the Miami Modern, or MiMo, architectural style. You can read a good primer on this web site, which hosts an obituary for Giller, who died in 2008, by Ana Veciana-Suarez and Yudy Pineiro.

As for A. Herbert Mathes, he seems relegated in national history to being the second husband of Casey Ribicoff, who herself was more famous for being the widow of former Connecticut senator Abraham A. Ribicoff. You can still visit a remaining building he is confirmed to have designed, though -- the Byron Carlyle Theater, at 500 71st St. in Miami Beach.

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